BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (Sept. 30, 2012) — Minnesota Stars FC’s three-year wait for a win in Puerto Rico is over, and with their first-ever win in Bayamon, the Stars advance to the North American Soccer League semifinals. The Stars will host the first leg of their two-game, total-goals series against the regular season champion San Antonio Scorpions at 7:30 p.m. CDT next Saturday at NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minn.
After Nicholas Addlery and Noah Delgado had threatened for the Islanders, it was the Stars who got the dream start. Simone Bracalello broke down the right on a counterattack and crossed for Amani Walker, who headed the ball past Islanders goalkeeper Richard Martin for his eighth goal of the season and the Stars’ first goal in Puerto Rico in three matches in 2012.
After the goal, the Islanders looked more energized, as speedy forwards David Foley and Jonathan Fana got forward looking to cross to Addlery. Fana nearly drew things level in the 39th minute when Addlery couldn’t connect with a Foley cross, and it short-hopped Fana at the back post and the Dominican forward could only stab it wide.
Despite the pressure from Puerto Rico, it was 2-0 Minnesota a minute later as Miguel Ibarra capped another perfect counterattack. With both Puerto Rico outside backs pushed forward, Bracalello broke down the right again before finding Ibarra on the left with a cross-field pass. Ibarra beat the Islanders’ last defender with a cut back onto his right foot and sent a shot from the top of the penalty area past an outstretched Martin and into the side netting.
The second half saw Puerto Rico amp up its pressure in search of a way back into the game. With the Stars content to continue to look for counters. Jamie Watson hit the post, and Islanders defender Anthony Vazquez headed away what looked like a goal-bound Ibarra shot as the Stars nearly made it 3-0 midway through the half. Despite nearly stretching their lead, the Stars were forced to sweat out the last 10 minutes after Foley cut their lead in half.
Moments after Minnesota goalkeeper Matt VanOekel made a low diving save, Foley tapped home a deflected shot from inside the goal box for his second goal against the Stars in the teams’ last two games. The Islanders came as close as possible to levelling it in the 85th minute, but Stars captain Kyle Altman cleared the ball off the line after Addlery could only manage to hit the post from three yards out with the goal at his mercy.
With the win, the Stars advance to the semifinals to face the first-seed Scorpions. The teams will play the first leg of their series next Saturday at NSC Stadium before traveling to San Antonio for the October 15 second leg at Heroes Stadium.