Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Minnesota capitalizes on FCE’s defensive errors in wild 4-3 game

Minnesota capitalizes on FCE’s defensive errors in wild 4-3 game

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A cavalcade of defensive and goalkeeping mistakes allowed the NASL champion Minnesota Stars to come away from FC Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium opener with a 4-3 win.

The winning goal — scored by subsitute Devin Del Do in stoppage time — was emblematic of the problems the Eddies had all afternoon long under the brilliant Alberta sunshine. With time ticking down, the Stars launched a throw in deep into the heart of the box. Del Do was first to the ball — but the real mistake came from FCE’s Ilja Van Leerdam, who wasn’t hugging the post on a throw-in set play the Eddies knew would be just like a corner kick. If Van Leerdam is on the line and on the post, the ball is cleared away and FCE comes up with a point.

“It was an open game with a crazy ending,” said FCE coach Harry Sinkgraven. “If you look at the game, we gave the first two goals away.”

Sinkgraven is being charitable. It was more like four.

The defensive lapses overshadowed what should have been an audacious NASL debut for Chilean striker Yashir Pinto. On loan from Colo-Colo, immigration issues meant Pinto couldn’t travel to the U.S. for the first three road games of the season. He started Sunday, and was a difference maker.

Four minutes in, he created the first goal, scored by Shaun Saiko. Pinto got on the end of a long pass and, 30 yards from goal, turned and faked as if we was going to try and shoot. The move froze three Minnesota defenders. Saiko sprinted through the gap and received a perfectly weighted pass from Pinto. Saiko coolly finished on a highlight-reel play.

But, the Stars offer a lot of physical challenges for other NASL sides, with the twin strikers of Simone Bracalello and Amani Walker presenting two large target men. FCE started an undersized back four, and the mismatch was apparent early in the game.

FC Edmonton’s Yashir Pinto shields the ball from Minnesota’s Lucas Rodriguez. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON

Lucas Rodriguez found himself one-one-with FCE defender Kevin Hatchi, won the physical battle, and poked a shot towards goal that keeper Michal Misiewicz came out to save. But Misiewicz couldn’t control the ball, and it bounced off Hatchi and came right back to Rodriguez to push into an open goal. Hatchi brought down the forward, making for an easy call — penalty to Minnesota and red card for the French defender. Neil Hlavaty slotted home the penalty — and two teams that hadn’t scored all season were 1-1 eight minutes in.

Minnesota took the lead before halftime, but not because of their numerical advantage. A free kick was spun into the box and it should have been a fairly routine catch for Misiewicz. But he fumbled the ball and Kyle Altman chipped it into an open goal.

Misiewicz almost contributed to another Minnesota goal minutes later when he tried to catch a free kick he should have punched, and bobbled the ball right into the box. But the ball bounced well for FCE’s defenders, who managed to scramble the ball away.

Misiewicz wasn’t confident on crosses, either, as he got caught in no man’s land several times and didn’t look like the same keeper who was so good for Canada at the Olympic qualifiers and for FCE’s first three games of the season.

But, before haltime, FCE got a lifeline when Pinto got behind Altman and went down when he felt the Star’s hand on his jersey. Altman was given his marching orders and the teams were back on even terms in terms of manpower.

Saiko scored FCE’s first goal and created the Eddies’ second goal, just minutes into the second half. An inch-perfect free kick found the head of Paul Hamilton.

And Saiko started the attack that lead to the third — a cross that found Pinto at tha back post, who headed the ball back across goal for Kyle Porter to smash into an open goal.

But, 3-2 down, it was the Stars’ turn to get off the mat — but FCE did its best to help them up.

“After we got the go-ahead goal, they started to push back,” said Hamilton. “And we couldn’t match their intensity.”

Central defender Jonathan Joseph-Augustin was caught ball-watching on the equalizing goal. A low ball came into the Eddies’ penalty area, but Augustin chose to sit and wait for the ball rather than come to it. Walker came up from behind, won the ball and set it on a platter for Kentaro Takada to ram home.

It was a game that will likely haunt both coaches because of the defensive errors, but was wildly entertaining. FCE has the next week off from NASL play, as it prepares to play the Vancouver Whitecaps May 2 in the opening leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal. It will be up to FCE to try and figure out how to deal with the physical challenges that the Whitecaps will present in midfield and up front.


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