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Minnesota Stars FC Take the Money and Run Over Real Salt Lake

2012 May 30
by Brian Quarstad

Justin Davis (left) and Brian Kallman (right) put goal scorer Kevin Venegas in a celebratory headlock after his early goal in the 4th minute. Photo courtesy of RSL.

In front of 17,212 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, the visiting Minnesota Stars of the NASL (D2) defeated MLS side Real Salt Lake by a score of 3-1 on Tuesday night in the 3rd round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition.

The Stars had won the rights to host this third round game. But RSL GM Bill Manning made a pitch to Minnesota Stars CEO Djorn Buchholz to purchase the hosting rights. Manning said he wanted to prioritize the USOC this year and by hosting it would cut down on the amount of travel and fatigue his team would have to go through.

The amount of money was significant and eventually the league-owned, cash-strapped Stars agreed to sell the hosting rights as long as plane fares were taken care of and a guarantee would be made that RSL would live stream the game for Minnesota fans.

So the victory for the Stars and their fans was bittersweet as many Minnesota supporters were tweeting with the hashtag: #TakeTheMoneyAndRun.

The Stars actually entered into the game with more rested starters than RSL who had played on Saturday, defeating Dallas at home 3-2 with the wining goal coming in extra-time. Added to that were injuries to Javier Morales and Chris Schuler that kept them out of the lineup and Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson and Alvaro Saborio were all missing as they were representing their countries for national team duties.

Stars coach Manny Lagos had rested most of his starters giving his bench players minutes in Tampa on Friday night where they hammered out a 0-0 draw with the Rowdies.

So it was no surprise that the Stars, who seem to be brimming with confidence as of late, came out brightly in this match. In fact it took only 4 minutes before Minnesota got on the board with a Kevin Venegas goal. Jonny Steele had committed a foul on the left touchline. Neil Hlavaty stepped up to take the kick and placed a hard driven cross to the far post that found the head of Venegas. The rookie right midfielder jumped high and nodded the ball back across the goal and over the top of RSL goalkeeper Kyle Reynish to take the lead.

Just a few minutes later the Stars tried to make it 2-0 when defender Brian Kallman’s hard dipping shot made Reynish spill the ball. Stars forward Amani Walker picked up the rebound at the far post but his angle was too acute causing him to cross the ball that rolled helplessly out of play.

The Stars sustained good pressure on RSL and after 20 minutes the Stars had the majority of possession.

But not long after RSL had a few chances of their own. Emiliano Bonfigli found himself in front of the Stars goal and unmarked. But the RSL forward took a bit too long and Kallman snuck in to knock the ball away.

Kallman played the hero for the Stars a moment later when a ball was swung into the box, but the veteran defender cleared the ball out of danger for Minnesota.

In the 30th minute RSL’s Ned Grabavoy took an early free kick awarded to his team just outside the Stars box. He laid the ball off to Luis Gil who was not  marked. Gil teed the ball up and took a shot from distance that powered past Stars goalkeeper Matt VanOekel,  drawing the game even 1-1.

Real Salt Lake continued the pressure and caused VanOekel to make his finest saves of the night that kept Minnesota from going down a goal. Paulo Jr. dribbled in on the Stars keeper and shot point blank and VanOekel blocked the ball. The rebound went to Grabavoy who tried to clean up the rebound. But again VanOekel was up for the challenge, leaping high and tipping the ball over the crossbar for a double save in the 37th minute.

The Stars also had a nice chance in the 42nd minute when Venegas combined with Justin Davis in the box. But neither player was able to find the space to shoot.

A minute later the Stars target forward Amani Walker jumped for a ball and rolled his ankle. After laying on the ground he got himself up but looked as if he would need to leave the game.

A few minutes later a long ball was played into Walker from strike partner Martin Nunez. Walker made a gimpy 20-yard run into the box. He cut the ball back but his ankle did him no good as he found the ball hung up under his legs. Without many options, Walker kicked the ball to cross it but instead it hit the arm of RSL defender Jamison Olave. Referee Tyler Ploeger pointed to the spot and awarded Minnesota the penalty kick. The Stars’ Hlavaty stepped up and slammed the ball home going left on Reynish and putting Minnesota up 2-1.

As the halftime whistle blew, fans at RSL’s Rio Tinto could be heard booing their home side as they walked off the field.

Two substitutes were made at half, one for each team. Tony Beltran came in for Terukazu Tanaka and Simone Bracalello replaced the injured Walker.

In the 52nd minute RSL came close again if not for VanOekel. Bonfigli was fed a ball but the Stars keeper once again denied the forward.

Paulo Junior found himself unmarked with the ball and in front of goal. But instead of pulling the trigger he waited too long and was shut down by the Stars defense.

In the 58th minute the Stars seemed to put the game out of reach when Kallman hit a long cross from the right side into an awaiting Bracalello. The Stars forward slotted the ball home for the 3rd Minnesota goal of the night.

The Stars dodged another bullet in the 67th minute when RSL was awarded a corner kick. The ball found the head of Olave, but the RSL defender nodded it over the bar.

Chances came and went for RSL with a Borchers close range miss and Jonny Steele grazing the upright. But the Stars defense prevailed with a 3-1 victory over the MLS side.

“I’m embarrassed right now, to be honest with you,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers. “I can handle mistakes. I can handle missed chances, bad passes, mistakes defensively. I can’t handle when we don’t go out and try. We don’t go out and fight. We gave up in the last 15 minutes.”

“I think scoring in the 4th minute helped us out a lot,” said Hlavaty. “I think it gave us the extra bit of confidence to push us over the top. I think a lot of it has to do with our locker room situation. Everyone on the team is pretty content with each other. We all know that there’s going to be different people stepping up at different moments. That’s what happened last Friday in Tampa. We had different people who hadn’t even played before make their debuts and get a good result. So then tonight we were ready with guys who were fresh and ready to play. ”

“I’m really proud of the guys,” said head coach Manny Lagos. “We went into a very hostile environment which is one of the hardest places to play in MLS and there were over 17,000 people here tonight. They push the tempo and dictate the play. But I think our guys had a nice way of approaching the game and said, you’re not going to get anything from us and in fact we are going to try to play some attacking soccer. I think that was the difference in the game where we took the moment away from them.”

With the win, the Stars booked a date next Tuesday with another Major League Soccer side, the San Jose Earthquakes, who sit just two points behind Real Salt Lake in the MLS Western Conference standings. That match is scheduled for next Tuesday at Stanford University’s Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.

32 Responses
  1. ali permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Took the cash and pwned them in front of 17k of their home fans.
    This is too good!

  2. Steve permalink
    May 30, 2012

    If you thought the stream from Rio Tonto was bad the San Jose stream is even worse with one camera at midfield and little zoom capability.

  3. bullsear permalink
    May 30, 2012

    After their match with the Strikers, and with so many other MLS teams falling this week, I bet we’ll see a pretty tough lineup from San Jose. They’ll be without Wondo, though, which will help our chances. We need all the help we can get with a schedule like ours; MLS sides aren’t the only ones that face match congestion.

  4. Darren L permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Why is it the quality of the UStream feed correlates directly to how desperately I want to see the game? UStream seems to have an incentive to give a bad feed, because every time we refresh the page we have to view an ad. I watched a lot of ads last night.

    Anyway, congrats Stars! That was a tremendous result. I heard a lot of wound licking on Salt Lake ESPN Radio last night. Good luck in Earthquake Country!

  5. tomASS permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Well done STARS – a version of laughing all the way to the bank.

  6. Soccer Boy permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Great watch party at the Sweety last night. Thank you Stars!

  7. May 30, 2012

    Darin, I went right to USTREAM last night and had no problem whatsoever with the stream. I have found better results going directly to USTREAM rather than through the teams or NASL’s website. However, I like watching the streamed games through the NASL site because of the live stats I get there.

  8. Vuvuzela permalink
    May 30, 2012

    @ Minny Fans,

    Notice how easily Lenahart, the blonde with the perm, goes down in the box.

  9. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 30, 2012

    The boys took the money and won.

    Couldn’t be happier.

  10. Andy permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Brian, could you substantiate your statement, “the amount of money was significant…” that starts the third paragraph?

  11. jezapenguin permalink
    May 30, 2012

    as for the RSL stream, i thought the quality of the ustream shown at the Sweetwater was better than the usual NASL streams.

    so in other news… when will the details come out for the San Jose viewing party? 😀

  12. Lego7 permalink
    May 30, 2012

    HAHA! I love this tournament!

  13. TGos permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Paying someone to be abused in your own home – who knew RSL was into S&M?

  14. leper permalink
    May 30, 2012

    I would rather see a stream with a single camera high on one side than some kind of arty director who kept randomly switching the camera to weird angles and keeping them there too long so that you couldn’t tell what was going on. But maybe that’s just me.

  15. jezapenguin permalink
    May 30, 2012

    @Steve & Leper

    not everyone can be satisfied… i do not mind whether there is one fixed angle, or several “artsy” angles. any Stars match televised/streamed, is better than none 😉


  16. tomASS permalink
    May 30, 2012

    @Tgos – LOL great point 🙂

  17. 2Cents permalink
    May 30, 2012

    As happy as I am for the Stars, I am equally disappointed in the MLS. What an absolute embarrassment to what is supposed to be the best soccer this country has to offer. I seriously hope that the MLS re-evaluates how they view this tournament so that the quality of the league does not continue to be devalued. How can we get behind this product when they are so easily handled by the “lower” tier leagues? Just embarrassing. Even though many teams were quite reliant on the reserves, there is simply no excuse for yesterday’s showing by MLS squads. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  18. May 30, 2012

    Btw the fans were booing at halftime about the ref and the pk that was just awarded, not at their own players. RSL fans have never booed their own players.

  19. Yankiboy permalink
    May 30, 2012

    ^D: I’ll take your word for it. The fact that RSL fans have never booed their own players might need to change.

    At RFK, I’ve seen DC United booed on more than a few occasions. I’ve seen some other MLS sides booed, as well.

    Then again, if RSL fans have never booed–props to them for their patience with subpar performances. RSL fans deserved better than what they got last night.

  20. Bench Warmer permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Nice job beating the RSL subs. Don’t get too excited though. No Beckerman, Rimando, Saboriao, Espindola, Will Johnson, Moralas. Arguably their best 6 players. No excuse, but hardly the REAL RSL team out there.

  21. Fotbalist permalink
    May 30, 2012

    Absolutely AWESOME.
    Pretty impressive Yankiboy!

  22. Pablito permalink
    May 30, 2012

    I don’t agree with the comment that MLS should be embarrassed. Look at the FA Cup, arguably one of the best such open tournaments. Quite a few second tier and lower teams (Stevenage, Leicester City, Crawley Town, etc. this year) routinely make it fairly far into the elimination rounds, many times at the expense of Premier League teams. I think that MLS is dealing with what the top Euro teams much more frequently have to balance: many multiple competitions ongoing. A top EPL team could well have: EPL, UEFA CL, FA Cup, Carling Cup all ongoing. If RSL is a big, top team here, they are going to have to make these kinds of decisions about allocating their top resources. You can rarely win all battles on all fronts simultaneously.

  23. Yankiboy permalink
    May 30, 2012

    @Fotbalist: You are way too kind.

    Especially since I BOTCHED it and left in the original lyrics. Oh well. I gotta take the show on the road. Hone my skills. Different venue, another town.

    I’m just CISED that the Stars got that result. I’m freaking giddy. 🙂

  24. May 30, 2012

    @Bench Warmer:


    The players were wearing RSL kits; ergo, the Stars beat RSL. You can try to sour grapes that away all you want, but the reality is that it happened. Doesn’t matter who RSL dressed; hell, aren’t we led to believe that all MLS players are better than all NASL players?


    It was an upset. It doesn’t speak to NASL being superior to MLS or any other whacked-out pro/rel theories. It was the Stars stepping up and beating an MLS team–in their house–in the Open Cup. Upsets happen every year in the Open Cup, and will continue to happen; that fact doesn’t change anything about the leagues in question. As the cliche goes: That’s why they play the games.

  25. 2Cents permalink
    May 30, 2012

    @Pablito – You are correct about the FA Cup, but the two are in no way comparable. The USOC is the only additional tournament with which MLS teams need to concern themselves during the season. You are kind of making my point. MLS teams don’t have to deal with all of the additional games that EPL teams face which means that they should have no excuse for not having more success than they did in only the third round. Aside from missing players for national team duties or injuries, they do not go nearly as deep into their reserve side as EPL teams do for FA Cup. I can understand an upset here or there, but there is simply no excuse for dropping half their games. They have to have a better showing than they did last night.

  26. WSW permalink
    May 30, 2012

    I’ve said it once before and I will say it again their is no difference in quality of play between MLS and NASL unlike other D1/D2 leagues.

  27. May 31, 2012

    And you can say it a third, fourth or fifth time and your still not going to convince anyone it’s true, WSW. While I’m a big promoter of NASL 2.0, I’m also a realist. That’s just a silly comment.

    Now, I will say that many (not all) of the starters on NASL teams would slot in quite nicely and comfortably on most MLS teams as role players.

  28. Yankiboy permalink
    May 31, 2012

    “I’ve said it once before and I will say it again their is no difference in quality of play between MLS and NASL unlike other D1/D2 leagues.”

    @WSW: I’ve been under an enormous amount of stress lately and need to “take the edge” off. Bro, would you break any interstate laws if you shipped me some of that stuff that you have been consuming when you arrive and rearrive at the very curious opinion??? I’m not asking for anything free–of course I’d compensate you for it (if I can actually afford it). 😀

    Seriously, Bro. You stated that assertion so many times that I am actually starting to believe that you actually do believe it.

    No chance, Lance is the level of play between MLS clubs and NASL clubs equal–unless we are talking about MLS reserve sides and then I would still disagree and say that the NASL sides are superior (as well they should be since they play aton of games more and they actually play with an audience).

  29. Bart permalink
    May 31, 2012

    Folks, the Open Cup is much like March Madness. NASL had indeed proven it is the better league this year. NASL deserves the right to become D1 and Downs needs to become the D1 Commissioner with all of it’s glory.

    Garber is worthy of D2 and it is time for Montreal, Vancouver and all the rest of those MLS folks understand that they never really left D2.

    Hail to NASL, the new champions. The Stars will take the Open Cup!

  30. May 31, 2012

    Oh, just shut up, Bart. Your shtick is beyond old and tiresome.

  31. May 31, 2012

    Be civil please boys. That’s a request so I don’t have to start using my administrator powers as I sit behind this curtain with all these bells and whistles.

  32. Dave DuJour permalink
    May 31, 2012

    BQ has it right, many of the NASL starters would fit nicely into MLS teams. They won’t be the stars, but they would be able to fill out the squad. This has already been shown actually. 4 of the last 5 MLS teams have been Division 2 clubs. Sure, they didn’t keep every player from the D2 season before MLS, but they kept some. And other players got moved to other MLS teams. I’m sure someone with more resources than I can find out how many MLS players, on all teams, were playing in NALS/D2 in the last 2-3 years. I doubt it would be an insignificant percentage of the league.

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