Rowdies Drop First Leg of NASL Finals 2-0 to Minnesota
The Tampa Bay Rowdies lost 2-0 against Minnesota in the first leg of the NASL Soccer Bowl Finals on Saturday night at NSC Stadium in Blaine, MN. The Rowdies played without defender Takuya Yamada who was unavailable for Saturday's match due to a leg injury sustained in the 1st half of the 2nd leg of the NASL Semifinals against Carolina. Tampa Bay's eight-game unbeaten streak came to an end with the 2-0 loss.
Minnesota forward Amani Walker scored in the 67th minute with a strike from 18 yards out to put the Stars in front 1-0. Forward Simone Bracalello picked up the assist. The home team made it 2-0 in stoppage time, as second half substitute Martin Nunez was able to push the ball into the Rowdies goal, with defender Connor Tobin assisting the forward on the goal.
The Rowdies were able to hold off Minnesota in the early minutes, as the home team came out to pressure Tampa Bay. In the 11th minute, Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made a diving save to his left, containing Bracalello’s shot.
Tampa Bay was able to pick up their momentum 20 minutes into the match, and had their first clear chance on goal in the 22nd minute. Forward Mike Ambersley entered the left side of the box and powered a strike on goal, but Stars goalkeeper Mike VanOekel sent the ball out of play for a corner kick.
A minute later, midfielder Keith Savage received a perfect cross by midfielder Luke Mulholland at the far post. Savage’s shot looked to be on target, but VanOekel denied the Rowdies their first goal of the night.
In the 27th minute, Mulholland crossed the ball over to Savage, who once again had his shot contained by VanOekel.
Tampa Bay closed the first half maintaining possession of the ball and dictating the pace of the match. Savage and defender Frankie Sanfilippo both had opportunities in the final minutes, but their shots from long distance went wide of the goal.
In the 62nd minute, Attinella made back-to-back saves on midfielder Jamie Watson to keep the game scoreless. Minnesota took the lead in the 67th minute, when Walker blasted his shot into the top left corner of the net after receiving a pass from Bracalello.
The Rowdies came close to equalizing the match in the 74th minute, as Mulholland slid a pass to Savage, who was making a run into the box. VanOekel came out and got to the ball before Savage could get a touch on it. 84 minutes into the game, second half substitute Daniel Antoniuk headed a ball down to Ambersley who one-touched it from outside the box, but the ball went straight to VanOekel.
As the second half was ending, Minnesota extended the lead to two goals in stoppage time. Nunez was able to put the Stars up 2-0 after Tobin delivered a cross into the Rowdies box.
Minnesota: Amani Walker - 67th minute (assisted by Simone Bracalello)
Minnesota: Martin Nunez - 90th minute (assisted by Connor Tobin)
Minnesota Stars FC: GK: Matt VanOekel; D: Justin Davis, D Kyle Altman (Captain), D Connor Tobin, D Brian Kallman, M Jamie Watson, M Neil Hlavaty, M Kentaro Takada, M Miguel Ibarra, F Amani Walker (Martin Nunez 76'), F Simone Bracalello
Tampa Bay Rowdies: GK Jeff Attinella, D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D Daniel Scott, D JP Rodrigues, D Andres Arango, M Stuart Campbell, M Shane Hill, M Keith Savage (Evans Frimpong 80'), M Luke Mulholland, F Mike Ambersley, F Carl Cort (Daniel Antoniuk 75')