Simone Bracalello proved his scoring touch remains regardless of role or venue.
He converted on a penalty shot in the 70th minute Saturday night as unbeaten Minnesota United FC edged FC Edmonton 1-0 and moved into first place in the spring season standings.
Since Minnesota joined the North American Soccer League in 2010, Bracalello’s 23 career goals ranks first for the club.
But Saturday marked the third time in as many games this season the former starting midfielder/forward came off the bench.
Just five minutes after getting on the field, Bracalello took a cross and fired on goal. An Edmonton defender was whistled for a hand ball to set up a penalty kick for Minnesota (3-0).
Bracalello buried the ball low in the left corner of the goal to energize the announced crowd of 5,287 at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
The logical choice to take the penalty kick, Bracalello scored the club’s first goal at home last season on a penalty kick against Edmonton at the Metrodome.
Him mostly watching matches from the bench thus far this season is a product of the team’s depth, said Bracalello, adding that he has “embraced the role” of spark plug instead of starter.
“You want to show that it’s still there and that you can really give something to the team,” Bracalello said.
His efforts drew praise for United coach Manny Lagos.
“Simone could do well starting,” Lagos said. “The nice thing to see from him tonight was the power he showed. That tells me he’s working outside the field making sure he’s fit and ready to come in. That’s a sign of professionalism.”
Half of these teams’ 12 previous meetings ended in draws, five of those stalemates coming at Minnesota. Saturday’s game seemed headed that direction, too.
Both teams pressured in the first half but failed to convert on their 10 combined shots on goal. Edmonton (0-1-2) sailed a fifth-minute free kick over the United goal.
Minnesota defender Cristiano Dias kept the score 0-0 and aided goalkeeper Matt VanOekel by heading the ball off the goal line twice in the 32nd minute.
Floyd Franks pounced on a loose ball and threatened to give United a lead just before halftime, but his shot found the head of sliding Edmonton goalkeeper John Smits.
Enter Bracalello. He joked that “the other guys were nice and let me take” the penalty shot, but he was all business in the moment.
“It was wet and windy so I wanted to keep it low and hit it hard,” Bracalello said. “It went well.”