Puerto Rico Islanders Defeat Minnesota as Stars Struggle with Finishing
A “tale of two halves” is a cliche often used in soccer but it was the exact description of what happened in Puerto Rico on Saturday evening when the Minnesota Stars looked for their first win ever in Bayamón against the Islanders. After an outstanding first half that saw the Stars command over 65% of the possession and rifle off 6 shots to the Islanders’ 1, Puerto Rico turned the screws on Minnesota taking command of good portions of the second half after an early Noah Delgado goal which proved to be the game winner.
The 1-0 win for the Islanders broke a 2-match losing streak and heaped the woes on the Stars who suffered their third straight loss.
“When you come off of two straight losses, the same as Minnesota, they have three now, you lose a bit of confidence,” said Islanders head coach Adrian Whitbread. “The natural instinct is to drop off and protect the goal. I told the players (at halftime) be positive. Don’t wait for something to happen, go out and make it happen.”
Whitbread says his only concern is how his team played after scoring their first goal. “After taking the lead we should have buried them out of sight. The same could be said for Minnesota to be fair. This game is all about chances and the first goal.”
That “first goal” happened after a quick counter attack by Puerto Rico that saw Jonathan Fana dribble over half the length of the field. Minnesota cleared the ball out but a quick throw-in turned the ball back over to Fana who took it quickly to the end line and laid off a cross. With a man to mark the best Stars defender Kyle Altman could do was redirect the ball away from immediate trouble. Fortuitously the ball fell to Delgado who was left unmarked at the top of the box. The veteran midfielder took a touch square and then shot from the 18. The game winner slotted past Stars keeper Matt VanOekel in the 49th to put Puerto Rico in the drivers seat for the rest of the match.
“I think we’re going through a little funk when it comes to confidence and how we are trying to create chances,” said Stars coach Manny Lagos. “I thought we played well in the first half and was really pleased, but have lacked some finishing which will hurt you, particularly when you play on the road.”
Minnesota now drops to 5th place in the NASL with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers jumping ahead by a point and the 6th place Carolina RailHawks only 2 points behind the Stars. Minnesota, who sat in first place earlier in the season, now are 9 points off league-leading San Antonio and 7 points off of 2nd place and surging, Tampa Bay.
Since the Stars’ July 7th loss to lowly Atlanta, the team has managed only 3 goals in 5 matches and have not scored a goal in their last two matches. They have been shut out 3 times and have a minus 5 goal differential in that period.
Minnesota will head home to train and try to find a scoring answer before their next match, another away game, this time in Edmonton against the Eddies on Saturday, August 8.