Poor Officiating Plus Minnesota Mistake Leads to Another San Antonio Win
San Antonio Scorpions 1-0 Minnesota Stars
It’s widely understood in the world of soccer that goal scorers cost money. Usually, a lot of money. That’s something the NASL Minnesota Stars do not have much of as a league-owned team. So it’s no surprise Minnesota have struggled to find goals as the season has pushed beyond the halfway point and the other 7 teams in the league have solidified their defense.
In the past, goals for Minnesota have come from multiple players in different positions. It’s something Stars fans have gotten used to. They have also gotten used to close matches which is a credit to the spirit, team play and coaching.
One thing the Stars cannot afford to do is make mistakes. Another thing they cannot afford is bad decisions by the officiating crew. They got both on Saturday night as a good crowed of 3,221 watched Minnesota lose 1-0 to the leading San Antonio Scorpions after dominating most of the match.
Minnesota started the game brightly with numerous chances. The best seemed to go to rookie Miguel Ibarra who in dying moments of the first half had 3 different opportunities to score. The first, a one-on-one chance that saw him hit a hard-driven waist-high shot just left of the far post. The next saw him hit a wild shot into the stands. On the the third chance, the former UC Irvine player stayed calm and hit the ball low and hard as he tried to beat Scorpions goalkeeper Daryl Sattler. But the Texas keeper made a fine drop save and smothered the hard-struck ball, keeping the game tied as the two teams went into halftime.
Minnesota outplayed and outshot the Scorpions 7-3 in the first half, forcing Sattler into 3 saves.
The Stars kept the pressure on in the second half and just three minutes in it looked as if the Stars had grabbed the lead when Martin Nunez, who had a quiet first half but a very good second half, received a ball, dribbled through the defense on the left side of goal and beat Sattler who had come out to cut down the angle. Nunez played the ball back across goal to Stars defender Justin Davis who made the run and made easy work of the square ball played perfectly to the Stars left back. The referee pointed to the center circle signalling goal but then the assistant referee’s flag went up well after the play. Center referee Daniel Fitzgerald consulted with AR Kyle Burkhardt and the play was called offside. Stars players, coaches and fans were incredulous as there was no indication that either player could have been offside throughout the play. Still, the goal was called back and play continued.
It looked as if the Stars might have another goal in the 55th minute when Cristiano Dias crossed the ball to Nunez who headed home from close range. But the goal was again called off for offside.
In the 70th minute the screws turned on the Stars when San Antonio made a break down the left side of the field. Brian Kallman cut between the ball and played the ball back to keeper Matt VanOekel. But the Stars keeper played a very poor clearance ball low and directly to the feet of NASL leading scorer Pablo Campos (16 goals) who the Minnesota defense had done a good job of shutting down up to that point in the game. Campos took off with a full head of steam toward the Stars penalty box and was squeezed by central defenders Kyle Altman and Dias, with the latter having a particularly excellent night on the field. The ball was tackled away, Campos went down in a heap and and Minnesota was called for a penalty kick.
Hans Denissen, who had come in at halftime to replace Esteban Bayona, took the kick and guessed right when VanOekel went left. Denissen celebrated in front of the Stars fans by pretending to sink a basketball free throw which drew the ire and boos from the crowd.
Even though Minnesota out-shot the Scorpions 16-7, the penalty kick goal was all that was needed to sink the struggling Stars and give another three points to San Antonio as they continue their march through the stretch run. VanOekel was never called upon to make a save for Minnesota throughout the 90 minutes while Sattler made 6.
“He was on,” said Stars outside midfielder Miguel Ibarra regarding the called-off goal from Davis. “It was a good play between Martin (Nunez) and JD (Jason Davis), he came from behind the play. I thought it was a goal but I guess we just got unlucky. We never let off but they got lucky, got the penalty kick and put it in.”
“It’s very hard to come here to Minnesota and beat them. This is I think the first time I’ve ever come here and beat them at their house,” said league-leading scorer Pablo Campos who was with the Carolina RailHawks for two seasons before moving to San Antonio this year.
Campos says he and his teammates will take some time to rest when they get home after a tough 2-game road trip and losing to the Islanders last Sunday at home. “Puerto Rico and Tampa are right behind us in the standings. So we cannot make any mistakes anymore. We have to win every game from now on.”
Former Thunder player Jonathon Greenfield, who now plays midfield for the Scorpions, said the Stars have a very good team but believes the difference is experience and the ability to play error free. “This is a totally different team from when I played here. They are well organized and move the ball very well. They looked to get in behind the defense all the time and kept possession for long periods of time. I give them credit. They played fantastic and we just got a little fortunate with the goal. Sometimes soccer is a cruel game.”
“This is a very experienced team,” said Greenfield about the expansion San Antonio squad. “To be honest with you this isn’t really a surprise to me that we are where we are right now even though we are a new team. Football is often about managing the game. We definitely know how to manage the game very, very well. We’ve won a lot of games one-nil and we’ve kept a lot of clean sheets.”
Stars player/coach Kevin Friedland also talked about matches coming down to not making mistakes and capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes. “I think the last run of 2 or 3 games we’ve made that one mistake that has cost us the game,” said Friedland. “On the flip side of that we need to do a better job of taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes. Last week in Edmonton we did that. But then at the end of the game we make our own mistake again. Obviously we have to start banging some more goals. As a team we play good soccer, but we are going to have to find ways to dig down and win.”
“They had the better of the chances, but sometimes the game comes down to one break,” Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson said. “We were able to maintain the lead and three points feels pretty good right now. Our possession picked up in the second half and we continued to stay in the fight.”
Stars midfielder Miguel Ibarra chosen as the Brit’s Pub/IMSoccer News – Minnesota Stars FC Man of the Match
Miguel Ibarra, who was named the Brits Pub/IMS Soccer News – Man of the Match, said after the game that he is trying to remain positive despite having three out-right goal scoring opportunities on Saturday night which he wasn’t able to convert on. The Stars outside midfielder created havoc with the San Antonio defense which has a knack for keeping clean sheets this season. Ibarra was active throughout the match, breaking down the Scorpions defense and getting off shots or crosses.
“I had three opportunities I could have put away but I just have to keep shooting and stay positive and it will come. Manny and my teammates keep telling me, keep going and eventually the goals will come. I thought we played well, I was making runs and it felt good after having the last game off (red card suspension) and I just wanted to help the team win. I tried my best but I’m just going to keep pushing and pushing.”
Ibarra 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