Recap: United strikes back against the Railhawks

Minnesota United 3 – 1 Carolina Railhawks


4’ – Futty Danso (CAR)

72’ – Daniel Scott [OG] (CAR)

76’ – Pablo Campos (MNU)

81’ – Kevin Venegas (MNU)

Major Themes

  • It may be a cliché, but this was truly a tale of two halves. Carolina came out focused in the first half, making aggressive and precise passes to get in behind Minnesota’s defense. United emerged in the second half to a dominating possession advantage and, after numerous crosses led to nothing for 25 minutes, the floodgates began to open after the 70th minute.
  • Typically the conservative roster manager, United coach Manny Lagos made two surprising substitutions at the half. Yago Silva and Kalif Alhassan made way for Daniel Mendes and Andrei Gotsmanov, respectively, and made an immediate difference. Carolina’s ability to send long through balls down the flanks was diminished and Minnesota spend nearly the entire half enjoying fluid, attacking possession. Particularly effective was the substitution of Yago, whose speed was undeniable but was ultimately toothless in the final third.

In Form:

  • Sammy N’Djock (MNU) – Wow. The final score suggests a thundering victory by the home team, when in actuality the game may have been out of reach by the half-time whistle if not for the heroics of Minnesota’s goalkeeper. Once considered an underperforming liability, N’Djock and his athleticism was put to the test with challenges by Dzenan Catic and Austin da Luz. The goalkeeper put rose tinted glasses over a poor performance from Minnesota’s back line in the first half.
  • Kevin Venegas (MNU) – The attacking fullback played a role in all of Minnesota’s goals with beautifully-weighted crosses and some Fred Astaire work in the box to deliver the final blow. Never mind the number of crosses that went sailing over the heads of everyone throughout too much of the game, or the chances he himself should have done better with. Venegas was good when it mattered, and always found his way into threatening positions.
  • Nazmi Albadawi (CAR) – For the first half, at least, Carolina was dangerous and incisive. Albadawi was critical whether he was delivering balls out wide or filling in the space vacated by a streaking da Luz or Tiyi Shipalane. A too-slow central defense like Minnesota’s really has no plan for someone like Albadawi when they are left to chase Carolina’s speedy wingers and give ground in the middle. Unfortunately for the Railhawks, they couldn’t finish their best chances and couldn’t retain the ball meaningfully later in the game to create those same opportunities again.


  • Dzenan Catic (CAR). Nacho Novo he is not. Catic missed a critical opportunity early in the game (credit N’Djock for a good save) and lacked the killer instinct of the striker he replaced. Catic needs to make the right runs at the right times to either create a scoring opportunity or needs to position himself as an outlet to his men on the outside and circulate the ball to keep the defense misaligned. Too often for Carolina the game plan was streak and cross.
  • Yago Silva (MNU). Yago actually made some very good runs down the left and showcased the speed that suggested he might be Minnesota’s answer to Miguel Ibarra heading to warmer climes. But his success tracking back and defending was suspect, an important role on a team with attacking fullbacks, and he himself never emerged into threatening scoring positions. Yago did not have a bad game. But he was just not what the game needed.

You Won’t See On The Highlights:

  • The entire game turned on a moment when Aaron Pitchkolan made a very poor tackle on Shipalane in the box that should have resulted in a penalty kick for Carolina. The ball reached the other end of the pitch with Shipalane still on the turf, and ultimately turned into the free kick that would open United’s scoring. Shipalane ultimately came off injured due to the tackle, and the game that should likely have been 2-0 to Carolina after a penalty was suddenly 1-1 with a knock to the Railhawks’ best player. I make a point of avoiding criticizing refereeing, not because it isn’t deserving but because this criticism is passé and applies to every game in NASL every weekend. But this missed call had major ramifications.

Lessons Learned:

  • Minnesota is good enough. The club probably lacks the consistency to threaten the Fall Season title (I’m saying this about a team that has won four of its last five games, too), but certainly has the talent to all but assure itself of a playoff berth. Once in the postseason, a team only has to be good enough twice.
  • Carolina is not good enough. Fans of the Railies will be happy to see greater discipline from the team than it showed in the bloodbath that was the midweek match against San Antonio. But this collapse and the last two months in general have proven that Carolina lacks the depth to make the sustained run it needs to re-enter the postseason conversation.
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