RECAP |United Plays for Final Time in Front of Home Crowd at NSC Stadium
Despite the loss, United players put on a spirited performance if front of a raucous crowd
BLAINE, Minn. (Saturday) -- More than 25 years of professional soccer at NSC Stadium came to an end Saturday night as the center official blew his whistle signifying the end of the match and the end of an era with Minnesota United falling to the New York Cosmos 1-0. In the end, 8,609 fans filled the stands to bid farewell to 'Nessie' and United's season ended in heartbreak as the last grain of hope for a postseason berth fell away with the loss.
"It means a lot, because the place has been packed all year, we've been going up and down and up and down and these guys have been right behind us," said Minnesota United head coach Carl Craig. "The volume's loud, the passion's there and I think we couldn't have asked for more - I wish we could have given them more, but it wasn't meant to be."
As the Dark Clouds serenaded the players with songs of a Scottish lake monster, both teams looked for space in a very crowded final third. The Cosmos pressed hard up the pitch and found a volleyed shot at the far bar that flew wide, while Minnesota looked to break quickly moving the ball through midfield. Both Danny Cruz and Ibson created scoring opportunities early for the Loons, but neither could find a clean shot - knocking it off Cosmos defenders and away from net.
The chance of the first half came from fantastic pass and move play out of the midfield out of the Loons that resulted in Justin Davis receiving the ball with a ton of space along the left side of the field. Davis dribbled the ball into the box and hit it hard toward the far corner of the net, forcing a save out of Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer who tipped it into the air toward the penalty spot. The ball fell at the feet of Cruz who had a lot of net to work with. Cruz decided to hit a shot with his first touch, but couldn't control the volley as it flew wide of net.
After 45 minutes, and plenty of chances from both teams, the first half ended scoreless. The Cosmos held an edge on possession and shots through the first half, but United looked dangerous, especially on the counter with Cruz nearly finding the back of the net twice for United.
"We gave them a bit of a roasting at halftime, because whilst there was a couple of flashes of football," Craig said. "It's pretty dour given the magnitude of the evening and the significance of the evening not only from a football perspective, but we knew coming in this was the last game here in the stadium."
Not long after the second half got underway, the Cosmos caught a break and put the ball in the back of the net - taking a 1-0 lead over Minnesota. Ayoze cut hard onto his right boot, slipping as he pushed the ball past Kevin Venegas. Regaining his balance, he hit a cross toward an unmarked Eric Calvillo who headed low into the ground, bouncing into the goal.
"As soon as we conceded, they decided to pull their sleeves up and it was a valiant effort," said Craig. "There's no future if you don't go for it."
United looked to get the goal back off the ensuing kickoff, with Stefano Pinho creating space up the pitch and knocking a shot off the shin of a New York defender, nearly spinning high and into the top corner of the net. Continuing the struggle to put a shot on frame, JC Banks had a glorious chance off a Maurer save, but side-footed his attempted high of the net. In the ten minutes after conceding, the Loons had four shots, but failed to place any on goal.
With the season on the line United continued to push more men forward - two goals shy of the postseason. It looked as though the Loons had an equalizer in the 70th minute after Brent Kallman had a beautiful near bar touch on a corner kick. He knocked it off the ground and into the top corner of the goal, and Maurer frantically touched it off the crossbar. The ball fell at the feet of Pinho diving in, but the slightest of touches toward net allowed a New York defender to swoop in and clear the ball away off the line. United had one more strike on the play, but Maurer managed once again to get a hand on the shot and deflect it out of danger.
"At that point in the second half I don't think we could have done anything else," said Minnesota United forward Christian Ramirez. "I think at one point they had like 10 guys inside the box just diving to try to save it and when you're at that point and Jimmy [Maurer] is standing on his head it's pretty tough - we gave it everything we had, we pushed forward, that's why we love this sport and why we hate it sometimes but you can't doubt the effort."
United forced save after save out of Maurer looking to extend the season and hoping for a chance at a postseason berth. Tiago Calvano nearly notched from a corner, nodding the ball down and sending Maurer diving to his right. Then came a shot from the top of the box out of Ben Speas. Back to the corner for another header, glancing off the head of Venegas and pushing Maurer high to tip the ball over the net. Save after save, Maurer could not be beat.
Sixteen second half shots and a Maurer headstand later, the Loons were still scoreless and the final whistle blew. Minnesota United's 2016 campaign finished with 11 wins, eight draws and 13 losses. At 41 points, United is three points shy of a playoff spot.
"A little emotional at the end there, but the atmosphere was great, as usual here, it's just kind of unfortunate to go out with a loss," said United defender Justin Davis. "But, I thought the effort in the second half there was second to none - it's a shame we couldn't get one."
As the season ends, Major League Soccer is on the horizon for Minnesota United. A new era begins this spring, with United kicking off at TCF Bank Stadium for its inaugural season in the top tier of American soccer. Season tickets are available now for just $18 per match at mnunitedtickets.com.
Minnesota United Starting XI: GK Sammy Ndjock; D Justin Davis, Brent Kallman, Damion Lowe, Kevin Venegas; M Ibson (Tiago Calvano 46'), Jake Blake (Ben Speas 70'), J.C. Banks, Stefano Pinho, Danny Cruz (Bernardo Añor 73'); F Christian Ramirez
MNU Unused Subs: GK Steward Ceus; D Chris Klute; M Juliano Vicentini, Aaron Pitchkolan
New York Cosmos Starting XI: GK Jimmy Maurer; D David Ochieng, Carlos Mendes (Jimmy Ockford 75'), Ayoze (David Diosa 86'), Jimmy Mulligan; M Andres Flores, Danny Szetela, Reuben Bover, Yohandry Orozco (Ryan Richter 75'), Eric Calvillo Yasmani Duk
NYC Unused Subs: GK Brian Holt; D Alexis Velela; Andrea Mancini; F Jairo Arrieta
49' - Calvillo (Ayoze) - NYC
38' - Cruz (YC) - MNU
45' - Mulligan (YC) - NYC
61' - Lowe (YC) - MNU
62' - Orozco (YC) - NYC
71' - Davis (YC) - MNU
90+'- Diosa (YC) - NYC
About Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United FC plays in the 12-team North American Soccer League (NASL), which also includes the Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Rayo OKC, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Puerto Rico FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ottawa Fury FC, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada, Miami FC and the New York Cosmos. Find out more about Minnesota United at MNUnitedFC.com, Facebook.com/MNUnitedFC, and on Twitter @MNUnitedFC.
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United Plays for Final Time in Front of Home Crowd at NSC Stadium
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North American Soccer League Stories from October 29, 2016
- Cosmos End Regular Season with Road Win - New York Cosmos
- RECAP |United Plays for Final Time in Front of Home Crowd at NSC Stadium - Minnesota United FC
- Rayo OKC Clinches Final Postseason Berth Thanks to Cosmos Victory - NASL
- Match Recap: RailHawks Fall 2-1 to Puerto Rico FC in Final Game of the Season - North Carolina FC
- MATCH RECAP: Fury FC Edged in Final Game of the Season - Ottawa Fury FC
- Strikers' End Successful 2016 - Fort Lauderdale Strikers
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