The NSC Minnesota Stars won the first North American Soccer League title against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on a 3-1 aggregate following a 0-0 draw Saturday, October 29th, on a wet Lockhart Stadium.
Being the lowest ranked seed in these playoffs, the NSC Minnesota Stars went through a tough gauntlet of teams to get to this point. They had to go through the third-seeded FC Tampa Bay, the regular season champion Carolina RailHawks, and finally, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
The match tonight was tough for both teams. A rainstorm prior to the match caused the field to be very wet, making the ball tough to play with a simple touch or pass.
Throughout the entirety of the match, the Strikers pressed forward trying to get the two equalizing goals to send the match into extra time.
The first chance came early to the Strikers. Gerson Mayen, sent through on goal, had a chance to test the wet conditions. However, those same conditions caused his first touch to be heavy, and send the ball out of bounds for a goal kick.
Shortly after, NSC Minnesota got an attacking free kick in the Strikers half. Luke Mulholland, who was consistently on the ball dictating tempo, play a ball into the box. Untouched, the ball look destined to fall into the back of the net. Matt Glaeser stepped up and dove to his left, putting enough on the ball to send it out of bounds.
The first half ended with the only serious chance for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. After a resulting corner from a deflected pass, Mike Palacio curled in a cross which found defender Toni Stahl in the back of the box. Stahl got his head on the ball, but it sailed just wide.
The start of the second half continued to see the Strikers press high up and attack. Again, the NSC Minnesota Stars defense communicated well and broke up the Strikers' build up.
The last real chance for the Strikers fell to Mayen. Walter Restrepo dribbled down the right wing and chipped the ball into the box, looking for someone. Mayen, through the Stars defense, got a foot onto the ball, but could not convert.
The rest of the match saw the Strikers pressing forward and playing the ball into the box, but the Stars remained calm. They cleared each ball, kept the attacking movement out of the box, and clinched the first North American Soccer League title.
Photo by Jon Van Woerden
Article source http://www.nasl.com/
Marc Roseblade is a Contributor for Bleacher Report as well as Not Just Scottish Football and youth development reporter for Ayr United Football Academy. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated.