Minnesota United have set the early pace on top of the standings with a 2-0 win away to the San Antonio Scorpions.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said Minnesota coach Manny Lagos. “I thought they worked really hard. The three points are very big for us tonight, but we’ve got to get better. I thought it was a great physical game and we didn’t back down and we saw the game out.”
The teams traded possession in the midfield for most of the first fifteen minutes of the match, but Minnesota United got on the board first in the 17th minute. Captain Aaron Pitchkolan chipped in a ball to United striker Christian Ramirez and the big forward controlled the ball with his back to goal and then on a half-turn, he volleyed a hard shot over his shoulder into Scorpions keeper David Bingham’s left upper 90
After that, the game began living up to it’s rivalry status as five cards were issued in a span of 20 minutes, including a straight red shown to Scorpions defender Julius James. Replays showed James was almost kicked in the head by Minnesota’s Tiago Calvano on a dangerous high kick, but when James retaliated and shoved the defender to the ground, referee Matthew Foerster immediately went to his shirt pocket for the red card and automatic ejection.
The Scorpions pushed the action for the rest of the first half and much of the second in spite of being down a man, but the disadvantage finally caught up to the Scorpions in the 73rd minute. A foul was called on Scorpions captain Adrian Cann 20 yards from the San Antonio goal. Kevin Venegas stepped up to take the ensuing free kick and drilled a perfect shot over the wall and into the goal to ‘keeper David Bingham’s right.
The best chances for the home side came during a short sequence in the second half. First, winger Walter Retrepo deftly dribbled his way deep into the Minnesota 18-yard box in the after 66 minutes. The former NASL First XI selection absorbed contact from a Minnesota defender and was knocked to the turf, but referee Foerster did not make a call. Then a minute later, the Scorpions were awarded a free kick 25 yards out from Minnesota’s goal. Eric Hassli, who had only come on 10 minutes earlier, stepped up and hit a hard, low shot that forced goalie Matt VanOekel to make a save.
The Scorpions are now winless all-time in home openers.