Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ultramega Minnesota Semifinal Victory

The NSC Minnesota Stars won one of the most dramatic soccer games ever played last Saturday night, knocking off #1 seed Carolina RailHawks in the Semifinals of the NASL playoffs. (EDITORS NOTE: I am still on a respirator and heart monitor 36 hours later.)

Leading 1-0 from the 1st leg, the Stars went to Carolina and got off in grand style by scoring the games first goal in Leg 2 to go on top 2-0 early. For the second straight time it was unlikely goal scorer Andrei Gotsmanov with the strike for Minnesota.

But just before half time the Stars made a big defensive miscue as centerback Kyle Altman and goalkeeper Joe Warren let the ball drop between the two of them and giant Carolina forward Pablo Campos took advantage of their hesitancy to poke the ball loose and then hammer it into the open goal. 2-1 Minnesota at half time.

In the second half Minnesota struck again, this time it was Lucas Rodriguez cutting across the top of the box and shooting for glory. 3-1 Minnesota.

But Carolina kept up the fight, and earned a penalty kick when Cristiano Diaz took down Etienne Barbara in the box. Pablo Campos stepped up and scored again. 3-2 Minnesota.

Just moments later Nick Zimmerman got on the end of some great passing and tied the series for Carolina. 3-3.

Then it was Minnesota's turn for the penalty kick when defender Devon McKenney grabbed Lucas Rodriguez around the waste and hauled him to the ground on the goal line in front of an empty net. Neil Hlavaty stepped up to the spot and made it 4-3 to Minnesota.

Carolina would play a man down for the final 20 minutes.

As the game neared full time a corner kick cross struck the arm of Minnesota's Hlavaty, giving Campos the opportunity to attempt the 3rd PK of the game. But he slammed it off the cross bar and Minnesota was safe.

The referee added 5 minutes of stoppage time at the end of regulation and as those extra minutes came to their end Carolina earned another corner. The cross came in and as everyone scrambled for the ball Pablo Campos redeemed himself and poached the series tying goal as time expired. 4-4! End of 180 minutes.

Carolina players and fans went nuts. Minnesota's contingent dropped their heads in distress.

The Sweetwater bar in St Paul were a large crew of Minnesota fans gathered went deathly quiet. This writer literally dropped his head to the table and felt flames popping inside his brain.

30 minutes of Added Extra Time were coming next.

Both teams had half chances, but neither wanted to make a fatal mistake, so it was 2 halves of cat and mouse.

The amazing thing for Carolina is that you would not have known at any time that they were playing 1 short. A heroic effort on their part.

210 minutes of soccer ended still tied 4-4 on aggregate, leaving us with the dreaded Penalty Kick Shootout.

Carolina won the coin toss and left the Star to shoot first.

First up for Minnesota was Neil Hlavaty looking for redemption for the hand ball (even thought it didn’t cost them a goal.) And he got it. 1-0 Minnesota.

Carolina sent Jonny Steele up for their first attempt, but Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren was massive, as he has been so many times before, and made a huuuuuuuuuuge save! Still 1-0 MN.

Devin Del Do for Minnesota. Scores. 2-0.

Etienne Barbara for Carolina. Goal. 2-1.

Klye Altman for MN. Scores. 3-1.

Kapono Low for Caro. Scores. 3-2.

Simone Bracalello for MN. Goal. 4-2

Goalkeeper Brad Knighton for Caro. Scores. 4-3.

And with the next kick Minnesota could win and advance to the Final.

Up stepped Lucas Rodriguez. Blast ‘em! 5-3 Minnesota wins!

Wow o Wow o Wow!

Pandemonium for the Minnesota players and coaches on the field in Carolina.

Pandemonium for the Minnesota fans at the Sweetwater.

Heartbreak city for the Carolina RailHawks and their faithful.

Glory Glory Minnesota.

What a game! Like nothing this writer had ever seen.

And the celebration in the lockerroom was beyond joyous.

Next Sat, Oct 22 at 7:30pm CT - NSC Minnesota Stars v Fort Lauderdale Strikers - Leg 1 - at the National Sports Center in Blaine Minnesota.

See you there.


Anonymous leper said...

Agreed. That was one of the craziest games I have ever seen. That Carolina goal in the 5th minute of stoppage time was just a shot to the gut. But the Stars stayed calm for the shootout, and Joe came up huge again. Also extra sweet that it was would be captain Jonny Steele that had his penalty saved. And that celebration video is awesome (again).

9:52 AM  

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