Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 2 – 5 Minnesota United FC
7’ – Jose Angulo (FTL)
12’ – Christian Ramirez (MNU)
27’ – Kalif Alhassan (MNU)
44’ – Daniel Mendes (MNU)
61’ – Ibson (MNU)
87’ – Ibson (MNU)
88’ – Jose Angulo (FTL)
- This match held significant playoff ramifications for both clubs involved. In combination with the other results from the weekend, this score line allowed Minnesota to move even with New York in the Combined Table, two points behind season leaders Ottawa. The dropped points by Ft. Lauderdale allowed FC Edmonton to sneak into the fourth and final Championship position, though the Strikers and fellow contenders Tampa Bay each have a game in hand over the Eddies.
- Minnesota capitalized on its chances. Those who have followed the team all year have seen the club dominate possession, pile up creative passes, only to be frustrated in the final moment. That’s not to say the Loons are poor on offense: they continue to lead NASL in goals scored, and only last week against the Cosmos was the team’s 22 game scoring streak snapped. But this is a team that has five good chances a game at least. When they are firing on all cylinders, then five goal score lines happen.
- Lauderdale played this game with duct tape all over the lineup. Midfielder PC sat after earning a red in the last game. Stefano Pinho moved to the left side of the midfield, a position that probably doesn’t suit him and certainly doesn’t make the most of his prolific scoring abilities. Jose Angulo found minutes at the forward position in his stead. Walter Ramirez moved from left midfield into the left fullback slot. James Marcelin found himself in the center of the defense rather than in the midfield. With all these changes, the disconnect between the players was apparent. A silent understanding grows between adjacent players when they grow acclimated to one another; none of that understanding was evident Saturday night.
- Ibson (MNU) – One of Ibson’s best games for the Loons. The two goals obviously stand out, but Ibson also played an incredible long ball that fell right in the path of Daniel Mendes to set up the third and winning goal. His one touch passing and his 360 degree vision were the best on the field, and the Brazilian has in the second half of the year made himself the midfield trigger to the incredibly high pace of Minnesota’s attack.
- Jose Angulo (FTL) – Two goals will land you on the “In Form” section, and Angulo deserves credit for giving the Strikers some production with Pinho serving duty elsewhere on the pitch. But the forward actually had some problems with impatience early, when the game was still up for grabs. A layoff to another player, a hold up of the ball, or just another step might have made the difference in a handful of opportunities. But all in all a good game for Angulo.
- Marlon Freitas (FTL) – Freitas just was not a factor on a night when he needed to be. Fort Lauderdale’s offense was too often reduced to counterattacking with too little patient, creative build up. Freitas was a ghost when the Strikers had the ball.
You Won’t See On The Highlights:
- Minnesota goalkeeper Sammy N’Djock had a strong game. In the first half particularly, Ft. Lauderdale did a good job of challenging Minnesota (the Strikers actually led in shots on goal in the first half despite being 3-1 behind) and N’Djock was equal to the task.
- The whistle, and the cards, stayed in the referee’s pocket. A handful of plays, including an aggressive trip by Loons midfielder Mendes and a wild studs-up tackle by Minnesota center back Tiago Calvano went without a card and with a kind yellow, respectively, and a handful of other physical play went without even a whistle. The game never really got out of control, though, and this writer’s opinion is that a referee’s impact on a game should be as minimal as possible.
- Lauderdale has everything to play for in its final seven games. It may continue to need experimentation among its lineup to push through the end of the year. As it tinkers, it should try to find a way to play Stefano and Angulo as tandem strikers. Each has shown the ability to finish, and although this won’t sort out the lineup troubles in the defense, it may enable the club to put a few games out of reach.
- Minnesota spreads the wealth really well. Of the starting XI for United, only about three players on the pitch are ones you would not really consider a scoring threat. Every other player has as much a chance as any other of finding the back of the net on any given weekend. Sometimes all those players end up scoring all at once. That happened on Saturday.