Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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A bevy of promotions brought some new fans to the Metrodome for the final Minnesota United FC game downtown - and if the crowd's excitement at the end is any indication, the team just created some new die-hards.
Pablo Campos scored in the fourth minute of second-half injury time, giving Minnesota a 2-1 win and sending the crowd into a frenzy. It was certainly the most exciting United game of the year, and after the team gave up late goals in their previous two Dome games, it's nice that for once the fans drove home happy.
Give some credit for the winning goal, maybe most of the credit, to Simone Bracalello. He was the one that created the winner, dancing away from two defenders on the left side of the penalty area (how does he do that?) and dropping an inch-perfect cross over keeper Matt Glaeser and right onto Campos's head.
It was fitting that Bracalello, Minnesota's best player this year, should be the one to create the goal; this week, he was named the NASL player of the month for May.
Campos, who scored both Minnesota goals, was thrilled to triple his goal total for the season, after scoring just one in the season's first eight games. "As a striker, I need to have confidence," he said. "I need to know that I can score goals. If I don’t score goals, there is no confidence that I can put the ball in the net. Getting goals means I’m confident, so it was great to get the winning goal, and a couple of goals tonight, and help the team."
The Brazilian striker also had the celebration of the night, after getting the ball in the net with about ten minutes to go. The assistant referee flagged Campos for offside, which he didn't see - so while his teammates remonstrated with the ref, he took off on a celebration jog, waving at the crowd and slapping hands all the way back to the center line. "Nobody told me," he said. (He had a smile on his face, but when I mentioned his "second" goal, he immediately said, "It was supposed to be three.")
As for the offside call - it's funny how justice is served, sometimes. According to the broadcast crew, the striker wasn't offside on that second goal - but was offside on the game-winning strike. I guess sometimes everything evens out.
For his part, Campos knew the look of the goal didn't matter. "We needed the ball in the net," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a beautiful goal."
"We needed that"
I don't know if head coach Manny Lagos's celebration following the winning goal was captured on film, but trust me - it was epic. Following the game, he said he knew what it meant for the team to - for once - get an exciting win.
"It’s tough because I know the mental strain of when you’re not finishing and how hard it is," he said. "The goal, when you’re doing well, seems really big; when you're not, it just seems like it can't go in. Like the guys, I felt the pain of the team, of us not solving some problems and getting some goals. I couldn't have been prouder of the effort in the second half and the fight and the battle not to give up and really to push the game to the final whistle.
"This game started off like the past couple of weeks, we gave up a really soft goal at the beginning of the game and had so many chances in the first half to get back in it at halftime. I felt like the guys could easily at halftime have put their heads down and come out and maybe not even gotten the tie. But I really thought they came out energetic, wanting to fight, wanting to battle and get three points. That part of the game is nice for us because we needed that."
Four players - forward Max Griffin, midfielders Bryan Arguez and Bracalello, and defender Connor Tobin - made their return to the field. Arguez and Bracalello had missed only one game, but Tobin and Griffin had been out for more than a month.
Tobin, however, didn't make it through the 90 minutes, going off with an unspecified injury with only a few minutes left. He wasn't the only one; Miguel Ibarra was carted off just minutes earlier, with what the winger thought was a knee issue. Keeper Matt Van Oekel was also unavailable after the game, wanting to see the trainer with an injury of some kind.
No word on the severity of those injuries. Given that striker Etienne Barbara and midfielder Aaron Pitchkolan didn't dress for the game, and those three potential injuries, in some ways the bye week is going to be welcome for United - even if they fall further down the standings.
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