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NASL SEASON OPENER NSC STARS FC 0, CAROLINA 0

Champion Stars stymied in scoreless season soccer opener

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE
  • Star Tribune
  • April 8, 2012 - 8:30 AM

A large crowd and an overwhelming shots-on-goal advantage left the Minnesota Stars FC disappointed with a scoreless draw in its season opener.

The Stars, defending North American Soccer League champions, tied Carolina 0-0 before an announced crowd of 8,693 on Saturday at the Metrodome.

The scoreless draw wasn't because of a lack of chances. But a 22-2 advantage in shots on goal gave the Stars little more than a territorial edge.

The lack of goals hurt even more on a night the team hoped to build its fan base in a novel location. Average attendance last year for the Stars, who play most of their home games at the National Sports Center in Blaine, was 1,676 and ranked last in the league.

"Maybe a more mature soccer fan can appreciate a 0-0 draw," Stars defender Kyle Altman said. "But in terms of marketing, we're not after the mature soccer fan. We're trying to carry over the excitement from the finals -- the goals. That's what the fans come to see."

Minnesota played the role of aggressor throughout the game. Kentaro Takada fired a near miss in the 10th minute. Teammate Amani Walker headed a ball off the post moments later. Carolina goalkeeper Ray Burse barely pushed aside a shot from Simone Bracalello in the 36th minute as the Stars ended the first half leading 10-1 in shots on goal.

"On all of our chances, we got good, solid, clean strikes on the ball," Altman said. "If a few go in, it's a different game."

The barrage continued after halftime. Bracalello spun and blasted a shot in the 58th minute into the hands of Burse and tested him again in the 63rd minute.

A golden chance came in the 71st minute as Lucas Rodriguez drew a penalty shot. Neil Hlavaty took the kick but bombed the ball high over the RailHawks' goal.

"Not getting a goal hurts," Stars coach Manny Lagos said. "The sport is cruel. Everything should have gone our way, but sometimes it doesn't. There are some very boring 0-0 games -- this one wasn't."

The Stars had their way with Carolina last season, going 4-0-2 against the NASL regular-season champions. Minnesota took the sixth and final seed into the playoffs and beat the top-seed RailHawks in the two-game, total-goal semifinal series.

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