Minnesota Stars Head to Ft. Lauderdale for First Road Game of the Season
All their bags are packed – they’re ready to go. They have to be, because the traveling roster for Minnesota Stars FC will head out on the road for the first time this season with an early 6:30 a.m. flight on Friday. The trip will not be an easy one. After dominating the 2011 regular season champions Carolina RailHawks in last Saturday’s home opener, with only a point to show for it, the team heads for Fort Lauderdale. The Stars will take on the very team they defeated in a home and away championship series that earned Minnesota the 2011 Soccer Bowl trophy, the Strikers, and the Florida side are sure to be looking for a little revenge.
While the Stars drew 0-0 with the RailHawks despite dominating 22-2 on shots and forcing Carolina goalkeeper Ray Burse into 8 saves, which earned him NASL Defensive Player of the Week honors, the Strikers gained all three points with a win over Edmonton. And they did it playing shorthanded the entire second half. Ft. Lauderdale rookie Aly Hassan was shown a straight red for a reckless challenge in the 40th minute. But the Strikers showed character when Andy Herron scored in the 69th minute of play and then cruised in for the win for the final 20 minutes.
The Strikers are a rebuilt team from last year after looking to have gone through some budget cuts after last years title run. Daryl Shore has had to rebuild his team with young promising local talent. Many Strikers followers have been a bit pessimistic about the squad because of the young players added and the loss of some veteran players. But the win over Edmonton may not have been a short-lived success story. Fort Lauderdale outlasted the Tampa Bay Rowdies 4-3 in their last friendly before the regular season, a match both teams took seriously making few substitutions. After the last two victories, Striker-Likers are having second thoughts about the job Shore may have done in reconstructing his roster.
While the Strikers lost forward Brian Shriver, defenders Martyn Lancaster and Aaron Hohlbein and midfielders Eduardo Coudet and Martin Nunez, they also gained some players. Shore looks to have strengthened his back line of Toni Stahl and Lance Laing by adding former Stars and Sporting KC left back Scott Lorenz and trading Martin Nunez for Stars centerback Jack Stewart.
Minnesota will be looking to continue the quality possession they had last weekend but this week hope to do a better job of finishing their chances. According to head coach Manny Lagos, the team took some knocks after last weekend’s Metrodome clash.
“We were a little more banged up than usual after last Saturday’s game, which was an emotional one and a little bit more of a physical battle than most games,” said Stars head coach Manny Lagos on Thursday evening. “So this week some guys had to get recovered with some bumps and bruises and other guys are just really starting in with the team. But it was a good week of practice.”
Saturday’s match will be the first of the preseason or regular season that the Stars will play on a real grass surface. “You just have to embrace the reality of your situation. The reality is, Minnesota is a cold climate in the winter and spring,” said Lagos. “We’ve played a lot of turf games in the preseason. But I think the modern day athlete just has to adjust to the surface as quick as possible. But Lockhart is a really nice stadium and has a really nice field, so I think that will ease the adjustment a bit.”
The Minnesota boss said that even though they are testing the waters in learning how to be defending NASL Champions, he hasn’t really talked to the team about the possibility of the Strikers looking for some revenge after the Florida side’s 2-legged championship loss last fall.
“This group in particular, I don’t really have to worry about that sort of thing,” said Lagos. “They do a great job of worrying about what they can control, what they can do on the field. Last year is last year. If the Strikers are worried about last year then it’s good for us. Because we’re just worried about this year and getting better and competing.”
The Strikers and Stars will kick off at 6:30 C.T. on Saturday evening, April 14th. The game can be watched live on UStream through either team’s website or the NASL website.