Minnesota United FC has captured the 2014 North American Soccer League spring season title and secured the first berth into 'The Championship' in November, following a 3-3 tie with host Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium. The Loons finish atop the spring season standings with 20 points.
The wild match had plenty of action, with the lead bouncing back and forth between the two clubs. Down 2-1 at halftime, Minnesota scored two goals in the second half from Daniel Mendes and Miguel Ibarra before conceding a late equalizer, but the final result was all it needed.
"It feels great, we had a tough end to the first half, but a great start to the second half," said Minnesota Captain Aaron Pitchkolan. "We played some really good soccer and its kind of been a blueprint for the season, overcoming adversity and coming on strong at the end."
"We knew The Championship format would create riveting soccer," NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said. "All Spring we've seen the teams battling hard and creating exciting matches week in and week out. Minnesota United FC should be proud of winning the Spring Title and being the first to qualify for The Championship. Congratulations to captain Aaron Pitchkolan, owner Bill McGuire, coach Manny Lagos, the entire organization and the Loons faithful."
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Minnesota United will be presented with the 2014 Spring Season Trophy by Peterson on Tuesday, June 10 in a ceremony set to begin at 12 p.m. CT (1 p.m. ET) at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"I am extremely proud of our team and the way we played tonight," said United President Nick Rogers. "I am so proud of how we finished out the game and got the result we needed to clinch the Spring. But we are not going to celebrate this for long, our goal has always been to win the Soccer Bowl and this is an important first step, but its just the first step. There won't be any let up from us."
"Tonight was a great game. It took a lot for us to win the Spring Championship," said Loons coach Manny Lagos. "We had to go on the road twice to get results [in the last two weeks] and we were challenged in both games and great stuff by the guys, couldn't be prouder. Tonight was an outstanding game and the character of this team came through."
This is United's first title since 2011 when it captured the League Championship over Strikers. Minnesota now secures one of the four berths to 'The Championship' in November and will host a semifinal match on Nov. 8. It will be joined by the fall season winner along with the next two clubs with the best overall records from both seasons combined. The semifinal winners will compete in 'The Championship Final' and will receive the NASL Soccer Bowl trophy.