The Minnesota Stars wrapped up the North American Soccer League crown with a 0-0 tie in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., earning a 3-1 total-goals victory in the two-legged Championship Series. Having won 3-1 at NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minn., last Saturday, defending was the story of the night for the Stars, who kept the potent Fort Lauderdale Strikers offense at bay for 90 rain-soaked minutes to lift the Soccer Bowl trophy for the first time in the history of the re-launched NASL.
Saturday night’s game was markedly different from the first leg, which saw end-to-end action and a potent Stars attack. The Stars counterattacked at select moments in the second leg, choosing to rely on the strength that carried them through the regular season: defense.
“They threw a lot at us and pushed us hard, and it was a challenge for us to hold onto the ball,” Stars head coach Manny Lagos said. “Our commitment to defend for 90 minutes was outstanding, and encapsulated what our team is all about.”
Needing two-goal victory to force extra time in the series, the Strikers wasted no time throwing men forward. From the onset, Fort Lauderdale pressed and kept the Stars in their own defensive third, but for 90 minutes, the Strikers couldn’t find the final touch in the box as they failed to put their best chances on goal and saw several other shots blocked by Stars defenders or sail harmlessly high or wide. Despite earning nine corner kicks, the Strikers only forced veteran Stars goalkeeper Joe Warren into one save en route to his tenth shutout of the season.
The Stars return to Minnesota at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 31. Fans are welcome to meet them in Terminal 2 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and are also encouraged to attend a championship celebration at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis starting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night.
“We don’t want to shy away from what we are, and that’s a team that’s owned by the league and looking for the right owner,” Lagos said. “I hope the pride we bring back to the state open eyes and gives Minnesotans some pride in this state as a soccer market. We’re looking forward to coming home and sharing this moment with the fans who weren’t able to travel.”