BLAINE, Minn. (May 12, 2012) - Minnesota Stars FC will head out of town for a four-game road trip unbeaten and in second place in the North American Soccer League after a 2-1 victory Saturday night in front of 2,168 fans at NSC Stadium. Kevin Venegas' first career goal seven minutes into the second half proved the game winner.
The game nearly started with a bang for Minnesota as defender Justin Davis overlapped Miguel Ibarra and sent a bouncing cross across the face of goal, but rookie Venegas could only lunge at it to stab it high and wide. In the 14th minute, Amani Walker headed a Neil Hlavaty corner kick right at Carolina goalkeeper Ray Burse, the NASL's saves leader.
Burse could do nothing to prevent the Stars going ahead two minutes later. Kentaro Takada played Walker through, and the forward beat Burse to the ball, touched it around him and coolly finished from a tight angle, celebrating his second goal of the season with a double backflip in front of the NSC Stadium grandstand.
Stars goalkeeper Matt VanOekel was immediately called into action after the goal, making two saves in the 18th minute to keep Carolina from a quick equalizer. He also made a key save in the 23rd minute after a pour clearance gave Zach Schilawski a golden opportunity from about 10 yards.
The RailHawks started the second half with vigor, but Kevin Venegas' goal out of nothing in the 52nd minute gave the Stars a two-goal cushion. Venegas took a pass from Martin Nunez on the left wing and hit a right footed shot that changed directions mid-flight and left Burse stranded helplessly on his line.
The RailHawks had bad luck to blame in the 71st minute, when Nick Zimmerman beat the offside trap and nearly got around VanOekel, but the Minnesota keeper made a leg save on Zimmerman's tight-angle shot before the rebound was deflected clear for a corner. It was the first of four great chances for the RailHawks, but VanOekel was up to the task on Brian Ackley's sliding shot in the 84th minute and Austin Da Luz's shot following a cut-back a minute later. The RailHawks finally got the better of VanOekel with a minute remaining in stoppage time, but weren't able to carve another late opportunity to equalize.