Minnesota Stars Defeat Puerto Rico Islanders with 4 Unanswered Goals
The temperature read 97°F on the 4th of July in Blaine, Minnesota on Tuesday. And that was at 7:30 p.m., kick-off time for the Minnesota Stars vs. Puerto Rico Islanders match. However, the high temps and horrible humidity didn’t stop the Minnesota Stars from playing a surprisingly high-paced match that seemed to throw the Islanders off their normally consistent game. At the end of 90 minutes the effort paid off with a 4-0 win over the team from Puerto Rico.
Just 4 minutes into the game Stars forward Simone Bracalello broke free of two defenders on the right side and put a driven cross to the center of the box. With several Stars breaking in on goal it was Kentaro Takada who dove for the header but found the ball cleared by Puerto Rico just a split second before the Minnesota midfielder could get his head to the ball.
Soon after midfielder Miguel Ibarra broke away on the left side and went deep towards the endline. He cut the ball back up field and then put in a wicked right-footed shot that Islanders keeper Richard Martin could only dive and parry away. Minnesota’s Martin Nunez was there to pounce and cleaned up the rebound to put the Stars on the board in the 18th minute. The goal was the forward’s second of the season.
A few minutes later David Foley broke away on the left side and squeezed off a cross around defender Brian Kallman. Nicholas Addlery beat his mark to get a head onto the ball but Stars goalkeeper Matt VanOekel dropped to save the ball and keep the Islanders off the scoreboard.
Right at the 45-minute mark, the Stars right back Brian Kallman made a deep run crossing the ball with precision to a sprinting Simone Bracalello. The forward jumped into the air to meet the ball cleanly and smashed the ball into goal from 6 yards out, putting the Stars up over Puerto Rico 2-0 at the break.
The second half began brightly with Miguel Ibarra and Simone Bracalello teaming up as they did throughout the game. Ibarra stole the ball at midfield just 2 minutes into the second half. He fed Bracalello who looked to pass but then beat his defender Alexis Rivera and hit a shot to the outside post which beat Martin but was cleared off the line by Richard Martinez.
After some very good possession by Minnesota, the Stars’ Neil Hlavaty put a diagonal-dipping cross from 35 yards out that found the head of Nunez in the 55th minute. The Stars forward scored his second of the night from 12 yards out, beating his mark and snapping the header into the right side of goal, beating Martin and putting the Stars up over the Islanders 3-0.
Amani Walker was subbed in at the 69th minute mark for Bracalello. The target forward for Minnesota had not seen playing time since an Achilles problem he developed in the US Open Cup game on May 29th against Real Salt Lake. Walker tried to play again the following week when the Stars faced San Jose, but he re-injured the ankle and has been out for the past 5 weeks.
Just 12 minutes after entering the game the Minnesota forward picked up where he left off. Dribbling square above the box, Justin Davis chipped a through ball past the Islanders defense which found Amani Walker making a run that beat the offside trap. Walker touched the ball on the turn and his second touch calmly rolled the ball into the right side of the net, giving the Stars a 4-0 win.
“It was a very hot day but the guys still wanted to play,” said Stars head coach Manny Lagos. “I thought they put an outstanding effort in and I’m really proud of the guys. There was just a nice feeling tonight about how they wanted to take on a team we hadn’t played yet, one of the best in the table and get a good result.”
“I wouldn’t say the Minnesota goals were anything they created out of the ordinary,” said Islanders coach Adrian Whitbread. “But if you don’t stop crosses going into your box and you don’t defend your goal, you get punished. That’s what happened this evening. When you’re away from home you’ve got to take your chances. We created some chances but you’ve got to put them into the back of the net. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”
Stars forward Martin Nunez received this week’s Brit’s Pub/IMSoccer News Man of the Match award for his excellent play and two goals on the night, his 2nd and 3rd of the season for the Stars.
“I think he did a great job tonight, said Coach Lagos. “The goals were there but I think there was a lot of extra work that he (Nunez) did to really get the team going. He kept the ball and pushed the attack.”
“The Islanders are always a team that are fighting to be first or second. We came out to play them tonight and we didn’t care about the heat, both teams have to play in it,” said Nunez after being named Man of the Match. “I think we played well on both sides of the ball, we kept a lot of possession and we were rewarded for playing hard and scored 4 goals.”
Nunez will receive a $50.00 gift certificate from Brit’s Pub and Eating Establishment for being chosen the Brit’s Pub/IMSoccer News – Minnesota Stars FC Man of the Match.