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Stars Play Regular Season Finale in Tampa Tonight

Opening up the weekend of USSF D2 action, the playoff-bound NSC Minnesota Stars will face FC Tampa Bay Friday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field at 7:30 pm ET.  The FC Tampa Bay Rowdies will be playing their first game under interim coach and former old NASL Rowdies’ star Perry Van Der Beck following this week’s dismissal of Coach Paul Dalglish.

Although the eight USSF D2 playoff teams have been determined, NSC Minnesota will be looking for a win to take move up in the seedings.  Currently NSC Minnesota is seeded seventh, tied with Montreal on points.  A win or draw Friday in Tampa would move the Stars at least temporarily ahead of Montreal and give them the season series against FC Tampa Bay, which NSC Minnesota leads with two wins and a loss.

It is expected that NSC Minnesota Coach Manny Lagos will play the regulars who’ve gotten the team into the playoffs with three consecutive shutout wins.  Because the Stars have no games between tonight’s clash and the beginning of the playoff on October 6 and 7th, the Stars’ players will get time to recuperate before making their playoff debut.  Also, I imagine that Lagos wants to get more playing time together for his new forward line of Devin Del Do and Simone Bracalello.  Bracalello scored a brace in the Stars’ win over AC St. Louis a few weeks ago, while Del Do returned from injury to score the winning goal in the Stars’ last two triumphs.

Lagos’ biggest concern is at the right back position.  Regular Kevin Friedland has been injured lately, and his able replacement, Chris Clements, will miss tonight’s game because of yellow-card accumulation.  Lagos may move dependable Brian Kallman to the right back spot tonight, or call on 20 year-old Norwegian defender Thomas Granum.  Granum has appeared in only one game for the Stars this season.

For the Rowdies’ players, they will be answering to a new boss as Perry Van Der Beck will be on the sidelines.  Van Der Beck, whose number 12 is to be retired by the Rowdies at their final game on October 1, was drafted by the old NASL Rowdies in 1978, straight out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in the St. Louis, MO  suburbs.  Van Der Beck had an outstanding career for the Rowdies, and also playing indoor soccer for the St. Louis Steamers, Wichita Wings and Dallas Sidekicks.  Van Der Beck was hired by the new Rowdies in 2008 as technical director and youth director of the expansion club.  He coached the MLS Tampa Bay Mutiny for 11 games at the end of the 2001 season.

The Rowdies will be playing for pride and the chance to salvage a season that started brightly.  They are led offensively by Aaron King with ten goals, and have featured a potent attack all season.  Nineteen year-old Josh Lambo, on loan from FC Dallas, has started in goal in the last three Rowdies matches.  Midfielder Jeremy Christie will not be available for the Rowdies tonight, as he has been called up to the New Zealand national team for upcoming friendly matches against Honduras and Paraguay in October.  Christie played for the New Zealand squad in this summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

The Rowdies close their 2010 season next Friday at home against Crystal Palace Baltimore.

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