United FC opener success goes deeper than the final result

Minnesota United FC’s Dark Clouds supporters section summed up the collective feelings inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with its song “All we are saying is score us a goal” in the 53rd minute to the tune of John Lennon’s anti-war protest song, “Give Peace A Chance.”

Dark Clouds members led the cheering during Minnesota United FC’s season opener at Metrodome April 6.  Photo by Bill Jones

Dark Clouds members led the cheering during Minnesota United FC’s season opener at Metrodome April 6. Photo by Bill Jones

For the second straight year, the Minnesota professional soccer club opened the season inside the dry confines of the Dome with a scoreless draw.

This season United FC played the North American Soccer League (NASL) 2012 regular season champion San Antonio. The rematch from last fall’s league semifinal series wasn’t as testy with so many new faces on both sides.

United FC coach Manny Lagos said the draw doesn’t help the sport fight the impression that a scoreless soccer game is boring. “So yeah, it stinks a little, personally, but the reality is that the game presents itself, it was still very exciting and tonight was a battle to find goals for both teams,” he said.

Lagos believes his side played well at times, but couldn’t sustain the attack. “We had three really good chances [in the second half] that didn’t go in,” he said. “After that I think we died out a little bit.”

Both sides had quality chances denied by goalies and the woodwork in an entertaining contest that didn’t translate to the scoreboard.

United FC attacking midfielder Simone Bracalello said the performance was there. “It was a good game because we played together,” he said. “We changed a lot [from last season] and the energy was there. We could’ve had a goal or two with a little luck.”

Bracalello sent a rifle blast off the crossbar in the 71st minute in the second of two clear scoring opportunities.

Minnesota United FC’s Simone Bracalello, left, shields the ball away from a defender during the opener April 6. Photo by Bill Jones

Minnesota United FC’s Simone Bracalello, left, shields the ball away from a defender during the opener April 6. Photo by Bill Jones

According to Lagos, Bracalello was moved around before the season but he’s found a comfortable place tucked into a supporting role behind the attackers. “He brought some really good energy and he had two really good shots,” Lagos said.

Minutes earlier newcomer Etienne Barbara connected with Aaron Pitchkokian on a ball that was cleared off the line for a United corner kick. One of three United FC players to jump from the Scorpions, goalkeeper Daryl Sattler was in fine form, challenging the play or making a diving save to preserve the shutout.

Sattler made a diving save on a Walter Ramirez free kick shot early on to bring a rousing cheer from the supporters section, in which he was directly in front.

Another key play came in the 83rd minute when he came out to the top of the 18-yard penalty box to challenge Colombian-native Esteban Bayona. Sattler, who had a league-best 0.79 goals against average in 2012, knocked the ball away from danger, but took an elbow to the side of his head. After a couple of minutes on the turf Sattler returned to his feet and was cleared by trainers to continue in net.

Sattler and central midfielder/centerback Pitchkokian made key plays to preserve the clean sheet, while the third member to join the Minnesota club, reigning league MVP Pablo Campos sat out the first game of a two-game suspension. Campos head-butted now teammate Kyle Altman in that semifinal game in San Antonio.

Barbara and Campos were a dynamic scoring duo for Carolina in 2011 before the pair split. Barbara returned to the NASL after one season with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS.

Altman resigned for the spring season of the split-season with United FC after training camps with two MLS sides, D.C. United and Portland Timbers. Altman will enroll in medical school after deferring for the last two seasons to play with Minnesota.

He made a big sliding tackle in the 57th minute at the top of United’s penalty box to eliminate a promising scoring chance for the visitors among other significant plays.

The new combination of Barbara, midfielder Miguel Ibarra and Bracalello leading the attack generated chances, but couldn’t sustain attacking efforts.

Bracalello seemed to be more comfortable in the secondary attacking position where he had time and space to create chances and had at least three quality chances to score.

“I used to play up front but now that I play more in the secondary, I have more space so I can play better and distribute,” he said.

In the 39th minute Barbara’s initial shot inside the Scorpions box was blocked only to have the rebound fall to Ibarra, whose one-timer curled away from the right post.

Woodbury native Brian Kallman, a veteran defenseman with more than 70 caps for the Thunder and Stars franchises, left with a good feeling Saturday night. “It was good soccer at times,” he said. “The good thing about the guys we picked up in the off-season is that now instead of two-three big threats to score we have four, five or six guys who can score when given the chances.”

Look for an increase in chances at the weeks go by.

A lack of scoring plagued all three NASL-league games which ended in draws. FC Edmonton drew at Fort Lauderdale 1-1 in the only scoring. FC Edmonton travels to Minnesota April 20 with a 3:30 p.m. start after a bye-week.

Jason Olson is at jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

  • Luke

    If the league would truly “fight the impression that a scoreless soccer game is boring”, they should not address the score, but the attitude of casual audiences that no scoring equals nothing to watch, which gives the game too little credit.

    How about a slogan like, “Scoring. Who needs it?”

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