Thursday, October 18, 2012

LD Update: NASL Championship Preview; NASL MVP; MISL signings

The defending NASL champion Minnesota Stars are on the cusp of repeating, duplicating last year's surprise run from the position as the sixth and final seed to winners of the Soccer Bowl. Standing in the way are the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who have will be looking to avenge last year's surprising postseason defeat after an unbeaten season series against the Stars.

The Rowdies come into the two-game series with a  4-1-3 advantage in the regular season, but in the lone postseason meeting the Stars were victorious, 1-0, in the opening round contest a year ago courtesy of a deflected free kick from Luke Mulholland in the 27th minute.

Time has a way of changing things though.

Mulholland is now a Rowdy, and comes into the series having tallied a crucial goal and assist in the second leg match last weekend against Carolina.

And the two teams have not seen one another in over three months with their last meeting coming July 12 when Minnesota picked up their lone regular season win against the Rowdies, whom they played four times in seven weeks.

What has changed in the course of three months? One of Tampa Bay's key players, Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, left the club on a move to Yokahama FC Hong Kong on August 4 after getting off to a fantastic start to the season in which he scored six goals in 15 games - a pace that would have put him in the top five of the league scoring table this year.

Yoshitake played a pivotal role in the season series this year. In their second meeting he tallied the equalizer after a poor clearance from goalkeeper Matt VanOekel in the 45th minute and connected with Keith Savage for the 20-yard winner with three minutes remaining for a 2-1 win. He also added the second goal on a long-range shot with two minutes left in a 2-0 win in the third meeting.

In the last meeting, however, Minnesota changed the direction of the trend with Marting Nunez, who scored the lone goal in the 2-1 loss in the second match, finding the opening tally on the half-hour mark and Kentaro Takada pushing the lead to two just before the break when he buried the rebound of a Nunez header that went off the post. Nunez, though, has seen limited time for Minnesota of late, subbing on for 33 minutes last weekend after remaining on the bench in the previous three outings. Both of Nunez' positive outings this year came at home.

The first meeting of the year finished as a scoreless draw, the second consecutive time in which the series opener between the two went without a goal. Minnesota nearly had the win this year though with Devin Del Do redirecting a Daniel Wasson free kick off the crossbar with a header in the 23rd minute.  

Daniel Scott | Photo: Matt May/TBR
Of Note: Minnesota Stars coach Manny Lagos knows Tampa well. The former Minnesota Thunder star under his coach/father went on to a lengthy, but nomadic career in Major League Soccer, spending two seasons with the Tampa Bay Mutiny. He scored a dozen goals in 27 games for the Mutiny during his stint in 1999-00.

INW Ties: Gonzaga product Daniel Scott is in his first full season with the team after joining the club in August of last year after winning the USL Premier Development League championship with the Kitsap Pumas. The defender earned All-League honors and scored the 1-0 stoppage time winner in the Western Conference final at Fresno en route to the championship. The Gonzaga graduate was also an All-WCC selection for the Zags. He did not see time on the field in 2011, but started 14 of the 18 appearances this season for Tampa Bay... The Rowdies also have Raphael Cox (Tacoma, WA), a University of Washington product, on the roster, but the midfielder has only logged 242 minutes this season.

Previous Results

RS: 7/12 MIN 2 :: 1 TB
RS: 6/30 TB 2 :: 0 MIN
RS: 6/16 MIN 1 :: 2 TB
RS: 5/25 TB 0 :: 0 MIN
PO-R1: 10/1 TB 0 :: 1 MIN
RS: 9/17 TB 1 :: 1 MIN
RS: 9/6 MIN 1 :: 2 TB
RS: 8/13 TB 2 :: 0 MIN
RS: 5/28 MIN 0 :: 0 TB


L1: 10/20 @ Minnesota - 8:30 ET
L2: 10/27 @ Tampa Bay - 7:30 ET

NASL News: The league announced San Antonio Scorpions striker Pablo Campos as the winner of the Golden Ball as the league's most valuable player... FC Edmonton made a couple moves, adding Angelo Sestito as the new assistant coach and sending teenage prospect Aymar Sigue to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

MISL News: The Rochester Lancers announced a group of nine returning players... The Chicago Soul announced they have signed indoor veteran Matthew Stewart, previously of the Milwaukee Wave, to a three-year deal. The team also signed midfielder Judson McKinney, a member of the USL Pro's Charlotte Eagles who was selected as a Combine All-Star recently... The Baltimore Blast added Tony Donatelli (Charleston Battery) and Tino Nunez (Pittsburgh Riverhounds)... The Missouri Comets re-signed Coady Andrews and John Sosa. 

USL News: FC Tucson's Junior Gbapou has been called in to a training camp by Cameroon.