NSC Minnesota Stars
North American Soccer LeagueAugust 17, 2011
Stars head coach Manny Lagos challenged his team during the week to find more consistency from its game, to stop having just select moments. Despite the draw, the team accomplished that Wednesday night, pressuring Carolina from the outset and getting a little unlucky not to score more than one.
“I thought we played better on both sides of the ball than our last two games,” Lagos said after Wednesday’s game. “We focused very well on getting forward at the right time, and on defense we kept our shape really well.”
Devin Del Do nearly put the Stars ahead in the second minute when Scott Lorenz cut the ball back to him from the endline. Del Do’s shot beat Carolina goalkeeper Brad Knighton, but defender Kupono Low cleared the ball off the goal line. It was the first of several good chances for both teams in the first half, as Rodriguez would later test Knighton’s reflexes with a deflected shot and Lorenz would volley over after a good pass from Bracalello.
At the other end, the Stars had goalkeeper Joe Warren to thank for keeping out a near-post blast from the NASL’s leading goalscorer, Etienne Barbara. Nick Zimmerman could have put the RailHawks ahead after Pablo Campos headed the ball to him about six yards out, but he could only direct his shot into the outside netting with Warren scrambling back into position.
Campos put the RailHawks ahead in the 48th minute as the Stars were punished for a sluggish start to the half. After winning the ball about 35 yards from goal, RailHawks midfielder Jonny Steele found Campos at the top of the penalty area. Campos’ first touch was a little heavy, but he beat Warren and Cristiano to the ball and slipped a shot through Warren’s legs to give the RailHawks the 1-0 lead.
The Stars found their groove again very quickly, and Bracalello nearly answered immediately, driving a shot just over bar after Chris Clements laid it back to him after a scramble following a free kick. In the 55th minute, Bracalello turned provider as the Stars leveled the scoring. Bracalello turned with space perhaps to shoot about 25 yards from goal but instead chipped the ball into the penalty area for Rodriguez, who let the ball carry toward the corner of the six-yard box before slamming a left-footed shot across his body and just inside Knighton’s far post.
Both sides had opportunities late, as the Stars needed a goal line clearance of their own late on, but it was Bracalello who came closest to a late winner. The Italian forward eluded a slide tackle near the penalty spot and dribbled past two defenders before rocketing a shot off Knighton’s near post in the 88th minute.
The Stars finish a three-game road trip and a run of four games in 11 days on Saturday afternoon in Montreal against the Major League Soccer bound Impact. The Stars won 3-1 in Montreal August 6, but Lagos said the grind of travel and lots of games is something his team needs to be aware of.
“It’s exciting to get a result tonight in Carolina, which is a tough place to play, but now we’ve got a long travel day to Montreal tomorrow, so it’s up to the guys to get their bodies recovered and get ready for a big game in a really tough atmosphere in three days.”