Minnesota Thunder goalkeeper Nick Platter could see his teammates needed an offensive spark, but he did not expect to be the live wire.
Platter drop-kicked a ball upfield, then watched as Alen Marcina got behind the Rochester defense for a goal in the 26th minute of Sunday's match at James Griffin Stadium. Marcina's goal held up as Minnesota marked its home debut with a 1-0 victory in front of 4,215 fans.
"I was just trying to get the ball to midfield so we could set something up," Platter said. "But Alen got through and finished the play well from a tight angle."
Platter made a second key play less than two minutes later by stopping the Rhinos' Hamed Diallo on a penalty kick. Platter was whistled for the penalty on Diallo and redeemed himself with the save.
Thunder coach Amos Magee said Platter's big plays were two highlights of an otherwise uninspired team performance.
"We were flat the whole day," he said. "We played tight, and it was an ugly win."
Play bogged down throughout the first half. Minnesota (2-1) pushed the ball up the left side of the field with little success. When play shifted to the midfield, Thunder players "lost a lot of the physical battles," Magee said.
But a mental breakdown on Platter's kick cost Rochester (0-2) the match. Minnesota played with a stiff wind at its back in the first half. The flags representing players' nations of birth were starched due east atop the grandstands.
Platter boomed a wind-aided ball down the right side of the field and connected with Marcina for his first career assist.
"I think their defense misjudged the ball and their goalkeeper stayed too far back," Platter said. "We lost the coin toss, and Rochester chose to give us the wind in the first half. I liked it. It gave me some extra distance on my kicks."
Magee said Platter, in his third season with the Thunder, is poised for a breakthrough season. "I really believe he's going to prove himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the league," Magee said.