The 2014 NASL Spring Season Champion Minnesota United defeated the Mexico U-21 squad 4-3 on penalties in front of a sellout crowd of 8,059 at National Sports Center Stadium on Friday evening. The game ended 1-1 in regulation, giving the fans the experience of a tense penalty kick shootout that saw United emerge victorious.
"I think the team really appreciated all the fan support tonight and as a club we were thrilled to put on a good show for all the Mexico supporters in the stands," said United coach Manny Lagos. "It creates a new relationship with a new fanbase here and I hope they can embrace what we are doing as an organization. It was a game of significance because we played against one of the biggest federations in world soccer. It's a sign of things really good things to come for this team and I think the fans got their money's worth."
The game got off to a fast start as a miscue by the Mexican defense allowed United to steal the ball deep in the visitor's half. Miguel Ibarra was able to pass to a sprinting Christian Ramirez, who expertly slotted the ball past Mexican keeper Alejando Pelaez to give United the 1-0 lead in the 1st minute of the match.
A bad challenge in the 36th minute gave the Mexico U21s a chance to equalize the match from a free kick. Minnesota United defender Tiago Calvano fouled a Mexican midfielder just outside the United box, earning himself a yellow card. Striker Jorge Espericueta stepped up and curled the ball around the United defensive wall, beating keeper Matt VanOekel to level the scores at 1-1.
The beginning of the second half saw several new faces enter the game, including a keeper change by both sides as Mitch Hildebrandt of United and Luis Cardenas of Mexico relieved their teammates.
The second half was dominated by the Mexican team, who put immense pressure on the Minnesota goal. United was getting frustrated with the limited chances and tempers began to rise as the match continued. It came to a boil when Daniel Mendes of Minnesota collided with a Mexican player, leading to a scuffle at midfield between the teams. When the dust settled, and after much deliberation between the referees, three red cards were given out: Floyd Franks and Juliano Vicentini for United and Felipe Sifuentes of Mexico. This left their teams with 9 and 10 men respectively.
At the end of regulation, the game went into a penalty kick shootout. Minnesota defeated the Mexican side 4-3, thanks to two saves by Hildebrandt.
Minnesota United looks to build off of its Spring Championship as it opens its 2014 North American Soccer League Fall season next Saturday, July 12th against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
07.04.2014: Blaine, Minnesota; NSC Stadium (A: 8059)
MINNESOTA UNITED FC - MEXICO U-21 TEAM 1-1 (1-1), 4-3 pen
Christian RAMIREZ 1’ – Jorge ESPERICUETA 37’
Minnesota United FC: Matt VanOekel (46: Mitchell Hildebrandt) - Cristiano Dias, Tiago Calvano, Aaron Pitchkolan (59: Michael Reed), Justin Davis (46: Tyler Polak), Jamie Watson (46: Daniel Mendes), Kevin Venegas, Greg Jordan (70: Floyd Franks), Juliano Vicentini, Miguel Ibarra, Christian Ramirez. Booked: Calvano 36’, Sent offs: Franks 75’, Vicentini 75’
TD: Manny LAGOS
Mexico U-21 Team: Alejandro Palaez (46: Luis Cardenas) - Luis Solorio, Abel Fuentes, Francisco Flores (46: Juan Mesa), Felipe Sifuentes, Rafael Escamilla (46: Michael Perez), Raul Lopez, Jorge Espericueta, Daniel Hernandez (81: Giovanni Casilla), Uvaldo Luna, Alfonso Tamay. Booked: Solorio 31’, Sent offs: Sifuentes 75’
TD: Raúl GUTIERREZ