In a contest with huge playoff implications for both sides, the NSC Minnesota Stars rained on AC St. Louis’ parade, gaining an important road victory at AB Soccer Park Saturday evening. Coach Manny Lagos’ Stars tightened their grip on the final USSF D2 playoff spot with the win, now having 31 points compared to FC Tampa Bay’s 28 and AC St. Louis’ 26 as the season winds down.
A crowd of over 2,300 witnessed the Stars take hold of the game and not let go. Both teams seemed to have a good run of play during the opening 20 minutes of the match. The Saints’ Brad Stisser had a run down the right flank and crossed nicely into the box early on, but no teammate was there to take advantage. Around the 14th minute, Chris Salvaggione had a shot that missed and midfielder Michael Videira took an opportunity at the NSC Minnesota goal, several minutes later, but his shot went high. The Stars forced AC St. Louis goalkeeper into a good save around the 9 minute mark.
The Stars took control of the game at the 25 minutes in. Forward Simone Bracalello beat Dufty with a shot to the right near post after receiving a pass from Stars’ midfielder Scott Lorenz to put NSC Minnesota a goal up. This was the first time in four meetings between the two clubs in 2010 that the Stars had scored first. Eight minutes later, former LA Galaxy player Ely Allen doubled the Stars’ lead by converting a cross from Daniel Wasson. The goal was Allen’s third of the year. The Stars’ had another chance a few minutes later when midfielder Kentaro Takada unleashed a powerful long blast that Dufty was able to deflect and gather before the Stars pounced.
Down 2-0, the young AC St. Louis team seemed to unravel and lose their cool. Near the end of the half, Saints’ defender Mark Bloom fouled Lucas Rodriguez of the Star away from play. A scuffle ensued, and eventually three AC St. Louis players, Bloom, captain Jack Traynor and midfielder Gauchinho, received yellow cards. The Stars were awarded a free kick just outside the box, and Man of the Match Bracalello scored, beating Dufty to the right on a well-placed effort. Bracalello, 24, is a native of Genoa, Italy and has played in the lower divisions of Italian football. His two goals on the evening give him four for the season.
With a 3-0 lead going into halftime, the game was essentially over. Although AC St. Louis actually outshot the Stars 13-12 and doubled them in corner kicks, 4-2, veteran Stars’ goalkeeper Joe Warren only had to make three saves, all of which were in the second half. Warren came up with a save on Salvaggione near the hour mark. The Saints’ leading scorers, Mike Ambersley and Luke Kreamalmeyer, both had shots blocked by the stout NSC Minnesota defense twenty minutes later, and substitute defender Anthony O’ Garro, who scored the first goal in franchise history,almost snuck in a consolation goal late in the contest when his he latched onto a longball near the Stars’ goal line and chipped from a tight angle over Warren.and off the woodwork.
AC St. Louis Coach Dale Schilly was reflective after the loss. ” “On a night when we needed our best, and on a night when we really needed to perform, we just did not get it done,” said Schilly. “We were okay early, but we self destructed. I have never seen the wheels come off like that for us in the middle of a game. I have never seen us emotionally lose it, or lose our focus because of what was happening on the field. I was surprised by that.”
So, too, were the fans in attendance. AC St. Louis didn’t perform poorly, but they seemed out of sync, especially after their emotional win of Miami FC last Sunday. In contrast, NSC Minnesota looked poised and confident, especially after getting the first goal. The Stars take the season series from the Saints with two wins and two draws, in what is looking like a very good rivalry between the two Midwestern teams. NSC Minnesota is now 8-7-12, while AC St. Louis are 6-11-8. The Stars host the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday while AC St. Louis play host to the Austin Aztex.
Notes: NSC Minnesota snapped a three-game streak of shutout losses with its big win tonight. Twenty year-old defender Thomas Granum got some game action for the Stars as a late substitute. Had a nice chat with Karen Lesko, AC St. Louis defender John Lesko’s mom, who traveled from the Carolinas for tonight’s match. Nice job done by the AC St. Louis front office in a 9-11 memorial and the Collinsville Middle School band, who perfomred the national anthem. The team is also having a luncheon party for season ticket holders Sunday afternoon as a way of saying thanks. Good deal. Also, I was informed that the SPENSA organization had its first fall games for special needs athletes Saturday morning at AB Soccer Park. Over 65 athletes and 100 volunteers were present. Great news, and thanks to all who’ve helped with donations to help out this great organization.
AC Starting Lineup: Dufty, Traynor, Bloom, Bauer, Videira, Kreamalmeyer, Gil, Gauchinho, Stisser, Salvaggione, Ambersley Subs Used: Cole, O’Garro, Cosgriff
NSC Minnesota Starting Lineup: Warren, Lorenz, Clements, Arrango, Altman, Wasson, Takada, Rodriguez, Del Do, Allen, Bracalello Subs Used:Cvilikas, Moura, Tarley, Granum