With last Saturday's much-needed win against the league-leading Carolina RailHawks, the NSC Minnesota Stars gained three much-needed points and put an end to a disappointing string of draws at home. The Stars currently sit in fourth place in the North American Soccer League, but can climb up the table with a win Sunday night against the Puerto Rico Islanders, the defending second division champions who lead the Stars by just one point in the league table. FC Edmonton, three points ahead of the Stars in second place, is also in striking distance.
The two teams have faced each other three times this season, splitting the series 1-1-1, with both sides posting a win at home to go along with a 1-1 tie in Puerto Rico on June 1. At 7:30 Sunday night, the Stars will put their unbeaten home record on the line as the Islanders arrive at NSC Stadium for the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams.
"We know Puerto Rico very well from the games we've played against them so far this season, and we have a great deal of respect for them," Stars head coach Manny Lagos said. "They're fast and have great playmakers, so we'll have to be on our toes on defense and sharp on the ball on offense."
The Stars will be without midfielder Ely Allen on Sunday night due to a knee injury he sustained at the end of the first half on Saturday. Brazilian midfielder Geison stepped onto the field for Allen, providing the assist on Amani Walker's game-winner at the end of the second half. Geison could feature again against Puerto Rico, but winger Andy Lorei could also receive the nod after Lagos expressed confidence in his squad's depth after Saturday's win.
Jonathan Fana will be a key Islander player to look out for on Sunday night. He has been a vital part of the Puerto Rican offense this year, scoring eight goals, including two against the Stars in April a 3-1 Islanders' win in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The Stars contained him three weeks later, however, limiting his chances to run at the defense when posting a 2-0 win at NSC Stadium. The Stars also held Fana off the scoresheet on June 1 in Puerto Rico.
"Our games against Puerto Rico this season have been open and entertaining for the fans," Lagos said. "I expect this one to be no different, and I'm hopeful we can keep the positive energy from Saturday going."
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Tag(s): July 16, 2011