Courtesy San Antonio Scorpions
3 Total Updates since October 20, 2012
7 months ago Update 0 comments
Not surprisingly, the Minnesota Stars were over the moon, post-game, while the Tampa Bay Rowdies were a little more down and philosophical. Said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill, "At one-nil we felt, okay, we're comfortable, we're not feeling too bad. But then we gave an unnecessary corner away, and suddenly it's in the back of our net. Tough to take, we're two-nil down and I don't think we deserved to be two-nil down on the balance of play tonight. But it is what it is, and we've got ninety minutes to rectify that next week."
"We've got ninety minutes of football left – anything can happen in football."
On the flip side, Stars keeper and man of the match Matt Van Oekel could hardly stop smiling. "This is my first finals that I've got to play in. It felt right. Everything was clicking for the group of guys. I couldn't be happier right now."
"That second goal is absolutely enormous for us going down to Tampa, because they play extremely well at home, and we know they're going to be coming after us the next ninety minutes. It's gonna be crazy. They've got a really small, short field. The way they play is very direct, and if they play like that all the time they're going to be dropping the ball into the box the entire game. It's going to be a wild ninety minutes down in Tampa. I hope we come out like we did last year, and take it home, and bring back the cup."
Assistant coach Carl Craig was full of praise for his two center backs. "You see Kyle Altman, the last couple of games, he's on bloody fire. He's a monster. It's amazing, he's one of the quietest lads in the locker room, but you see him on the field when it comes to the big game, he ramps it up. [Connor] Tobin, he's probably the toughest guy in the team, he didn't put a foot wrong. He's in there, he's attacking. You look at [Rowdies forward] Carl Cort and you look at his experience – Champions League footballer, Premier League footballer - but these lads handled him very comfortably tonight."
7 months ago Update 0 comments
One goal. The Minnesota Stars would have been happy with one second-half goal, a 1-0 win to take an advantage to Tampa Bay for next week's second leg of the NASL championship finals.
But two goals? It's no wonder that the Stars were positively jubilant at the final whistle.
Amani Walker scored in the 67th minute to give Minnesota the advantage, but Martin Nuñez's goal in second-half stoppage time gave Minnesota an all-important two-goal advantage for next week's second leg in Tampa Bay. It's a two-goal cushion reminiscent of the 2011 championship series, when Minnesota took a 3-1 lead to Fort Lauderdale and won the NASL championship with a 0-0 draw.
The first half had been mostly Rowdies, but some tactical changes gave Minnesota the clear second-half advantage, and the half was just moments old before the Stars began peppering the Rowdies goal. Simone Bracalello danced through the midfield, beating two defenders and driving forward. Jamie Watson ran into space on the right and crossed for Bracalello, but the striker's drive from the edge of the six-yard area was blocked by Rowdies defender Daniel Scott, sliding across to deny what seemed to be a sure goal for the Stars. Two minutes later, it was Amani Walker striding through in space, but his shot from the center of the area was deflected away by keeper Jeff Attinella.
In the 62nd minute, Minnesota once again looked like they couldn't help but score. Miguel Ibarra coralled a loose ball in midfield, beat a defender, and suddenly had two players in support with only one defender in the way. Ibarra pushed the ball to Watson, whose drive was saved by a diving Attinella - but pushed right back into Watson's path. Watson took a touch, and seemed to be set to score - but Attinella appeared from nowhere, diving once again to smother Watson's roller and snuff out the certain chance.
With the certain chances rolling, it was a matter of time before the Stars found the net, and it was Walker who took the chance. Bracalello was once again the provider, his third assist of the playoff, as he eluded a defender on the left touchline and found Walker in space at the top of the area. Walker took one touch, then blasted a shot into the top-left corner of the net, an unsaveable blast that gave Minnesota the 1-0 advantage.
Tampa Bay, so dangerous in the first half, couldn't find a way through the Stars defense in the second half, and as the game wound down, the Rowdies began to throw more and more players forward, looking for an equalizer, and it looked as though Minnesota was happy to try to run out the clock. Trying to keep the ball in the Rowdies' end, the Stars won a corner - and got the all-important second goal. Connor Tobin, rushing forward from central defense, headed Bracalello's corner down across the goal, where Nuñez was waiting at the post. The forward, on as a sub for Walker, got just enough of a touch to push the ball into the goal before it was cleared, touching off a manic celebration from players and fans alike.
One goal good, two goals better - and now, Minnesota is in the driver's seat to repeat as NASL champions.
7 months ago Update 0 comments
In the first leg of the NASL semifinals, the Minnesota Stars and the San Antonio Scorpions played a conservative, defensively-responsible first leg, a game that ended at 0-0.
In the finals, it's still 0-0 at halftime - but neither the Stars nor the Rowdies seems interested in being conservative. Both teams created a handful of excellent chances - more for Tampa Bay than Minnesota - and both keepers were regularly pressed into action.
Minnesota started more brightly, with Miguel Ibarra making several counter-attacking runs down the right flank, but the team got their first clear-cut chance from the left side. Five minutes in, Jamie Watson eluded two defenders on the left side of the area and crossed for Amani Walker, whose header looped over the keeper and bounced off the crossbar. Simone Bracalello tried to control the loose ball for a sharp-angle shot, but his drive flew well wide.
Tampa Bay answered with a flurry of chances, as Shane Hill floated the ball to the back post for Carl Cort, who drove a point-blank shot that was well deflected by Matt Van Oekel in the Stars goal. The keeper was back in action two minutes later, claiming a floating ball from a corner kick off the head of an onrushing Rowdies defender. Moments later, Mike Ambersley, slipping behind the defense, tested Van Oekel again from close range, but once again the Stars keeper deflected the shot away. Rowdies midfielder Keith Savage was the fourth to go close, rounding Stars defender Justin Davis in the area, but shot tamely, directly at the keeper from just yards away.
The Rowdies chances seemed to open up the game. Luke Mulholland floated a dangerous ball through the Stars area that Van Oekel deflected away, while Bracalello stung Rowdies keeper Jeff Attinella's hands on the other end. Watson had two chances as well from a tight angle, but the first was blocked and the second hit the side netting. Savage had another chance that had the Rowdies players up off the bench ready to celebrate, but his shot flew wide of Van Oekel's post.
It's been, then, kind of a wild half, and the real surprise is that the game remains at 0-0. We'll see what the second half brings.