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Stars fall to Strikers 2-1 in front of large USA CUP audience

07/18/2012, 10:30pm CDT
By Alex Haueter

Luck wasn’t with Minnesota Stars FC Wednesday night as they fell 2-1 to the counter attack-minded Fort Lauderdale Strikers in front of 4,034 fans at NSC Stadium. The crowd was bolstered by a large group of Schwan’s USA CUP players and fans who took advantage of discounted tickets to see Minnesota’s pro soccer team renew their NASL championship rivalry with the Strikers from a year ago.

Rookie forward Mark Anderson scored twice in the first half for the Strikers to put Fort Lauderdale up 2-0 after a first half in which the Stars hit two goalposts. Simone Bracalello’s team-leading fifth goal of the season pulled one back in the second for Minnesota, who also had a Martín Núñez goal taken away on a close offside call.

With the win, the Strikers claimed their first road win of the season and sent the Stars to a disappointing third home loss of the season. Minnesota remains in fourth place in the eight-team North American Soccer League with a record of seven wins, five ties and five losses.

The Stars controlled long periods of possession in the first half and were closest to opening the scoring in the 15th minute when Bracalello picked up a loose ball at the penalty spot and blasted a shot wide. Lucas Rodriguez’s looping shot hit the crossbar in the 31st minute as the Stars continued to ask questions of Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser and his defense.

Instead, it was the Stars defense who had no answer just three minutes later. A Stars set play fell apart and Fort Lauderdale raced away on a counterattack. Strikers forward Andy Herron fed Anderson in a two-on-one situation, and although his first touch took him a little wide of goal, he still managed to put a low shot past Stars keeper Matt Van Oekel for his eighth goal of the season.

The Strikers found the net again in the 43rd minute as Walter Restrepo beat Stars center back Ernest Tchoupe along the wing, then found Anderson in the penalty area for a turn-and-shoot finish into the near-post upper corner. It was Restrepo’s league-leading seventh assist of the season.

The Stars nearly clawed back into the game before halftime. Bracalello drove a shot off the far post, but the rebound caught defender Brian Kallman between steps, and he could only put his shot wide.

The Stars resumed pressure in a second half they would go on to dominate, holding Fort Lauderdale without a single shot. Núñez found Bracalello at the penalty spot in the 64th minute, and the Italian forward made no mistake with a low shot past the onrushing Glaeser for his fifth league goal of the season and seventh overall, a new single-season record in all competitions for the Stars.

Just four minutes later, Lucas Rodriguez’s in-swinging free kick found Núñez unmarked at the back post, and he headed his shot past Glaeser. Unfortunately for the home side, the linesman’s flag wiped the equalizer off the board on a very close offside call. Bracalello had the best chance for a stoppage-time equalizer, but his header from four yards out was right at Glaeser. The Stars also had a penalty claim for handball waved off.

Even though the home team fell, the USA CUP fans were treated to a well-played game by both sides, with crisp passing, many good chances and a large and boisterous crowd of spectators. Thursday, the focus of USA CUP teams returns to their own quest to qualify to compete on Saturday, semifinal and championship day at 2012 Schwan’s USA CUP.

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Tag(s): July 18, 2012