BLAINE, Minn. (June 23, 2012) — Minnesota Stars FC broke out of a funk Saturday night, snapping a two-game winless streak at NSC Stadium with a 2-1 win against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The win keeps the Stars in third place in the North American Soccer League, three points behind the Puerto Rico Islanders and two behind the San Antonio Scorpions.
“Tonight’s a big win for us to remind ourselves that when we compete and play the right way, we can win a lot of games in this league,” Stars head coach Manny Lagos said. “I just felt there was some tension after the two losses, and we wanted to play better and start getting results. We were really focused on getting better tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder of the guys for the way they pushed the game at the right times.
The Stars started the game with urgency in front of a crowd of 2,442, and the home side was rewarded for its efforts in the 17th minute when Neil Hlavaty converted a penalty kick to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. The spot kick came after Conor Shonosky blocked a Simone Bracalello shot with a raised arm. Hlavaty made no mistake, finishing powerfully into the roof of the net for his second league goal of the season.
Fort Lauderdale’s way back into the game came from a set piece as well. After a Connor Tobin foul 30 yards from goal, Strikers forward Mark Anderson bent a powerful shot over the wall into the bottom corner of Stars keeper Matt VanOekel goal in the 26th minute. The goal was Anderson’s team-leading fifth of the season for the Strikers.
Unlike last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay, when the Stars couldn’t bounce back from a first-half equalizer, Minnesota went back on the front foot and found itself back in the lead in the 39th minute as Bracalello dove to meet defender Brian Kallman’s cross at the near post, sending a diving header past Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser.
The Stars were nearly up by two going into the halftime break, but the crossbar proved Glaeser’s best friend in stoppage time of the first half. Hlavaty fed an inviting low cross to Martin Nunez, who fell backward as he hit his shot, only to see it carom off the front of the crossbar and into Glaeser’s relieved hands.
The early second half saw two great chances for the Stars, as Bracalello made a nuisance of himself down the right wing, twice slipping the ball past Strikers defenders. Once, he went for goal from a tight angle, drawing a save out of Glaeser, and the other time crossing agonizingly over the head of Kevin Venegas. Substitute Devin Del Do nearly added a third for the Stars as well, driving a shot wide with the outside of his foot in the final minute of second-half stoppage time.
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