Blaine, Minn. (Friday, July 4th, 2014) – Minnesota United defeated the Mexico U-21 squad 4-3 on penalties in front of a sellout crowd of 8,059 at National Sports Center Stadium. The game ended 1-1 in regulation, giving the fans the experience of a tense penalty kick shootout that saw United emerge victorious with 4 goals to 3.
“I think the team really appreciated all the fan support tonight and as a club we were thrilled to put on a good show for all the Mexico supporters in the stands,” said United Head Coach Manny Lagos. “It creates a new relationship with a new fanbase here and I hope they can embrace what we are doing as an organization. It was a game of significance because we played against one of the biggest federations in world soccer. It’s a sign of things really good things to come for this team and I think the fans got their money’s worth.”
The game got off to a fast start as a miscue by the Mexican defense allowed United to steal the ball deep in the visitor’s half. Miguel Ibarra was able to pass to a sprinting Christian Ramirez, who expertly slotted the ball past Mexican keeper Alejando Pelaez to give United the 1-0 lead in the 1st minute of the match.
A bad challenge in the 36th minute gave the Mexico U21s a chance to equalize the match from a free kick. Minnesota United defender Tiago Calvano fouled a Mexican midfielder just outside the United box, earning himself a yellow card. Striker Jorge Espericueta stepped up and curled the ball around the United defensive wall, beating keeper Matt VanOekel to level the scores at 1-1.
The beginning of the second half saw several new faces enter the game, including a keeper change by both sides as Mitch Hildebrandt of United and Luis Cardenas of Mexico relieved their teammates.
The second half was dominated by the Mexican team, who put immense pressure on the Minnesota goal. United was getting frustrated with the limited chances and tempers began to rise as the match continued. It came to a boil when Daniel Mendes of Minnesota collided with a Mexican player, leading to a scuffle at midfield between the teams. When the dust settled, and after much deliberation between the referees, three red cards were given out: Floyd Franks and Juliano Vicentini for United and Felipe Sifuentes of Mexico. This left their teams with 9 and 10 men respectively.
At the end of regulation, the game went into a penalty kick shootout. Minnesota defeated the Mexican side 4 goals to 3, thanks to two saves by Hildebrandt.
Minnesota United looks to build off of its Spring Championship as it opens its 2014 North American Soccer League Fall season next Saturday, July 12th against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. United plays its first home match of the Fall Season on Thursday, July 17th at the National Sports Center Stadium.