BLAINE, MN (June 16, 2012) – Minnesota Stars FC fell 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the first home game in nearly a month at the NSC Stadium for the team’s second loss in two weeks. The Stars were unable to rebound from last week’s loss at Carolina despite taking the lead in only the ninth minute. Minnesota was not without home-field advantage, as 2,908 fans packed into the NSC to watch the Stars first home loss since September 2011.
The Stars and Rowdies traded possession evenly throughout the first half, with much of the Rowdies’ offensive being spearheaded by forward Fabrice Picault and midfielder Luke Mulholland. On the other side of the field, Minnesota created several offensive sparks from midfielder Miguel Ibarra and forward Simone Bracalello.
Stars forward Martin Nunez, making only his third start of the season, danced around three Tampa Bay defenders, and was able to slot it inside the near post to beat Rowdies keeper Jeff Attinella in the ninth minute to put Minnesota up 1-0. It was the first goal Tampa Bay has allowed in the first half all season.
Attinella would become a force in goal for the Rowdies, denying a thunderous strike by Bracalello that nearly knocked him backward into the frame. VanOekel would also prove solid defensively for Minnesota denying key shots by Mulholland and Rowdies defender Frankie Sanfilippo.
The Rowdies rebounded with a late first half goal by Tsuyoshi Yoshitake just before stoppage time when Stars keeper Matt VanOekel attempted to clear the ball out of pressure, only to send the ball to the waiting feet of Yoshitake. He chipped a curling shot around VanOekel – who was far out of the Minnesota box – and equalized for Tampa Bay just before half.
Energized by their late goal, the Rowdies came out of the locker room swinging with several close attempts, including one in the 47th minute by Mulholland, but the Stars held on against mounting pressure from Tampa Bay.
The first major offensive chance of the second half for Minnesota would come in the 55th minute, when Attinella collected a paced cross from Miguel Ibarra moments before sliding Stars Bracalello and Kevin Venegas arrived.
Despite only out-shooting Minnesota by eleven to ten, Tampa Bay ramped up the second half pressure after gaining valuable set pieces deep in the Stars’ half. Ibarra and Bracalello – occasionally aided by Venegas and substitute Andy Lorei – attempted to penetrate Tampa Bay’s defense but were deflected at each opportunity.
Tampa Bay captured the lead in the 87th minute with a decisive 20-yard strike by substitute midfielder Keith Savage that rocketed past VanOekel to gain the Rowdies three points on the road, ending Tampa Bay’s three-game roadtrip on a high note.