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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The New York Cosmos beat Minnesota United 1-0 on Monday night, but if it wasn't for two exceptional saves by Minnesota keeper Matt Van Oekel and Cosmos striker Mads Stokkelien missing an open net from two yards away, United would have lost by three or four goals. Marcos Senna scored the game's only goal for New York, curling a shot inside the far post with the outside of his right boot from 20 yards away, a difficult task that the aging Spanish star made look impossibly easy.
For most of the first half, Minnesota was unable to string two passes together or advance the ball forward. By the time the dust settled at halftime, the Cosmos had attempted seven shots, while United had yet to get a ball to travel even roughly in the direction of the New York goal.
After Senna scored with a half-hour to go, New York retreated defensively, allowing Minnesota to turn the stat-sheet tables a bit. In the final ten minutes of the match, United even had a few chances; Tiago Calvano missed an open header, and Christian Ramirez managed to turn on the penalty spot but hit his shot straight at Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer. Jamie Watson had one final chance for United, but his shot blazed high over the bar.
For the night, United managed just four shots, only two of which bothered the keeper, and the only way they found to consistently advance the ball was via long throws from Brian Kallman.
Minnesota has now played three games against the Cosmos since last summer, and lost all three 1-0. The loss drops United out of first place, behind Fort Lauderdale - their opponent this Saturday - on goal differential. With only two home games remaining in the first half and just four overall before the spring-season title is awarded, Saturday's matchup is already a must-win game for Minnesota this season.
It's a trip home that couldn't come at a better time for United, which - for the first time in 2014 - looked disorganized and unable to play together.
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