courtesy of NASL


Minnesota Fall 1-0 to Carolina Leaving Playoff Hopes on Life Support

by on 22 October 2016

Minnesota United FC traveled to Carolina to battle the RailHawks and strengthen the Loons’ playoff bid. A 1-0 defeat means the task of making the playoffs is much harder for Carl Craig and company, with OKC winning its match and moving into the last spot.

Carl Craig started the same lineup he used in last week’s win, albeit with different subs available. Carolina similarly offered few surprises, with Matthew Fondy, Brian Shriver, and Nazmi Albadawi being the danger men for the hosts.

Carolina and Minnesota both came to play; both teams pushed for goals and neither was content to defend and play the break. This led to an open, back-and-forth first half in which both teams earned chances. Carolina’s attacks were dealt with through efficient tackling and confident keeping from Sammy Ndjock. Minnesota’s best two chances came early through a Kevin Venegas free kick and a nice passing sequence culminating in a Danny Cruz shot rebounding off the crossbar. In the 30th minute Matthew Watson intercepted a poor clearance and launched a rocket at the top corner, but Ndjock was able to make the jumping save.

Disaster struck for Minnesota in the 33rd minute when Jeb Brovsky went down without contact, forcing Aaron Pitchkolan to come on. Brovsky was stretchered off holding his left knee. Ndjock was called into action again shortly thereafter to pick the ball of Shriver’s toe as the striker charged into the box.

After four minutes of stoppage time, neither team was able to find a breakthrough and the half ended with a 0-0 scoreline.

The second half began with Carolina continuing to press for a goal. The breakthrough came off a Minnesota mistake. A slow pass across the midfield was intercepted by Watson, who threaded a long ball through to a completely unmarked Shriver. Shriver stalled and sent a cross to Fondy, who tapped the ball past Ndjock for the game’s first goal.

Carolina continued to have all the chances. An unmarked Shriver was in with only Damion Lowe to beat, but the play was called back due to an Austin da Luz foul. Tiyi Shipalane was in on goal, but a sliding Brent Kallman deflected his cross out for a corner.

Minnesota struggled to retain possession in the second half, and was forced to defend instead of being able to push for an equalizer. Fondy nearly had a second goal off a giveaway, but his header was wide.

In the 72′, a penalty kick was given to Carolina when an Albadawi shot hit Lowe’s arm. Albadawi took the kick, but put it well high and the scoreline stayed 1-0. Minnesota responded with a quick counter, but Brian Sylvestre was equal to Kevin Venegas’ shot.

Minnesota thought they had equalized in the 81′, but Stefano Pinho was correctly ruled offside, and J.C. Banks’s goal was called back. The goal had come off a free kick from the touchline. Carolina somehow failed to score on the ensuing break despite having three attackers with only Lowe and Ndjock to beat. Minnesota nearly leveled off a corner kick, but the headed shot bounced off the top of the cross bar. Sylvestre bobbled the next corner kick, but Christian Ramirez’s shot was well high.

The loss to Carolina meant Minnesota relied even more on other results to keep them in the playoffs and the Loons had no luck. OKC won its match and moved into the playoffs with 44 points over Minnesota’s 41. OKC has only one match left as well, so if OKC loses and Minnesota wins, the Loons can still make the playoffs on goal differential.

Minnesota’s last match is next week at home against the Cosmos.


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