Thanks to the North American Soccer League's (NASL) online streaming, many fans watched the Minnesota Stars win the first leg of the NASL Championship Series. The Minnesota Stars had a 3-1 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday night.
Playing at home in the NSC Stadium in front of 4,511 fans, the Minnesota Stars were able to contain the red-hot Strikers who, prior to Saturday night's contest, had outscored their opponents by a combined score of 10-2 in three matches. By scoring first and stifling their offense, the Stars made it clear that they were not going to allow Fort Lauderdale run all over them at home.
Opening the scoring register for the Stars was Neil Hlavaty, whose free kick produced a goal in the third minute of the first half and gave his teammates a 1-0 advantage. Moments after Stars Andrei Gotsmanov drew a foul, Hlavaty blasted the ball past the wall and past Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser.
Trailing 1-0 at halftime, the Strikers were evidently unable to find their flow. Despite making adjustments at halftime, the Strikers couldn't find their rhythm as Minnesota continued to pressure them with their defense.
For a team that many believe are destined to win the NASL Championship Series, the Strikers were tied 1-1 when Minnesota's Justin Davis inadvertently scored an own goal for Fort Lauderdale in the 52nd minute of the second half.
Instead of momentum swinging towards Fort Lauderdale's favor, the Stars retook the lead when Luke Mulholland's goal in the 53rd minute gave his team a 2-1 lead.
As the Strikers tried to level the match, the Stars sealed the first leg of the NASL Championship Series in the 77th minute when Lucas Rodriguez beat two Strikers defenders and the goalkeeper for a 3-1 advantage with less than 15 minutes remaining.
By winning the first leg of the championship series, the Stars have a two-goal advantage and are one step closer to hoisting the NASL Championship Trophy, the Soccer Bowl.
Both teams will travel to Florida where they will meet at the Lockhart Stadium for the second leg of the NASL Championship Series. The match takes place on Saturday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m. EST.
While the outcome isn't the one Fort Lauderdale would have preferred, they'll have home field advantage where they will have the weather and the support of their fans to give them an opportunity to win their first ever NASL Championship.
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He also writes for 5 Points Press & USSoccerPlayers.com, your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.