I wrote this morning that United needed to find creativity on their wings to get better in 2014. Turns out, they were all ready to make that happen in the last game of 2013.
Winger Omar Daley had a hat trick and set up another goal, and Pablo Campos added two more goals, as United beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 6-4 to close out the NASL season. Two of the ten goals were from the penalty spot, one was an own goal, and four were scored in the final ten minutes.
Floyd Franks opened the scoring from a Daley cross in the 10th minute, before Daley took a punt from keeper Mitch Hildebrandt and turned it into a solo goal in the 17th minute, giving Minnesota a 2-0 lead. Luke Mulholland pulled one back for Tampa after halftime, scoring from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after Etienne Barbara had been upended by Kentaro Takada, but eight minutes later, Daley added his second to restore the two-goal lead, turning home a rebound from a Campos shot.
Next, Aaron Pitchkolan got on the scoresheet - but for the wrong team, accidentally volleying a cross into his own net and making it 3-2. But he had only six minutes to wait for Campos to erase his error; the big Brazilian striker controlled a corner kick in the Minnesota end, and dashed the length of the field to score.
Daley completed his hat trick in the 83rd minute, getting behind the defense and chipping keeper Diego Restrepo to make it 5-2. In the ten minutes of chaos that followed, Evans Frimpong scored twice for Tampa, while Campos was chopped down by Restrepo in the Rowdies' area and scored from the resulting penalty.
The 6-4 final had head coach Manny Lagos smiling ruefully when he was interviewed on the Tampa Bay broadcast. "Wild game," he said. "A lot of our games down here have been wild."
For once, the United manager was happy with his team's offense. "Boy, did we attack well today," he said. "Both halves, we just came out flying."
The win pushed Minnesota up to fourth in the final fall standings, tied with Tampa for third but one goal behind on goal difference. It also makes the team's offensive numbers look a bit better; they're now tied for third with 21 goals in the fall season, behind the Rowdies (who scored 30 but also gave up 27) and the New York Cosmos, who scored 22.
Campos's two goals left him just short of winning the league scoring title, with 13 goals over both halves. Carolina's Brian Shriver also scored twice on Saturday, to edge out Campos with 15 tallies this year. Still, Campos has scored double-digit goals in every NASL season, with 12, 20, and 13 (for three different teams); say what you want about him, but he scores goals, a commodity that is in short supply in the NASL.
Daley presents an interesting case; he started the final two games of the season after signing over the summer with United, and he set up two goals and scored three more in that span. This time last year, Daley was in the Scottish Premier League with Motherwell; it'll be interesting to see whether he tries to use United as a springboard, or if he'd be interested in staying on for another year.
Regardless, a 6-4 game was an entertaining way to finish the year. Now, Minnesota can only hope to use it as a springboard for 2014.