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Minnesota United start new NASL season with tame draw in Tampa Bay

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Minnesota United started their season in the North American Soccer League with a tame draw at the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

After the excitement in the weeks preceding the season with news the club had won an MLS franchise, the Blaine side were unable to translate this fervor into a win.

Their opener against a team that finished several places below them in the NASL last season – albeit one which has strengthened significantly after raiding the (United's playoff conquerors) Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the off-season.

The Loons started at breakneck pace, pressuring Tampa Bay into some woeful defending that let Jonny Steele in the fifth minute, only for the debutant to see his shot turned onto the post by goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky.

United were the better team in the first half, with tricky USA international Miguel Ibarra causing their opponents plenty of trouble, but the Rowdies grew into the match as it wore on and in the second half had the clearer chances.

Fortunately they were spared going a goal down for some extremely ordinary finishing from Tampa Bay.

Forward Robert Hernandez should have given the home side the lead in the 53rd minute, only to horribly skew his shot at an open goal, with United 'keeper Sammy Ndjock in no man's land.

And Dark Clouds' hearts were in mouths in the 90th minute when Rowdies' striker Brian Shriver was presented with a near-post header that should have been dispatched, but went into the side-netting.

Next up for Minnesota United is a trip to the Ottawa Fury next weekend, before the home opener in two weeks against the San Antonio Scorpions.

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