BLAINE, Minn. (July 4, 2012) — On a hot, humid night more reminiscent of the tropics than the North Star State, Minnesota Stars FC trounced the Puerto Rico Islanders 4-0 on Wednesday night at NSC Stadium in front of 2,199 fans. The result—the Stars' largest margin of victory in their three-year history—sees the Stars return to fourth place in the eight-team North American Soccer League, trailing the second-place Islanders by only a point in the standings.
Despite a temperature in the high 90s at kickoff and humidity pushing the heat index north of 100, the Stars started the game brightly as Martin Nunez scored his second goal of the season in the 18th minute. Miguel Ibarra won the ball about 40 yards from goal and carried it centrally before connecting with Nunez for a one-two. Ibarra’s initial shot was well-saved from close range by Puerto Rico goalkeeper Richard Martin, but the rebound fell kindly to Nunez at the back post for an easy tap in.
The Islanders responded well from the setback and began to mount sustained pressure of their own. The visitors drew a series of corner kicks from last-ditch clearances by Stars defenders and forced a dangerous sliding clearance on the doorstep from Stars captain Kyle Altman in the 27th minute.
As the heat seemed to take the energy out of the teams, the Stars found a second wind and a second goal to come with it. Brian Kallman, forward from his right-back position, was first to a loose ball on the right wing and as he fell out of bounds delivered a perfectly measured outswinging cross to the grateful foot of Simone Bracalello, who slammed home his fourth league goal of the season and team-leading sixth in all competitive matches.
The goal gave the Stars a boost of energy to start the second half, as Bracalello beat Islanders defender Alexis Rivera in the box and forced a goal-line clearance from Puerto Rico right-back Richard Martinez. The pressure told in the 55th minute, when Nunez added his second of the night after Puerto Rico couldn’t fully clear a Minnesota corner. Ibarra started the move again, chasing the ball down on the left wing and returning it to Neil Hlavaty, who had just taken the corner. Hlavaty whipped a ball back into the penalty box, finding Nunez unmarked at the penalty spot to head home unmarked.
Down 3-0, the Islanders rarely threatened, although the Stars had an offside call from the assistant referee to thank in the 75th minute for keeping the shutout intact, as Jonathan Fana got loose behind the defense and lobbed Stars goalkeeper Matt VanOekel.
The night got better for the Stars in the 81st minute. Amani Walker, on as a sub and playing for the first time in more than a month, controlled a ball over the top from left-back Justin Davis and turned all in one motion before rolling home his fourth goal of the season from 12 yards out.
With players cramping in the heat and humidity, the referee ended the game right on 90 minutes, bringing a prompt end to the Stars’ biggest victory in team history.