First published at IMSoccer News
The Minnesota Stars FC and San Antonio Scorpions were each looking to continue their good form amid advancing in the US Open Cup. Minnesota has been on the road now since May 12th. This was their 3rd league game away and their 5th game on the road in all competitions since then. They will be on the road for two more matches, traveling to San Jose for their USOC 4th round game on Tuesday. After returning home the team turns around and heads out one more time to play Carolina in Cary, N.C. on a brutal road journey.
San Antonio, on the other hand, have enjoyed a relatively comfortable travel schedule hosting the Houston Dynamo midweek in their win against the MLS side which sees them advance in USOC play. They will host the Charlotte Eagles (USL-PDL) midweek before taking on Atlanta at the weekend for league play.
The starting lineup for Minnesota had only two regular starters, VanOekel (GK) and Simone Bracalello who has started half the games this season for Minnesota. That didn’t prevent the Stars from coming out early and testing San Antonio as they almost executed on some early opportunities.
But it was clear in the early goings, the game was a chess match between two squads who like to dominate possession. Both squads were very organized with Minnesota sharing a larger portion of possession forcing San Antonio’s defense to bunker down.
Minnesota began to have some early success on the right side of the pitch with some experienced flank play between Andy Lorei and Bracalello. The combination of the two players attacking the right side led to a few dangerous chances but the offense were frustrated by the disciplined San Antonio defense.
Chances for San Antonio often resulted from counterattacks but were undone with sloppy play moving forward. A clear header on goal from Wes Knight in the 19th minute was handled easily by VanOekel and was their most dangerous attack in the first half.
The trend continued in the second half with Minnesota pressing early and limiting equal possession, but San Antonio never quit making things difficult for the visitors. As the Bexar County club began taking care of the ball they started seeing more possession develop.
Scorpions forward Pablo Campos began presenting problems in the second half with the Brazilian’s physicality a difficult proposition for Minnesota’s back line.
Both teams were frustrating each other and enjoyed some equal possession. San Antonio went offensive and changed their tactics a bit by bringing on Esteban Bayona and playing with three up front on the attack.
To counter, Minnesota brought in Martin Nunez to slot in behind Devin Del Do in an effort to open up the attack for the Stars.
An injury to San Antonio forward Hans Denissen caused the Scorpions to alter their shape and adjust offensively. Just as the change was made, the ball was moved out to the right flank with Stars’ right back Evan Sassano sending a ball into the box for Del Do who had a direct header toward goal go just over the crossbar.
The match ended with both teams trading blows and having equal opportunities on goal without any reward. Minnesota head coach, Manny Lagos, received a red card for dissent and was sent off prior to the second half winding down.
“I thought we did really well at times, it’s not easy for guys playing a lot of minutes to come in and do well in a tough place like this and I thought we did a good job creating tempo and we had a few chances,” said Lagos.
“I thought we had two PKs that should have been called, unfortunately I reacted emotionally and I wish I hadn’t but I was disappointed both calls didn’t go our way.”
San Antonio defended their home but couldn’t wrestle the win away from the Stars while the games continue to add up for them.
“I was very pleased under the circumstances, our play wasn’t great, our conditioning wasn’t great, [but] we didn’t give the match away and we were patient. The chances were there for three and we understand the fight to become first is going to be difficult,” said head coach Tim Hankinson.
Both teams advanced in Open Cup play by besting two very experienced MLS sides and turn around in a 48-hour window of preparation for fourth round USOC action. Minnesota has now lost only 1 game in the last 19, going back to last season, and are still undefeated this year. They are now tied with the Islanders after their loss Saturday night to Carolina.
The Scorpions are one point back from the league leaders and are unbeaten in 7 games stretching all the way back to the home opening loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders.