United draw with Carolina feels like less

  • Article by: JON MARTHALER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2014 - 8:55 AM

A large crowd showed up, and their pursuers flopped, but trouble on pitch hurt.

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Minnesota United drew 0-0 with Carolina on Saturday night in Blaine, in the team’s final home game of the NASL spring season. While the scoreline was even, it doesn’t indicate the difference between what went right off the pitch for Minnesota and what went wrong on it.

On the field, things seemed to continually go against United, trying to widen its lead in the NASL. For one, the team had two players leave the game injured. First, center back Tiago Calvano limped off the field with a pulled hamstring. Later, goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel twisted his ankle when coming down from an awkward backwards leap. He left the field almost immediately and was on crutches after the game.

In the final 10 minutes, both Cristiano Dias and Omar Daley were sent off for late tackles, meaning that United finished the game with just nine players on the field.

Despite all of the red cards and injuries, it was a pile of missed chances that really frustrated United. Minnesota outshot Carolina 17-8, with eight of those 17 shots on target, but couldn’t make its offensive advantage pay.

Miguel Ibarra had a one-on-one chance against Fitzgerald in the 22nd minute of the first half but couldn’t find a way around the keeper. In the second half, United forward Christian Ramirez had two excellent chances with his head, but both sailed harmlessly over the crossbar, and Justin Davis couldn’t find the target after slipping in behind the Carolina defense.

“That happens sometimes,” head coach Manny Lagos said after the game, his frustration evident. “There’s no rhyme or reason why maybe you’re just a little bit off.”

With just two games left to go in the spring season, all of the results around the league went Minnesota’s way. New York, tied for second place at the beginning of the day, could manage only a draw at home against last-place Indy. Fort Lauderdale, the other team tied for second place at the beginning of the day, lost 3-2 to Tampa Bay.

The results meant that a United victory would have given the team a near-unassailable five-point lead in the NASL standings. Minnesota even had its biggest crowd on hand since the team’s new ownership took over at the beginning of 2013; perfect weather and the Memorial Day weekend helped draw 6,784 people to the National Sports Center.

Given everything that went right off the field for United, the 0-0 final qualifies as one point — and a missed opportunity.

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  • United's Aaron Pitchkolan, left, and Carolina's Nick Millington fought for control of the ball.

  • United’s Cristiano Dias (foreground) kept the ball away from Carolina’s Daniel Jackson. Later Dias was sent off for a late tackle.

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