For the second straight week, Minnesota United FC turned around a halftime deficit, but unlike last week's win in Atlanta, could not hold a late lead as Carolina equalized through a highlight-reel goal from Enzo Martinez to earn a 2-2 draw at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
The result left the teams tied with identical records at the top of the NASL standings, but Minnesota takes pole position through the fourth tie-breaker, benefiting from a better goal difference away from home.
Jordan Graye's first goal of the season late in the first half gave Carolina the lead, but Etienne Barbara scored a quick-fire brace in the second half to stake Minnesota to a 2-1 lead. Martinez tied it with a 25-yard strike six minutes of time to bring Carolina level.
“I thought it was a good game and probably a fair result on the reflection of play,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clark. “We sat back early in the second half and that allowed them to come back.”
United coach Manny Lagos said: “I’m very proud of us coming out in the second half and playing a lot better after a sluggish first half.”
Carolina started more earnestly but were unable to challenge Minnesota goalkeeper Daryl Sattler. Minnesota found its attack about half an hour into the game a Barbara sent a shot just high and wide from the top corner of the penalty box. Minutes later he fed Ibarra, who shot high.
Carolina then took the lead from a set piece in the 40th minute. A short corner to Ausin Da Luz gave the midfielder time to pick out Graye's late run central, and the defender jumped over Minnesota midfield Aaron Pitchkolan to head past Sattler at the far post.
Minnesota nearly leveled straight away but was again unable to keep a shot low. Simone Bracalello switched well for Ibarra, who crossed to Pablo Campos, whose diving header beat Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald but couldn't quite sneak under the crossbar.
Sustained pressure to open the second half paid off for Minnesota as Barbara scored against his former club. A flicked header from Campos put the Maltese forward in alone on a breakaway, and he calmly finished with a chipped shot over the onrushing Fitzgerald.
Barbara added a second from the penalty spot as United continued to ask questions of Carolina's defense. Paul Hamilton gave away the penalty after blocking a Michael Reed shot with his arm, and Barbara replaced delicacy with power to slam the ball down the middle of the goal as Fitzgerald dove to his right.
Bracalello crashed a 30-yard shot off the crossbar with 20 minutes to play as Minnesota looked for an insurance goal. The shot easily eluded Fitzgerald but couldn't give Minnesota the two-goal cushion.
It would haunt the hosts in the 84th minute as a short Carolina corner let the visitors tie the game. Enzo Martinez picked up the ball centrally and sent a 25-yard shot blazing through traffic and past Sattler to equalize.
“It was a great strike and the kid’s got a lot of talent and ability and we’re pleased to have him,” said Clarke.
Minnesota nearly found an instant winner as Barbara played Justin Davis through the middle on an overlapping run from defense. Davis slid and got a shot off, but Fitzgerald gave up his body to take the shot off Davis' feet and stave off the game's final quality scoring chance.
|New York Cosmos||31||14||9||4||1||10|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||20||14||5||5||4||3|
|Minnesota United FC||20||14||6||2||6||2|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||18||14||5||3||6||-2|
|San Antonio Scorpions||10||14||3||1||10||-9|
|San Antonio Scorpions||20||12||6||2||4||4|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||18||12||5||3||4||5|
|Minnesota United FC||14||12||4||2||6||-5|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||8||12||2||2||8||-14|