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AC St. Louis Goes North to Face NSC Minnesota Saturday Night

AC St. Louis travels north to Blaine, Minnesota to take on the NSC Minnesota Stars in their first matchup of the season.  Kickoff Saturday night is at 7:00 pm CDT.  NSC Minnesota lost Thursday night in Tampa, 3-1, to the Rowdies to drop their record to 2-7-1 while AC St. Louis brings a 1-6-1 record upriver for the match.  National Sports Center announced the birth of the Stars in January, 2010 after the folding of the USL Minnesota Thunder.  The teams’ colors are blue and yellow.

Both teams got a late start to signing players and coaching staff prior to the beginning of the 2010 season.  NSC Minnesota is coached by Manny Lagos, who was given the coaching reins in February, 2010.  Lagos had a long playing career in MLS and was capped three times by the US Men’s National team.  He played for the 1992 US Olympic team and also played lower division soccer in France and Spain.  This is Manny’s first head coaching job.  His father, Buzz, coached both at the collegiate and professional level.

The Stars’ biggest player signing was probably that of goalkeeper Louis Crayton.  The Liberian international spent ten years playing professionally in Switzerland before signing with MLS’ DC United.  He played 16 games for DC in 2008-2009, trialed with the KC Wizards during 2010 preseason camp and was signed by NSC Minnesota after his Wizards’ release.  Unfortunately, Crayton suffered a serious knee injury in his first game for the Stars, and has been mainly replaced by veteran Joe Warren, who had come out of retirement to sign with the Stars earlier.  Warren has performed ably, and in a stretch of three games recently stopped three penalty kicks.  Matt Van Oekel started in goal for NSC Minnesota Thursday night in Tampa.

Although NSC Minnesota is a new franchise, they were able to sign nine former Thunder players, creating at least some sense of continuity and familiarity among their squad.  Brian Cvilikas is one of the returnees, and the 6’3″ forward has scored two goals so far this season after scoring six over two seasons with the Thunder.  Liberian Johnny Menyongar is an attacker who formerly played for the Rochester Rhinos, scoring 28 goals there in over 100 USL appearances.  Midfielder Neil Hlavaty has played professionally in Sweden and Poland, and scored the Stars’ lone goal Thursday night off a free kick.  Former Thunder players Kyle Altman and Andres Arrango have played virtually every minute for the Stars this season on the backline.  Other former Thunder players with signifigant USL experience include forward Melvin Tarley and defenders Brian Kallman and Kevin Friedland.  NSC Minnesota started the season brightly, getting two wins in its first four games, but have tapered off since then, obtaining only one point in their last six games.

For AC St. Louis players, going on the road and getting away from the distractions of team financial problems is probably a good thing.  Midfielder Steve Ralston made his season debut last week as a substitute against FC Tampa Bay, and former MLS star reported no ill effects from his 30 plus minutes on the pitch.  I would expect him to be able to play 40 minutes to an hour or so as he rounds into fitness.  AC St. Louis played well early against the surging Rowdies’ team, and had a shot by Mike Ambersley go wide.  A first half red card given to AC St. Louis defender Tim Velten left the team a man down, and the Rowdies’ took advantage on the way to their 3-0 victory.   I assume USL veterans Velten and Jack Traynor, who received a red card on accumulation of 2 yellow cards very late in the contest, will be unable to play due to suspension, if USSFD2 rules are similar to those of other leagues.

I’m sure both Coach Manny Lagos and Coach Claude Anelka of AC St. Louis see this as a winnable contest for their sides.  Both expansion teams have shown encouraging moments but have struggled overall, as the Stars have allowed a league worst 17 goals in 10 games while AC St. Louis is next to last, allowing 14 goals in 8 matches.  Offensively, the Stars have scored 7 goals to 4 for AC St. Louis, and NSC Minnesota holds a slight edge in shots per game and corner kicks.  The two Mississippi River rivals both need a win.  NSC Minnesota has the home field advantage, but played in Florida Thursday night and may be weary after their road trip.  I am looking forward to a good match.  The game will be available for online viewing on the teams’ websites.  GO AC !!!


One Response

  1. AC St. Louis should mop the streets with Minnesota!!

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