Both the Minnesota Stars and FC Edmonton came into this weekend’s matchup with neither team having a goal in their combined 7 NASL games. But that all changed on Sunday afternoon’s league matchup at the Eddies new venue, Clarke Field. The two teams combined for 7 goals. The game also saw two red cards, a penalty kick, four lead changes and a stoppage time winner for Minnesota with the assist coming from a throw-in that spoiled Edmonton’s home opener and gave the Stars their first win of the season.
The fireworks started early in this contest with the long awaited debut of Edmonton’s Yashir Pinto. The Chilean international is still waiting on clearance by the US State Department to play league games outside of Canada. The 21-year-old former Colo-Colo player played a clever throughball between the Stars defenders to launch Shaun Saiko, who calmly slotted low and to the far post to beat Stars goalkeeper Matt VanOekel in the 5th minute of play and give Edmonton their first goal of the season.
Just 2 minutes later Lucas Rodriguez was fed a ball by Amani Walker that allowed him to get into the Edmonton box. He touched the ball past young Eddies goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz which caused defender Kevin Hatchi to lunge in desperation at the ball, taking Rodriguez out in turn. Hatchi was given a straight red for being the last man to the goal. Rodriguez earned the team his second PK call for the Stars this season.
Just like Minnesota’s home opener, Neil Hlavaty stepped up to take the penalty kick. Hlavaty was 6 for 6 taking spot kicks last season but the Stars midfielder missed high over the net in Minnesota’s opening game at the Metrodome. This time Hlavaty made no mistake, slamming the ball hard and low past Misiewicz and drawing the score even 1-1.
Minnesota was awarded a free kick in the 15th minute of play. Stars forward Simone Bracalello took the kick from the left touch line and 30 yards out. He hit the ball hard and to the near post. The dipping shot gave Misiewicz problems, spilling it to an awaiting Kyle Altman who chipped the ball up and over everyone into the far netting and putting the Stars ahead 2-1.
With the Stars up a goal and having a 1-man advantage, Minnesota looked to be in control of the game. That is until Pinto found himself through the Stars defense. Altman, who just minutes before was on the end of a goal scoring finish, was now side-by-side with Pinto who looked to be speeding past the central defender. Altman knocked the Chilean to let him know he was there and Pinto made the most of it flopping to the ground. Referee Justin Tasev bought the theatrics and Altman was shown a straight red. The foul was just outside of the box and the ensuing free kick got through the Minnesota wall but went right to the awaiting VanOekel.
With each team now at 10 men the game became a wide open affair. Minnesota had one more chance in the first half when Bracalello went high to the far post on a free kick from the right side. Misiewicz tried to catch instead of tipping the ball over the crossbar. He bobbled the catch and spilled the ball in front of both Edmonton defender Paul Hamilton and Stars forward Amani Walker. But the Eddies defender got there first and cleared the ball up field.
In the second half Minnesota rookie Miguel Ibarra dribbled the ball out of pressure from the right side but found himself in trouble after getting dispossessed. The Stars midfielder made a senseless foul in the defending third and just 30 yards from goal.
Shaun Saiko took the free-kick and hit a driven-curling ball that found the head of Hamilton who nodded home to tie the score at 2 apiece.
Edmonton took the lead 3-2 after a great cross from the right side that was played to Pinto. He nodded the ball back to Kyle Porter who finished past VanOekel. The Eddies’ third goal was scored in the 64th minute.
The Stars were not to be outdone as they knotted the game again 3-3 in the 69th minute after some of the best combination play of the evening. Kentaro Takada started the sequence and ended up finishing it after Walker laid the ball back to the midfielder who passed the ball into the net and out of the reach of the Eddies goalkeeper from 10 yards out.
Substitute forward Devin Del Do, who was involved in the build up to the Stars’ 3rd goal, would also play a major part in the Stars’ come-from-behind win 2 minutes deep into injury time. After a good stretch of possession that looked as if the Stars might be content to sit back on a 3-3 draw, Ibarra made one of his many dribbling runs on the night, carrying the ball up the right flank. He was dispossessed but the ball went out of bounds about 10 yards from the endline. Stars defender Brian Kallman stepped up and made the long throw into the box which found the waiting head of Del Do at the near post. The 5’9″ forward rose above the crowd to snap the ball over the defense and past a helpless Misiewicz for the winning goal.
After the full time whistle, many of the Edmonton players sat on the field looking very dejected.
“It was an open game and a crazy end,” said Eddies coach Harry Sinkgraven. “Everybody is disappointed and tired. We’ve had a lot of games on a long road trip.”
“I’m really proud and happy for the guys to push themselves the way they did on a day that had a lot of ebb and flow between the two teams,” said Stars coach Manny Lagos. “From it being their home opener to how we had to battle. Sometimes that is what it takes to get the result.”
“Certainly from our end the game went in a new direction when we gave up an early soft goal. Mentally and tactically the red cards pushed us to adjust to what the game presented and even though I don’t think it was our best day of soccer, we battled and showed great character.
“Taka was really good on both sides of the ball today and really pushed us to continue to fight and battle for everything.”
The win puts the Stars into a 3-way tie for 2nd place with Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. Edmonton drop to last place in the league with only 1 point to show for 4 games played. They are now 0-1-3 (W-T-L). The Stars are now 1-2-0.
Edmonton drew only 1,273 but that was a full house as Clarke field only seats 1,100 and the temporary seating the team plans on bringing in has yet to be constructed.
The Eddies have a bye week then get another home game on Sunday, May 6th when they host the Carolina RailHawks.
Minnesota goes on the road again to play Atlanta at Silverbacks Park on Saturday, April 28. The Silverbacks sit in 5th place with a 0-3-0 record.