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Could Minnesota United FC be planning to broadcast away games on a local channel next year?

Minnesota United FC fans would love an option to watch away games on local television after the continued struggles with NASL live this year. The NASL Commish, Bill Peterson, spoke to Soccer Morning and spoke to that and said, that some teams are “looking to broadcast away games on local stations.”

While we have heard nothing from the team yet suggesting that they will broadcast away games, it would make sense if Minnesota was one of these teams. They have the financial resources and are looking to expand their fan base in Minnesota and continue to connect with fans and the public.

Why broadcasting away games would be a great move for Minnesota United FC

Minnesota fans have struggled all year watching games online, with problems with the video feeds, inconsistent camera work and at times poor announcing. While broadcasting away games wouldn’t necessarily fix every thing, it would allow local fans an opportunity to be able to watch the game without worrying about the video stuttering or crashing.

In addition, it would fix the problem with inconsistent announcing from away game to away game. Minnesota is fortunate to have a fantastic announcing tandem in Chris Lidholm and former coach Buzz Lagos who combine their skill in describing the action with their knowledge of the game to create a great broadcast. Minnesota fans would be ecstatic to be able to hear them announcing games both home and away.

Lidholm sees a real positive in having local announcers be able to announce away games: “It brings a consistency to the announcing. All the other [local] sports teams do the same thing, they have the same set of announcers and I think that can be important.”

Minnesota United FC has shown itself to be a high quality, professional organization. Broadcasting away games would help to expose more potential fans to the team and to prove to the local market that Minnesota United FC is a team on par with the other major sports team in the area. It would continue to help them draw in high profile sponsorships by providing sponsors with more games where they would be advertised by the team and seen on TV.

The challenging logistics of broadcasting away games

There are two basic options for broadcasting away games. The first would be to send the announcers along with the team to away games, which would add to the cost of away travel with added airline, hotel room, and meal costs.

The stadium would also need to have a space for away announcers to be able to broadcast and would need to be set up to send the broadcast back to the channel in Minnesota.  As the NSC in Blaine is currently configured, there isn’t a space for away announcers to broadcast right now, and that is likely true at other stadiums around the league. This would be something new for lower division teams, and would need cooperation from the other teams in the league to make work.

The second option would be to have the announcers watch a feed, which brings up a host of other issues.

“Some announcers watch a tv and do it that way,” Lidholm explained, “when we [currently] watch them online the streams have a tendency to buffer a little bit, so you will need a clean, clear feed to do it right.”

Not every stadium in the NASL can provide that kind of feed and would again need the other teams working with Minnesota United FC to make happen.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely we’ll see every game away and home broadcast live locally next season due to all the logistical issues that would need to get worked out. However, even a few more would be a dramatic improvement over the options Minnesota fans currently have to enjoy their Loons when they are away from home.

Image courtesy of Minnesota United FC

A Satisfying Result?

On Saturday night, after Minnesota United FC’s draw with the New York Cosmos, Wes of the Du Nord Futbol Show tweeted out an extremely relevant question.

This is an interesting question, as it brings up the very real possibility that the Loons don’t win the soccer bowl. Is it likely? Not particularly. Manny Lagos and company have been dominant this season, and few squads have been able to challenge them. With the exception of the CosmosMinnesota have  defeated every team in the league.

However, the question (and possibility) remains.

Minnesota has already won the Spring Championship. With San Antonio’s loss, they have clinched the Supporters’, or Woosnam Cup  for the combined season. Unless things go terribly awry, the Fall Championship will be theirs as well.

Now that the stage is set…

Yes, the season will still be meaningful without the overall championship. Here’s why:

Take a look at every major championship within the sport. The one thing that they all have in common is that they are not won in single-game formats. The Premier League is accumulated over the course of a full season (much like the Woosnam Cup). The Champions League is a long series of 2-legged showdowns between two teams, as well as group matches. While the World Cup tournament itself does include single-elimination games, the lead-up and qualifying rounds for it are exhaustive, at the least.

The reason for this is simple: in single-game elimination formats, the best team doesn’t win, and that matters to the world of soccer.

The NASL Championship, much like the Superbowl, is not always won by the best team in the league. While not likely, Davids do slay Goliaths, and it is possible that the 4-seed knocks out the 1-seed, or the 2- or 3-seed defeat the 1-seed in the final.

Because of that, the season is certainly still meaningful, and winning 3 trophies certainly matters. This would not be the case if the playoffs were a 2-game or 2-legged elimination tournament.

That said, it will certainly be a disappointment if United aren’t able to bring home the championship. Their dominance this season deserves the fourth trophy, and all eyes turn towards the postseason as Minnesota’s final two matches of the regular season draw near…

Loon Ratings 10/18/2014: Home against Cosmos

Before we begin we just have to give Brian Kallman a huge shout out for the 10/15/2014 game against Tampa Bay, wow, just wow.  We only had 4 people vote for the 10/15/2014 game, so right on to the 10/18/2014 game against the Cosmos.

 

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Player of the Match

I was almost tempted to say Brian Kallman because of his two great assists on Wednesday, but I won’t this is for Saturdays game.  Pretty high scores for everyone this week.  But have to go with Matty Extreme for this match.  His Mohawk was the deciding factor for me.  That and he had the highest average response from our survey.

Defender of the Match

Can we say clean sheet, I like clean sheets.  Matt might have been player of the match but looking at the scores everyone gave the back 4 it really could be any of them.  My personal favorite Tiago Calvano had another consistent match.   Then the man I think most likely on the team to see MLS action soon, Kevin Venegas, got a lot of high marks in our survey.  Did I say I like clean sheets.   Dias, well just glad they resigned that guy for another year.  So with all that fanfare that leaves Justin Davis of the back 4, he is our Defender of the Match. Keep those clean sheets rolling, playoff time is coming boys!

To see all the details, check below the cut!

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Minnesota United FC Training Report 10-22

Minnesota United FC trained in the biting wind of Blaine on Wednesday, October 22nd at the National Sports Center. They held a truncated morning practice and only the members of the regular starting eleven trained due to the rest of the squad playing a scrimmage on Tuesday evening.

After warm-ups the team worked on connecting their attack in the final third. The Loons rounded-off the training with a 6 v 6 game, moving the ball quickly and with fluidity. Goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel produced a few fine saves.

You can listen part of my interview with Manny Lagos.

Mid-Week Scrimmage

On Tuesday evening, the Loons played a scrimmage at Parade Park in Minneapolis against Minnesota Thunder Academy, a U-18 academy team. Head Coach Manny Lagos played mostly the reserve players, saying, “We’re getting to the point of the season where we want to make sure everybody’s sharp.”

Lagos also noted that Pablo Campos continued his recovery from his preseason injury to his MCL and ACL by playing 75 Minutes. At this point, it still remains to be seen if Campos will see any time this season, but his seven-month recovery is still an amazing feat.

Cosmos

Lagos looked back on last week’s 0-0 draw with the New York Cosmos with a bit of philosophical reflection. The match was the Loons’ third in seven days and meant they gained only four points from three matches.

Lagos noted the physical toll the week had taken on some players, pointing to some heavy touches late in the Cosmos match. “We knew that fatigue would be a factor,” Lagos said, but he added “at the same time as a group and as a unit we were very good.” That unity meant Lagos walked away from the game not seeing it as an opportunity lost even if the Loons remain without a win against the resurrected Cosmos

Scorpions

This weekend, the Loons can capture their third trophy of the season, the NASL’s fall season title. The only team still vying for that trophy is the San Antonio Scorpions who, conveniently enough, are playing in Minnesota. The Loons have beaten the Scorpions 2-0 twice in San Antonio this year, but have yet to play their supposed bitter rivals in Minnesota.

Lagos commented on the Scorpions, saying, “I think we’ve got to be aware that they have some good central players who can move the ball and be dangerous.” He added that he wants his team to look for opportunities to respond with width and counter-attacks, the strategy that worked so well in San Antonio. However, playing at home Lagos also wants the team to impose themselves on the game more and possess the ball. Lagos hinted at changes to the line-up to help impose these changes, but declined to elaborate.

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Shutting down the center, or how Minnesota stopped the Cosmos’ attack

Minnesota has been a fantastic team defensively this season. In the two games prior to the game against the Cosmos, though, the team struggled to stop teams from moving the ball into the box from out wide of the goal. Indiana’s newest loanee, Rugg, was able to dribble past Dias along the endline, and find a wide open player within ten yards of goal for an easy goal.

In addition, Minnesota had found themselves caught out on the counter against Indy and Tampa Bay, and was unable to defend effectively.

So against a team with the talent and skill of the Cosmos, it was clear that Manny Lagos would target shutting down any build-ups from counters. Early in the game, we can see just what this focus did.

defense 1
The start of the break, with Cosmos having space to dribble

While the way Minnesota defended this attack was predicated on the formation and movement of the Cosmos, in it we can see a lot of the objectives Minnesota has in defending.

The Cosmos had taken the ball in the midfield, and found themselves with the opportunity to counter attack. The first thing you can see is that left back Davis had stayed back on this play to provide the three in the back Minnesota likes to employ while moving the ball up the field.  He’s moved to the edge of the middle of the field, which has left most of the left sideline open.

As opposed to the previous time Michael Reed had played defensive midfielder, we see that there is another central midfielder, Jordan,  charged with assisting in the middle.

The way that the defensive players have set up they have effectively blocked off any quick pass to the right, with Venegas, Jordan and Reed cutting off all the easy passing lanes.

Defense 2
The defense beginning to tighten.

In this second frame, Jordan has shadowed the Cosmos player with the ball and Davis is beginning to step up on the player to force a decision. Calvano and Dias have already traded one player, with Calvano picking up the player that had been running down the right sideline before cutting in and Dias picking up the player Calvano had been marking.

In defending this play, they have slipped back into a 4-2-3-1, with Jordan acting as the second defensive midfielder. Jordan has kept his distance to prevent any pass through the middle with the charging Davis cutting off the pass that would head towards the left post between himself and Dias.

Minnesota wants teams to move the ball out wide on the attack, as they feel that their centerbacks and fullbacks will be able to handle shots and passes at such a tough angle. After the last couple of games, though, Minnesota did not want to let them have an easy time passing it in, and made sure to mark everyone in the box.

Defense 3
The Cosmos find few options left with Minnesota having covered well on defense.

In the last still,  we can see that the Cosmos player has played it out wide to the left, where Minnesota had wanted him to go with the ball. Since Davis had come up to challenge the player with the ball, Dias is ready to dart out and challenge the cross or dribble. Ibarra (unlabeled), has come back, both to support the defense and also to provide an outlet if Dias or Davis intercept the pass.

Once again the center of the field has correctly traded off their marks, with Calvano on the player that Dias had had, Jordan on the original ball carrier, and Reed on the player that Calvano had let go.  With all the players marked, the Cosmos player eventually just shot it into Dias, and the attack fizzled.

On defense, Minnesota plays a form of zonal defense, with each player in charge of an area rather than guarding a specific player. However, without proper communication, a team playing such a defense can become susceptible to overlapping runs and clever switches, with no one on defense clear on who to cover.

With this play setting the tone for the entire match, the Cosmos struggled to build much of anything on offense against a very stout Minnesota defense. Later in the week, I’ll take a look at the great offensive play that led to the penalty kick.

PRWeek15

NASL Power Ranking – October 20, 2014

As the NASL season comes to its conclusion, three of the four playoff spots have been wrapped up. Minnesota United, the San Antonio Scorpions, and the New York Cosmos will play in for the 2014 Soccer Bowl. United will be the #1 seed. San Antonio and New York will probably play one semi-final in Texas.

The remaining drama focuses on that final playoff spot. Three teams could win it. We might know after this week, or it might come down to the final game. Either way, all eyes will be on Fort Lauderdale and Edmonton. You might not have pegged that match as a must-watch at the beginning of the season, but you’ve gotta love it all the same.

#1. Minnesota United FC (16-3-6,  54 points, No Change)

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How to judge the Loons’ week?

Two games, four points, and one USMNT cap for Miguel Ibarra. With their home draw against the Cosmos on Saturday, Minnesota clinched the Woosnam Cup. On paper, not so bad.

But on the field, things were a bit mixed. There was the good, (the second half vs Tampa, the suffocating defense vs New York) and the bad (the first half vs Tampa, the missed chances vs New York). Things seemed to even out in a weird way, as United benefited from two debatable refereeing decisions at midweek and were sabotaged by the referee over the weekend.

In all, Minnesota heads into the playoffs with home field throughout and a long unbeaten streak at home. The team played their best ever game against the Cosmos and were extremely unlucky to not take the win. Their point total of 54 is tied for the most ever in the modern NASL. Miguel Ibarra is clearly critical to the team’s attack. Michael Reed may have played his way into a more regular starting/subbing role. Brian Kallman and Juliano Vicentini got their first assists and goal of the year respectively. The Loons didn’t dominate, but it’s been clear all year that they have the quality to grind out results even when not at their best. The disappointment of only netting a point vs New York should be tempered with the confidence of comprehensively beating the Cosmos in just about every aspect of the game.

This week, Minnesota’s “rivals” San Antonio come to down. United have won both meetings this season 2-0 and the Scorpions have faded of late. Lets see if the script changes up North.

#2. San Antonio Scorpions (14-7-4,  46 points, No Change)

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For the second time in two weeks, a top team went to Indiana and was upset by a suddenly buoyant Indy Eleven. Last week, it was #1 Minnesota, this week, it was #2 San Antonio. Soccer is a weird, weird sport sometimes.

Like the Loons, San Antonio played pretty well against the Eleven, but they couldn’t turn the run of play into goals either. The Scorpions have had a great season, but they’re limping into the playoffs. They have not won consecutive games since July, and from August onward their record of five wins, five defeats, and two draws really isn’t good enough. Last week, we saw what the Scorpions could do in their 7-0 thrashing of Tampa. This week, we saw what they couldn’t do.

The Scorpions were undefeated in league play in July. That was the month that Rafael Castillo won Player of the Month, and when Billy Forbes was probably the runner up. But as we’ve consistently noted, neither has been as good for San Antonio as they were in the summer, and the Scorpions have waited in vain for someone else to step up. Cesar Elizondo only ever shows flashes, Tomasz Zahorski has done nothing, and Eric Hassli is Eric Hassli.

The Scorpions don’t intimidate anybody in this league. They may win quite a few games, but when they come to town, they never feel unbeatable. They’ve never dropped out of the top two in this ranking only because nobody else has stepped up.

#3. FC Edmonton (9-9-7,  34 points, Up 1)

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You can pinpoint the exact moment at which FC Edmonton’s season turned around. Sunday, July 27th. Just about 4:00 PM MDT. 0-0 score between the Montons and visiting Indy Eleven. Stoppage time. A scrum in the box. The ball squirms out to Kléberson. The Brazilian pounces, slotting the ball into the corner. The Edmonton players fall to their knees.

After that shock defeat, in the third week of the NASL Fall Season, Edmonton had just nine points through twelve games (2-7-3) and were last place in the combined NASL standings. We ranked them dead last in our Power Ranking.

Since then, Edmonton have been the second best team in the league, short only to Minnesota United. They have 25 points (7-2-4), and a +7 differential. Their only losses came away at the Loons and at the Scorpions. They won their home fixtures against both teams. Besides Minnesota, there may be no scarier team in the league right now.

It’s astonishing, given this run, that Edmonton may not actually make the playoffs. That’s how terrible their start to the season was. But with their decisive win at Ottawa this past weekend (check out this corner kick), and the stumbles of their rivals, the Montons now improbably control their own destiny. It looks as though it will all come down to this week’s match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Who would’ve guessed that this game would prove so crucial? Edmonton has won their last two, with a combined score of 5-0. The Strikers are at home. Both teams are fast and predisposed towards the counter-attack. It should be a great game.

#4. Fort Lauderdale Strikers (10-9-6,  36 points, Down 1)

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While Edmonton took care of business this past weekend, Fort Lauderdale blew a critical chance to all but lock down the final playoff spot. While their draw against Carolina lengthened the RailHawks’ odds considerably, it also opened the door to the surging Montons. Now, as advertised above, the Strikers face a second must-win match in a row against playoff rivals.

For a long time, we’ve pegged the Strikers to be the fourth playoff team, based on the ease of their end of season schedule. But with Edmonton playing so well, we’re not so sure anymore. The Strikers have been one of the most consistent teams in the league, but they lack a certain ruthlessness, and it has really cost them of late. In the last two weeks, they drew Atlanta (thanks to a late own-goal), and then drew Carolina (and were bailed out by a blind referee). Three points from either game would’ve all but secured the final playoff spot. Instead, Fort Lauderdale are still having to fend off their rivals.

The Strikers are a dangerous squad. Their veteran goalkeeper, Kamil Čontofalský has been excellent (as was Ola Nikolov in the Spring). Their attack is spearheaded by three very different players; the speedy Fafà Picault, the technical Martín Núñez, and the artillery captain Mark Anderson. Their coach, Günter Kronsteiner, is the league’s most experienced and perhaps its best. Considering their budget and level of support, it’s remarkable how well they have done. With the new ownership, they should be a huge threat next season. But there is still work to be done this season, and the Strikers must step up to prevent this year from falling out of their grasp.

#5. New York Cosmos (11-6-8,  41 points, No Change)

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With their squad “the healthiest it has been all season” the Cosmos headed to Minnesota and got thoroughly worked. The green and white never mustered a real threat to their host’s goal. A late Christian Ramirez penalty miss spared them defeat.

At this point, there’s really nothing left to be said about the Cosmos that hasn’t already been said. This is a team that has lost the spark that made them so unbeatable last year (and in the Spring). Whether it’s locker room chemistry, poor play, age, luck, or a combination of all those factors, the Cosmos are just an ordinary team this season. They may still #RallyToRepeat, and few teams will feel confident against this team in the playoffs. But nobody will count themselves out either.

The Cosmos welcome Tampa Bay to Hofstra next week. If there’s any cure for what ails them, it’s probably beating up on the current league whipping boys. Then, on the final week of the season, a free playoff preview against San Antonio.

At least they’ve got Raul?

#6.  Carolina RailHawks (10-11-4,  34 points, No Change)

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To their credit, the Carolina RailHawks showed a lot of fight this weekend after going down 0-1 with their season on the line against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. It just wasn’t good enough. Thanks to a bit of class from Nacho Novo, they drew level. But with just a bit more class from others, (Ty Shipalane comes to mind) they could well have gone up a goal.

The final nail in the coffin was hammered in by the referee, who didn’t see a foul in this play.  While it seems as though every NASL team had a complaint about the refereeing this week, Carolina have the best case. With that penalty non-call, the RailHawks playoff hopes are probably done. They are now two points back of Fort Lauderdale and tied with Edmonton in points. But the RailHawks must play Minnesota to end the season, while the Strikers and Montons play each other, then relatively easy opponents at home to end the year. It’s not looking good.

What a weird team the RailHawks are. As Neil Morris wrote this past week:

Anytime the RailHawks appear on the verge of falling out of a possible berth in the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament, the team will reel off two or three unexpected victories to again grab the reins of their destiny. Then, just as promptly, Carolina will squander their reacquired fortunes, placing themselves back on the precipice of heartbreak.

The RailHawks have been as high as third and as low as eighth on these rankings. Only Tampa and Edmonton have swung more violently, but it was mostly one way traffic (pun not intended) for both teams. For the RailHawks, it’s been up and down, up and down, since the beginning.

#7. Indy Eleven (5-12-8,  23 points, Up 1)

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Indy!

After twelve games winless at home to start their existence, the hapless Eleven have suddenly won twice in a row at home. Even better, both wins have been clean sheets against the two best teams in the league.

Why the hell couldn’t they have done this earlier?

Well, never mind, Indy fans probably won’t want to question the success. In both games, the Eleven didn’t have the run of play, but it didn’t matter. Charlie Rugg, on loan from the LA Galaxy is the team’s newest signing, but he might have earned a statue in Indianapolis after assisting Indy’s winner vs Minnesota and scoring the winner against San Antonio (thanks to Mike Ambersley). Meanwhile, Indy’s porous defense has suddenly firmed up, (possibly thanks to NASL-reject Cory Miller, of all people) and they are now riding a streak of 307 minutes without conceding a goal.

The Eleven have been at the bottom of the NASL standings almost uninterrupted since the start of the year (with one jump early in the Fall where they passed Edmonton, see above), but now they are ahead of Atlanta in the combined table and on their way to a respectable finish in the Fall.

Not a bad way to go out.

#8. Ottawa Fury (7-13-5,  26 points, Down 1)

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The Fury are a decent team, and we’ve sung their praises in the past, but they too are limping towards the finale. After a heartbreaking loss to New York the past week, they were soundly beaten by Edmonton at home this weekend.

The playoffs are out of reach, and like Indy, this is now about building for the future. The two teams will meet this coming week, a match-up that should be pretty loose and hopefully fun. Last time the Fury defeated the Eleven at home, but this time the Eleven come in with the momentum. In that prior meeting, both teams were in the league basement. This time around, they’re getting off the mat.

Also neat: FIFA has produced a nice video about the perspective of the Fury coaching staff, front office, and players towards their first year. You should give it a watch here!

#9. Tampa Bay Rowdies (7-11-7,  28 points, No Change)

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The Rowdies have played five games in the past two weeks, and at the worst possible time. Before, Tampa controlled their playoff destiny. Then, the Rowdies were outscored 6-15 during that stretch. Now they are eliminated from playoff contention and have a small chance of placing last in the league.

We’ll see what happens the Tampa during the offseason. The Rowdies are too expensive a team to perform so poorly. There will doubtless be an inquest. Even before their collapse over the past two weeks, the green and gold were struggling. They haven’t won since August and have three points in eight games during that stretch. The team has gaping holes all over the field. Ricky Hill’s seat is surely the hottest in the league, and General Manager Perry Van der Beck will have much to answer for as well. With likely stadium renovations next season, the Rowdies ambitious ownership will demand success next season. Will this season be a blip, similar to how Minnesota struggled last season? Or is it the canary in the coal mine for a larger failure.

#10. Atlanta Silverbacks (6-14-5,  23 points,  No Change)

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The Silverbacks have tied their last two games, which is improvement when you consider that they had lost six straight and not scored in four before that. New Head Coach Alejandro Pombo has had what surely qualifies as a dream start with a team this dire.

It probably won’t last. Atlanta hosts Carolina next, and then they travel to Edmonton. The goal for the Silverbacks will be to just avoid last place in the table. It’s been a long, hard fall from the 2013 Spring Season championship.

Why, oh why did they fire Brian Haynes?


Last week’s rankings: October 13, 2014

Image courtesy of Minnesota United FC

Minnesota United FC snakebit, draw 0-0 to New York Cosmos

Minnesota United FC was unable to score in their 0-0 draw with the New York Cosmos, continuing to be stymied by the Eastern team.

Manny Lagos fielded what almost has to be considered his best XI, with the high-powered attack led by Greg Jordan, Miguel Ibarra, Daniel Mendes, and Christian Ramirez.

The nil-nil draw was just that; a draw. Neither team dominated possession (though it could be fairly argued that Minnesota enjoyed more of the ball than New York), but neither team was able to capitalize on anything.

The teams were dead-locked, and Minnesota allowed themselves to be drawn into a physical battle by the Cosmos. Multiple yellow-cards were handed out by the officials, and the scoreline was held by Cosmo Goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer and Matt Van Oekel.

Late late in the physical game, Carlos Mendes was red-carded for a tackle in the penalty area, decreasing New York to 10 men. Christian Ramirez stepped up to net his record-tying 20th kick, but it was not meant to be. The penalty kick missed wide right, despite Ramirez fooling Maurer as much as any keeper can be.

The rest of the match played out with Minnesota throwing everything they could at New York, but the scoreline held.

Minnesota was gifted the Combined Season Table by the Indy Eleven, who managed their second home win in a row against the San Antonio Scorpions. New York managed to clinch a postseason spot with their draw.

The recaps from the teams are below, as well as full highlights. Minnesota next plays against the San Antonio Scorpions, with a chance to clinch the Fall Season, on Saturday at NSC Stadium.

Minnesota Recap

New York Recap

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