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Victory beats Minnesota with Morales brace

July 27, 2007 - USL First Division (USL-1) - California Victory News Release

ST. PAUL, MINN. (July 26, 2007) -- first-half Yuri Morales brace lead the California Victory to a 2-1 come-from-behind win at the Minnesota Thunder Thursday, stretching the Vics' unbeaten streak to four games to ensure they remain contenders for a USL First Division playoff berth.

The Thunder went ahead through Brian Farber, but the Vics responded twice through Morales before holding on for the win.

"Indeed it was a big win for us, especially because we are battling for a final eight spot and have to take points from those other teams looking for that berth," said Victory head coach Glenn Van Straautum. "I'm proud of my players because this important win is really a six point swing."

The result puts the Victory four points clear of last-placed Minnesota, and on equal footing with fellow-expansion side Carolina Railhawks in 10th place -- the highest league placing the Victory has enjoyed all season.

Both teams began the game brightly with open, attacking soccer -- knowing anything less than a full three points would be unacceptable considering their lowly league positions. But both sides were also aware the race for a playoff berth is still wide open, and their hunger for goals was evident.

Minnesota threatened a couple of times in the opening five minutes, providing the Victory defense with some work to keep the ball clear.

But the Vics responded well with plenty of high pressure of their own, notably when Mike Muñoz drilled a cross to Yuri Morales at the far post, and then again when a shot from distance forced a good save from the Minnesota 'keeper. Overall California looked comfortable on the ball, executing thoughtful touches as they worked to keep possession and build offense.

However, in the 19th minute, arguably against the run of play, Thunder forward Brian Farber found himself in a great scoring position following a lofting midfield pass, leaving the Minnesota top scorer to finish easily past 'keeper Eric Reed.

The goal seemed to fire up the Victory attack, and within minutes the visitors were back on level terms after Morales knocked home, from close range, Ricardo Sanchez' 35-yard diagonal pass in the 25th minute.

It was Morales' fourth score of the season, making him the Victory's leading scorer since the recent departure of Josh Hansen to Vancouver.

And he added another just before half-time after sidestepping Tony Sanneh to send home a clinical strike past 'keeper Nic Patter.

"I'm very proud of how we played tonight," added Van Straautum. "We kept our heads and didn't get any needless cards. Of course we continue to face big challenges on and off the field, but we are playing well and looking forward to the next few games and fighting for a chance at the post-season."

The Victory (4-10-7, 19 points, 11th place) continues to edge up the standings and hopes to extend its unbeaten streak Saturday when it plays the Puerto Rico Islanders (6-4-8, 26 points, 7th place) at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., but fans are encouraged to come early to check out a very special soccer double-header that begins at 4:15 p.m., featuring two top San Francisco Soccer Football League teams.

The Major's Division match-up is between San Francisco City F.C. (ninth position with 19 points) vs Mexicali (third position with 31 points).

All players affiliated with the SFSFL will be admitted for free, and any guests they bring along with them will be admitted for $5 (the admission is good for BOTH games).

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