The Loons stay undefeated and at the top of the Spring Table
Minnesota United FC scored three goals in the first half against Indy Eleven that lead them to a 3-2 victory at the National Sports Center Stadium.
The game began fairly evenly, with Indy winning two early corners but failing to put anything on goal. Minnesota responded well against the pressure, but seemed content to sit back and play a counter attacking style when going against the stiff wind.
That strategy yielded few results for the first twenty minutes, and both sides resorted to lobbing deep balls at Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez and Indy’s Ben Spencer.
The complexion of the game changed drastically in the twenty-first minute as Simone Bracalello—the hero of last week for the Loons—made an incisive run down the left flank to the endline and put a soft ball on the ground across the box. Daniel Mendes was in perfect position, but seemed off balance and side footed a shot heading wide. Luckily for him, Christian Ramirez was perfectly positioned to turn his mistake back on goal, putting the Loons up 1-0.
The excitement had yet to subside before United struck again. Simone Bracalello broke early into space and drew in the entire Indy defense and goalkeeper Kristian Nicht. He calmly passed the ball to Daniel Mendes, flying in on the counter from the right, who could not help but score on the empty net. In the span of three minutes, Minnesota had broken up what had been a fairly even game.
The balance of the game was restored after United’s two lightning strikes, with Minnesota again content to counter. Indy earned their best chance in the 28th minute, forcing United keeper Matt VanOekel to make a smart diving save.
It seemed as though Minnesota would hold their advantage going into the halftime whistle, but it turned out there was a lot more in the game. Indy’s pressure eventually paid off in the 42nd minute, although in an unexpected way. Eleven forward Pedro Mendes put a dangerous cross across goal and Simone Bracalello was unable to check his run and accidentally blasted the ball into his own net.
The unexpected own goal galvanized United to make up for the mistake. A minute into stoppage time, Miguel Ibarra made a superb run down the left, then cut back and dribbled to the corner of the box. Waiting at the top of the box was Aaron Pitchkolan who slammed the shot past Nicht into the top corner of the net to return the two goal cushion to the Loons heading into halftime.
Eleven made immediate changes at the start of the second half to attempt to right the ship. Star Brazilian midfielder Kléberson was subbed on, and in the 59th minute, Indy head coach Jurgen Sommer again went to his bench to bring on Don Smart. But the additions struggled to make an impact after their introduction, with credit going to United’s defense, especially centerback Tiago Calvano, who made a number of one-on-one stops.
United first went to the bench in the 71st minute, putting Greg Jordan on in the place of Juliano Vicentini, who was starting his first game after a groin injury suffered in week two. Indy made their final sub in the 73rd, replacing Dylan Mares with Corby Moore. United made a second sub in the 87th minute, replacing Simone Bracalello with Jamie Watson.
Again, the game seemed to have settled into a state of equilibrium, but Indy would net a consolation goal at the end through another optimistic attack. A lobbed ball into the mix was accidentally handled by Justin Davis on the way down, earning Eleven a penalty kick. Kléberson stepped up, and drilled the ball into the left corner. His initial effort was called back, however. Forced to retake, the World Cup veteran went the other way instead to bring the score to 3-2. However Eleven could not get a chance to silence the home crowd in the minute that followed, and the lead held for the Loons.
The win gives Minnesota 12 points through four games to start the 2014 NASL Spring Season, and ensures another week with uncontested control of first place. United next travels to New York to play the sliding Cosmos in a match loaded with playoff implications for both teams.