First of all: Megan Ryan's game story is here.
After trailing 1-0 at halftime, Minnesota United FC striker Etienne Barbara scored twice in eight minutes to give his team a 2-1 lead. But in the 84th minute, Carolina's Enzo Martinez tied up the game with a blast from outside the penalty area, turning what looked to be a Minnesota win into a 2-2 draw.
Every goal has two sides. For Martinez, it was a dream start - a delayed start, but a dream one. Martinez, who played his college soccer at North Carolina, spent all of last season with Real Salt Lake in MLS, but didn't appear in a first-team match. He hadn't appeared in one this year, either, and on Tuesday he got a call from RSL's general manager, telling him he was headed to Carolina on loan. "We had a day off Tuesday, then I trained Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with the club," he said. He was so new to the team that his number, 19, wasn't even listed in the game program.
Martinez started the game on the bench, but with fifteen minutes to go, RailHawks coach Colin Clarke threw him on the field for his professional debut, albeit at a different position than he was used to. Said Martinez, "I hadn't played forward since high school... I'm just thankful he gave me fifteen minutes to showcase myself."
On the other sideline, Barbara was kicking himself - for not kicking Martinez. He'd scored two goals, but blamed himself for Carolina's second. "I want to tell you that I feel fantastic, but I feel bad that we didn't get the three points," he said. "I should have defended better when he scored the second goal."
After knocking Martinez off balance twice, Barbara expected him to fall, not turn and strike the ball for the equalizer. "I thought he was going to fall down and I would get a yellow card," he said. "I was afraid to get a card. But now that he scored, I’m like, shoot, I should have got a card and fouled him. I don’t know. It’s what I thought at the time and I got penalized for it."
A penalty between old friends
Barbara's second goal was a penalty, following a rocket shot by United midfielder Michael Reed that Carolina defender Paul Hamilton stopped with his arm. Simone Bracalello had taken Minnesota's penalties in the previous two games, one in each game, but it was Barbara that stepped up - in part, due to his inside information on Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald.
"I know Akira, I trained with him for more than a year, and I felt confident about the PK", said Barbara, who played with Fitzgerald in Carolina in 2011. "He came and shook my hand and he told me, 'You got this,' and I got it. It was very nice of him, I appreciate it."
One eye on the standings
It may only be the fourth game of the season, but everyone's mind is already on the NASL standings. Both head coach Manny Lagos and goalkeeper Daryl Sattler asked me about the night's other results, and both were visibly disappointed when I told them that Tampa Bay had drawn 1-1 with Edmonton. The Rowdies had been tied for first place with both Minnesota and Carolina coming into the match - and now, all three are tied with eight points, instead of seven.
Lagos, in fact, seemed more frustrated the longer I talked to him. Though he was happy that the team had fought back from 1-0 down, he clearly felt his team had wasted a chance to get some distance at the top of the standings.
Atlanta and San Antonio also drew, 2-2, which left the league standings right where they began the night - three teams on top, and Atlanta one point behind.