FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (May 19, 2012) — Amani Walker’s strong start to the season continued Saturday night as Minnesota Stars FC overturned a first half deficit on the way to a 3-1 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium, continuing an unbeaten start to the season and closing the gap on league-leading Puerto Rico to just two points. The Strikers have not won since April 25, a four game winless streak.
“The game really turned when we got that goal right before the half,” Stars head coach Manny Lagos said. “I thought it energized us, and we were strong in the second half and really able to work the ball around well.”
The Stars nearly went in at halftime trailing, punished by their own missed opportunities. Martin Nunez had a goal ruled out for offside early on before Fort Lauderdale goalkeeper Matt Glaeser stoned Walker from close range after good work by Miguel Ibarra to get to the endline. Walker also had near misses on a header from a Neil Hlavaty free kick before being half a step behind Nunez’s cross from the endline.
Three minutes after that miss, the Strikers were ahead. Abe Thompson held up play on the right wing just long enough to pick out the run of Mark Anderson, who volleyed home off the post from about 12 yards out to give Fort Lauderdale a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
Right before halftime, it was level courtesy of poor defending by the Strikers. Walker stepped in the way of a back pass and, clean through on goal, finished over Glaeser’s shoulder to tie the score 1-1 in first half stoppage time.
After looking dangerous as a service man in the first half, Ibarra found himself on the finishing end in the 62nd minute. Justin Davis and Hlavaty combined well on the left wing before Davis sent a cross that Glaeser could only get a hand on. The rebound fell to the feet of Ibarra, who rolled the shot in at the far post to put the Stars ahead 2-1.
Simone Bracalello, on as a sub for Nunez only five minutes before, extended the lead in the 83rd minute. The Italian forward took a through ball from Walker and beat Glaeser on the breakaway for his first goal of the season. The assist was Walker’s team-leading third of the season.