Forward Etienne Barbara, a star offseason signing, scored his first goals for Minnesota United FC in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with his former team, the Carolina RailHawks, at the Metrodome.
RailHawks defender Jordan Graye scored on a header late in the first half before Barbara chipped in a breakaway goal and converted a penalty kick in the second half to put United ahead 2-1. But the RailHawks tied the score with six minutes left to play on substitute midfielder Enzo Martinez’s distance strike.
United and the RailHawks both have two victories and two draws this season to sit atop the North American Soccer League standings with Tampa Bay. All three teams have eight points.
“Obviously, I would have preferred to keep the three points and win this game [since we’re] competing with Carolina for the first place,” Barbara said. “But this is soccer. … we got the point.”
The game featured the much-anticipated home debut of Barbara and teammate forward Pablo Campos, both former RailHawks players. Neither had scored for their new team yet despite both being former NASL most valuable players.
RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke said his team anticipated the pair would be threats.
“They’re a handful,” Clarke said. “They cause you problems. They’re smart. They’ve got a good relationship and they’ve done what they do best — they score goals.”
Barbara said it was special to score his first goals for United against his former team.
“I love Carolina. It’s where I started so it’s always in my heart,” Barbara said. “But I play for Minneapolis now and I have to score.”
While United ultimately settled for a draw, head coach Manny Lagos said his team looked like it could have lost its first game of the season in the first half.
“The team itself was a little bit sluggish in the first half and we needed to play better and [Barbara’s goals in the second] picked us up,” Lagos said.
Clarke said he felt the game was an even contest with a fair result.
“We had our good period in the first half, we were pretty good and we moved [the ball],” Clarke said. “We let them come into it in the second half by just not being good with the ball. But we showed a lot of character and heart to come back and get the tie.”
Barbara said he is seeing improvement in his team early in the season that will help it stay in first place.
“I believe that today we created more chances and we played better than Carolina,” Barbara said.
“So if we [had] concluded [the game], we would be alone on top of the table.”
Megan Ryan is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.