Minnesota United FC edged past the Tampa Bay Rowdies with a 3-2 win at Al Lang Stadium where they lost the 2012 Soccer Bowl to their rivals, as three goals inside a 16-minute spell proved the difference.
United burst into a 3-1 lead in the first half only for the hosts to claw their way back before the break then a goalless second half saw the visitors hold on for three precious points.
“What a great series,” said United coach Manny Lagos, after the win and last week’s 3-2 loss to the Rowdies in Minnesota. “To have ten goals in two games, it was great and obviously we’re delighted that tonight we came out on top.
“It was really important for us to come out and play hard and play strong. Both teams battled and I was really proud of the guys to see the game out.”
United opened the scoring early, after 10 minutes, as a header by defender Cristiano Dias looped over Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo.
Home forward Georgi Hristov leveled the match, as the Bulgarian scored his fifth goal this season as midfielder Keith Savage placed a perfect through ball into the box, finding Hristov on the right flank to drill the ball into the top part of the net.
It wouldn't be long until Minnesota regained the lead with two goals coming in the 23rd and 26th minutes. Midfielder Geison Moura got on the end of forward Pablo Campos' back heel pass to make it 2-1 and Campos once again set up the third goal for Minnesota. His feed found midfielder Simone Bracalello on the left flank, with the Italian putting it through Restrepo's legs for the goal.
The two-goal lead was cut in half in the 29th minute, as Hristov grabbed his second goal of the match. Midfielder Luke Mulholland volleyed a cross from the left flank, but Minnesota's goalkeeper Matt VanOekel saved and Hristov was quick to pounce on the rebound to head home inside the six-yard box. The Bulgarian has now scored four goals in his last two matches.
A choppy second half saw forward Mike Ambersley come off the bench in the 62nd minute, as the St. Louis native picked up his first minutes of the season. Down a goal, Tampa Bay was forced to attack in order to equalize the match and pick up at least a point.
While Del Do had a chance of his own in the 52nd minute, the most dangerous scoring chance for the Rowdies came minutes later, when Del Do fed a cross to Hristov. The Bulgarian lifted himself over Minnesota's defense, but his header went over the bar.
A late push by the reigning NASL Champions was well handled by the Minnesota defense, and the Rowdies remain winless at home this season, while unbeaten on the road with a perfect 3-0 record.
“I was slightly disappointed that we over used the wind because the ball ran way from us,” explained Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “I wanted us to play shorter balls into the strikers.
“I can’t fault the players for the effort that they always put into their game. I’m really disappointed that we’ve again conceded three goals at home and three within the first 20 minutes, which is an elementary mistake. Defensively we were all at sea.
“If we have to score four goals at home to win every time, we can’t do that. We have to stop it as a unit.”
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|