Minnesota United FC returns home this week after a five-game stretch on the road and, boy, do they need to be home. The final match, at Real Salt Lake on Saturday, doubled the number of points the Loons packed for the trip home: Two.
But let’s shelve RSL for a minute. On Wednesday night, MNUFC visited Audi Field for the first time and played everyone’s least favorite United club in front of a hurricane crowd, or rather, a few DC locals and a large contingent of Dark Clouds. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s performance was nothing to blow them away.
Despite DP Angelo Rodriguez putting the Loons up one-nil in the 47th minute, his first (and long overdue) MLS goal…
…DC would later level the score, then gain the lead, in just under four minutes.
Further souring the loss was the early exit of Jerome Thiesson. The defender collided with a teammate just minutes into his return from a lingering injury and left the match with a (to-date) undisclosed ankle injury. While his teammates boarded a plane to Utah, Thiesson flew home.
Things were slightly better a thousand feet above sea level, once you got past an incoherent lineup, (yet another) injury to striker Abu Danladi, (yet another) early conceded goal and the usual confusion over Adrian Heath’s substitution tactics (Danladi was the only Loon to exit). Though now that I think of it, we may never get past all that. Anyway.
In the second half, Miguel ‘Batman’ Ibarra celebrated Batman Day right, with two late goals that leveled, then elevated, the Loons. But we are not allowed to escape the Darkness and this beauty was disallowed after an eternal VAR review erased it from the scoreboard. Darwin Quintero was just a hair offside when he served the ball:
MN United FC returns to the U of M on Saturday, September 22, to face the Portland Timbers on friendly turf. The Supporters have stepped up their tifo game this week so one can only hope the players and coaching staff will step up their game as well. Playoffs may be out of the picture, but the Loons still have an opportunity to renew the faith of diehard fans before closing out Soft Open 2.0.
The latest edition of the ‘Nicest Rivalry’ ended the way it always does. Minnesota United FC dropped three points in Kansas City, losing 2-0 and stretching their road record to 1-11-1. The match was not quite as disappointing as previous meetings – the Loons had good opportunities and toughed out the full 90 minutes, managing to hold Sporting goalless through the first half – but the commentary from the gaffer is considerably more frustrating.
Forced to play without midfielder and leading goal scorerDarwin Quintero, the 3-5-2 returned with new DP Angelo Rodriguez and rookie Mason Toye (recalled from his USL loan) spearheading the attack. The result was much what you would expect from two players with twenty appearances and one assist between them – plenty of opportunities, but no results. It’s not that we expected them to be a like-for-like replacement of Quintero who has ten goals and nine assists in nineteen appearances, but had the match been played at home, I can guarantee the Wonderwall’s ‘Score, da*n it!” call would have been heavily used, with considerably more harshness than humor.
Of course, if this match had been played at home, the Loons may have won. When sideline reporter Jamie Watsonasked Adrian Heath for his first reaction to the loss, the gaffer replied, “That’s the way it is on the road.”
Frustrated yet? Wait, there’s more.
From the post-match press release: “Some of the [offensive] performances were quite good, but it’s another disappointing defeat on the road which [sic] I feel as though I’m saying the same things a lot of the time.” And, “It’s the oldest saying in football: goals change games. They scored at really important times and that was the disappointment because I don’t think they had to work hard enough for their two goals.”
With such comments coming week after week, here is what the Supporters have started to hear: Losing on the road is simply common practice for the Loons. An expected hazard. The early-season win in Orlando was a fluke – Did you really expect another? We were good, but disappointing; poor, but promising. Goals go both ways. Moments of greatness mean nothing if you can’t score, but goals are more important than moments.
Centerback and Man of the Match Brent Kallman (“He’s one of us!”) offereda more reasonable perspective on the match:
“When you think about the games we’ve played here, you can use the word embarrassing. The performances have been. But we can hold our heads high after this one.[…] We were more disciplined. We stayed more to the plan. We can take that moving forward because things don’t really get any easier. We’ve got a lot of road games still.”
Fortunately, the Loons have two weeks to plan their tactics for the next match against DC United and to decide what angle the remainder of their road narrative will take. And with a handful of crucial starters out of the discussion (Michael Boxall is suspended for yellow card accumulation, Francisco Calvo is suspended as well as receiving a call-up from Costa Rica for a stretch of friendlies,Rasmus Schuller was called up by Finland, Eric Miller and Darwin Quintero are questionable with injuries, and Tyrone Mears has mutually separated from the club) the Loons will need to make every minute of that extended rest and training count.
The Loons flew south this past weekend to face first-place FC Dallas. They were probably eager to get the match over with, to take any points they possibly could against the western conference leaders and move on with their road trip. In so many ways, it was a disappointing night.
A handful of players needed to make an impression in this match for a chance to earn more appearances in the lineup once the starters they replaced that night returned. With defenders Francisco Calvo and Collen Warner on suspension, and forward Darwin Quintero on the injury list, MNUFC rolled out a unique 4-3-3 with Franz Pangop getting his first start alongside Angelo Rodriguez and Collin Martin. Romario Ibarra – who scored last week – and Heath Harrison – who has been struggling for minutes – were the bench.
After following along with the waiting game on Twitter for two and a half hours, I waited just long enough to see that the game would happen. Once kickoff was confirmed for 9:40, I went to bed. And I am glad I did.
I opened Twitter right away on Sunday morning with the hope that the first dozen tweets in my feed wouldn’t involve lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence.’ Here’s just a small sample of what awaited me:
Update: two-thirds of the #MNUFC midfield have been shown yellow and Schüller isn’t one of them yet. #FCDvMIN
Probably to general surprise, Pangop was dynamic in his first ever #MNUFC start. His pace and dribbling gave the Dallas defense, especially the plodding Matt Hedges, a lot of trouble. But his end product was attack-killingly bad. #FCDvMIN
#Mnufc lose 2-0 after the rain delay and continue the traditions of melting on the road, weird formations and player decisions, weird ways to concede, and nearly taking themselves out of the playoffs. Positive is didn’t concede first 10min? #FCDvMIN
Minnesota lost 2-0, after conceding one goal in each half. So the defense wasn’t great (though Brent Kallman did earn Man of the Match) and neither was the attack.
I pulled up the club’s recap and press release to see what Adrian Heath had to say, always the most intriguing part of the post-match experience. I puzzled over this statement all day:
“The unfortunate thing at this moment in time,” said Heath, “we had no Calvo, we had no Quintero, no Molino, no Ethan Finlay, no Sam Cronin. We aren’t strong enough and deep enough to cope with five of our best players not being on the field and that’s the harsh reality. It’s another reminder that we have to get better. We’re not where we need to be or where we want to be at this moment.”
The absences of Calvo and Quintero are notable. However, citing the absences of the other three players is a bit strange. The Loons have been without Kevin Molino since his ACL tear on March 10, without Ethan Finlay since April 22 (also ACL) and without Sam Cronin for over one year as he deals with neck and concussion issues.
United has had two opportunities to bring in suitable replacements for Molino and Finlay and, considering the club’s passion for signing depth at midfield (winger, winger, winger), it is strange that the absence of those two mids would be cited as an obstacle to overcome now, more than four months later. The Loons have managed to string together some wins since those season-ending injuries, so that is no excuse for whatever happened on Saturday night.
(No, I still have not watched the match.)
How MNUFC utilizes newcomer Fernando Bob in the no. six spot will be a good barometer of how the club plans to move forward. The success (or lack thereof) of attacker Angelo Rodriguez and defender Fernando Bob could set the tone for how the club moves forward in both the remainder of the season and in terms of the ‘three-year plan.’ If that plan involves shifting into another 4-3-3 around these two…
Well, let’s not go there just yet. I have not yet found a cover of ‘Sound of Silence’ with a suitably depressing tone.
It has been a busy week in the North. Since I failed to keep up on sharing the news, even via Twitter, here is my witty attempt to catch us all up before the Loons face FC Dallas. The Northern (High) Lights:
A fan favorite returns
Swiss defender Jerome (Jerry, to the fans) Thiesson has finally returned to full duty after a two-month hiatus. Jerry last played on May 20, a home match against Sporting Kansas City, before being sidelined by a nagging calf injury. A few comeback attempts were thwarted by setbacks, but Jerry was seen training with the rest of the starters this week and was not included on the Out or Questionable lists released ahead of the squad’s flight to Dallas. His return is timely, given Francisco Calvo’s red card suspension.
“What is this? What do I do with this?” 🤪🤣 Contrary to how this pic looks, I‘m beyond thrilled to have made a full team training week! Wish the boys a gr8 and successful game tonight and looking forward to work hard to be part of the group asap 💪🏻#MNUFC#loons#road3pointspic.twitter.com/N5zmpmhuWm
Christian Ramirez, traded last week to expansion club LAFC, made his first start (second appearance) for the club on Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake. With all of Minnesota watching (and a few LAFC fans), the forward scored two vintage-Christian goals to lead his new club to victory, 2-0, and earned himself Man of the Match. RSL keeper, Nick Rimando was pulled from the game at the break, and there is some debate amongst United fans whether the cause was more likely to be an injured hamstring or injured pride (he conceded two to Christian at TCF Stadium just a few weeks ago). My money is on a combination of the two.
Moving on out
Bertrand Owundi Eko’o was sent on loan to USL side Charlotte Independence, this week. Though the deal includes a recall option, it is unlikely that MNUFC will exercise that option on this defender, given that the only action Eko’o has seen since the start of the MLS regular season was the July friendly against Saprissa of Costa Rica. The Cameroonian international was a high-profile signing during the Loons’ preseason, but he is expected to close out his season in Charlotte.
Moving on in?
MNUFC revealed early this week that an international trialist was participating in closed-door practice through the week, but declined to reveal his name or even his nationality. Media present at open sessions did discover that the unnamed trialist spoke Portuguese. Rumors ran rampant until The Athletic MN reported, on Tuesday night, that the mystery man was Brazilian Fernando Bob.
Supporters rejoiced over Bob’s position and his name. Not only are the Loons sorely lacking in the position of defensive midfielder, but Bob gives fans another opportunity at utilizing an Abba song (‘Can You Hear the Drums, Fernando?’ was being tested out until Luiz Fernando Ferreira Maximiano chose to play as, simply, Maximiano) in addition to a plethora of Bob-centric themes (one front runner is ‘Bob the Builder,’ a fact I share with you so that the tune may infest your nighttime thoughts as it has mine).
You are very welcome.
Ninth place Loons, sans Calvo and Collen Warner, square off against the first place Burn, er, FC Dallas, Saturday night at 7 p.m. CST.
Minnesota United FC kicked off a long road trip on Saturday, playing their first match of the PS (Post Superman) Era against the LA Galaxy. While it certainly wasn’t pretty (Galaxy maintained nearly 61% of possession overall, had 19 shots to United’s 10 and forced 32 clearances by the Loons compared to their 13), it was surprisingly effective. The Loons left LA with their first road point since March 10 (a 2-1 win in Orlando).
It started out like a typical Loons road game. The home side scored early (Allesandrini, 7’) and a congested midfield struggling to complete passes and get into the final third all through the first half. When sideline reporter, Jamie Watson, asked Adrian Heath about his second-half game plan, Heath replied simply, “There will be changes at some stage, I think.”
Cool. A manager notorious for keeping his third – and, sometimes, second – sub on the bench right through the final whistle might make some changes. Indeed he did, but it took a while, so let me rewind.
The Loons rallied after the break and snagged a tying goal off of a… Set piece??? Yes, the Loons finally scored on the follow-up of a set piece, courtesy of Michael ‘Boxy’ Boxall. The human steamroller/defender got his head on a ball from Darwin Quintero and sent it through two defenders toward the far post in the 64th minute. His first MLS goal is worth watching a few times:
Sebastian Lletget made it 2-1 nine minutes later, but that tiebreaker initiated Heath’s promised changes. The midfield shifted when mid Romario Ibarra came on for defender Eric Miller in the 75th minute, then again when forward Abu Danladi came on for mid Collen Warner in the 79th. Both of these subs played a vital role in what I would say is one of United’s most impressive comeback rallies.
Danladi, after a long run through the midfield in the 84th minute, sent a pass over the defense which found Romario at the far corner of the box. Romario, with one touch off the inside of his right boot, notched his first MLS goal. 2-2.
With three points still within reach, Heath made a third (!) substitute, pulling forward Angelo Rodriguez for defender Tyrone Mears.
Then it got messy.
Not only will United be without Warner (yellow card accumulation) in Dallas this weekend; they will have to do without Francisco Calvo, who was ejected after he tossed the ball in the air in frustration with what should have been a quick restart in Galaxy’s half. Somehow the ten-man Loons held off a Galactic comeback and secured the point.
MNUFC did get an assist from Galaxy DP, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who did nothing in this match worth writing about here. Despite the usual United defensive issues, Boxy and Brent Kallman were both solid that night. Boxy may have earned the official Man of the Match title for taming ‘The Lion,’ but BK was mine after a full 90 minutes of, literally and figuratively, laying it all on the line to guard the box.
Can United earn a point, or three, against FC Dallas this weekend? Crazier things have happened.
Saturday, August 4:MN United FC faced the Seattle Sounders for the third time in their short MLS history on a hot and humid night in Minneapolis. This time, the Loons came out on top in a low-scoring and messy, yet effective, match on home turf…
That is how I remember opening my gamer, which was half complete as stoppage time was announced. Unfortunately, my computer froze sometime after the 90-minute mark, then crashed, my words lost forever. But those words were rendered moot anyway when, early in the six minutes of announced added time, Minnesota gave up a penalty in an attempt to score a second goal, allowing Seattle to equalize on the other end of the pitch. Then, in the seventh minute of the added time, with Minnesota fans willing the ref to blow the final whistle, Seattle dealt the fatal blow, ending the match 2-1 in the last gasp.
The only part of my gamer worth salvaging was the first sentence: It was the third meeting, and was indeed a tad warm. I may also have noted that Darwin Quintero scored the beauty that put the Loons up 1-0 in the first half. And I may have mentioned the tifo display which turned the words of Seattle’s own Jimi Hendrix against them.
But the shade MNUFC Supporters threw at Seattle was overshadowed by another dark cloud (no pun intended). The benching of fan-favorite forward, Chris Ramirez, in favor of new DP Angelo Rodriguez, drew immediate criticism on Twitter and bolstered the transfer rumors bandied about during the week prior. No way we trade the face of the team, the soul of the club, half of the Dynamic Duo, our very own Superman!
But we did. On Monday evening, the news broke that Ramirez had been traded to first-year expansion club, LAFC, in exchange for at least $550,000, with potential bonuses, for a total of nearly $1 million. Hearts broke and tempers flared. With #HeathOut exploding, once again, across social media, some fans had a little fun in reaction to the Supporters versus Front Office battle lines. Inspired by the (manufactured) rivalry tees released by MLS, one supporter designed this:
Though Superman’s departure is emotional for many fans, myself included, the trade makes perfect sense for both the club and for Ramirez’s career. Ramirez was one of four forwards, suddenly a position of depth after the addition of Rodriguez. Two of those forwards, Abu Danladi and Mason Toye, are still young and in development, desperate for minutes.
The trade frees up space for United to have a starter be backed up by one developing sub while the other goes on loan. That loanee was announced on Wednesday. Toye will go to USL side Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, while remaining available for recall to Minnesota if needed.
The trade also gives Minnesota the resources (both TAM and GAM) to make other moves to shore up its roster. Many fingers and toes are being crossed in the hopes of a defensive acquisition.
And, it would be selfish of us to refuse to let Ramirez develop his career. He deserves more playing time and a manager who will help him develop his game rather than squandering his talent. He needs to find his confidence again and to earn the confidence of USMNT staff (he has earned a call-up to camp, but not a roster spot, which he deserves). LAFC checks both boxes. Plus, he returns, with his own young family, to his family home.
Minnesota United FCreturns home to Minneapolis on Saturday. With any luck, TCF Bank Stadium will be the site of a renewal of the Loons’ playoff hopes, all but dead after having a homestand winning streak snapped in last weekend’s4-2 loss in Vancouver.
There were bright spots on Saturday:
– #Ibsonity returned. Midfielder Ibson scored in the 82nd minute and renewed some life in Minnesota’s half.
– Forward Abu Danladi, after nearly two months on the injury list, came off the bench in the 87th minute.
– Danladi promptly scored. It was his first goal of the season and leveled the score. (Watch the goal and read a breakdown of the play, as described by Danladi to MNUFC’s Steve McPherson, here)
– We got to watch some brilliant play (and some brilliant goals) from a homegrown 17-year old bound for the Bundesliga.
And, of course, not-so-bright spots:
– #Ibsonity took a dark turn long before Minnesota’s first goal when a classic Ibson backheel was performed at a far from ideal moment. The Caps accepted the turnover at midfield with no complaint and went on to score.
– The aforementioned Bundesliga-bound youth was Alphonso Davies.
– Alphonso Davies currently plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
– Davies notched two assists on the night.
– Davies also notched two goals of his own.
– 4-2 Vancouver.
There’s obviously more to United’s home-turf success than the proverbial “Home Field Advantage.” It looks more and more like there is an extremely negative away mentality that overrides every ounce of chemistry and connectivity in the Loons from one end of the pitch to the other. With a heavy away schedule over the next six weeks or so, they need to find a fix to have any chance at a playoff run.
First though, United needs a win at home against a team that is right on their heels. The Seattle Sounders are unbeaten in their last six matches, most of which they played on the road. Tenth place Seattle is just one point behind eighth-place Minnesota, with one game in hand (and a significantly lower goal differential).
In addition to the typical imbalance of the scales, United has the added disadvantage this week of two mainstays missing training (and recovery time) for the All-Star Game. Defender Francisco Calvo started at left wingback on Wednesday night and put in a solid 30-minute shift against Juventus. Midfielder Darwin Quintero was one of the final wholesale subs late in the evening but immediately added some flavor to the game. Unfortunately, he quickly learned that MLS keepers have apparently shared his highlight reel with their counterparts in Italy, as his patented 19-yard chip shot was picked off by Juve’s keeper.
Fresher legs and new tricks will have to be tried against the Sounders. United will also have to regain their home form from July to get the result they need on Saturday. The Loons need it. The Wonderwall needs it.
While Minnesota United kept a self-same 3-5-2 for the third straight match in nine days, LAFC flew in fresh legs after a heavy week of US Open Cup and MLS competition. Some LAFC fans may have guffawed at the matchup which placed the new club of Diego Rossiand Carlos Vela, against a side built from NASL holdovers and a single DP (their newly minted second still waiting on paperwork and an international slot).
They may also have laughed at the final score and Minnesota’s celebrations, comforted by the knowledge that it could have been much different if LAFC’s full complement of starters had been available to play. For Minnesota fans, however, Saturday’s game and the midweek matchup with New England Revolution were reminders of how much fun it can be to watch United when all the pieces come together, when the players themselves can enjoy the game.
I watched Wednesday’s match against New England from a new perspective, standing alongside a team of U10 players, parents and coaches in town for the USA Cup, a youth tournament held at the National Sports Center in Blaine, on the same campus as MNUFC’s training facilities and their former home stadium.
For most of the group from Idaho Juniors FC, that match was their first professional soccer experience. With all the cynicism and bitterness recently surrounding the club, it was refreshing to experience the game through their eyes. Their excitement was a reminder that these shared experiences – the highs and the lows, every moment we share around this team, this game, right in our backyard – should not be taken for granted.
So proud of these boys! The Juniors lost their quarterfinal match tonight, but played hard to the end and fought for one another to the final whistle. Enjoy the rest of your weekend boys. You earned it all!#RedCardtoRacismpic.twitter.com/yULmtAJv6c
Maybe I would feel differently if I had not had the opportunity to sing Wonderwall with the parents and coaches that night, if some Loons hadn’t taken a break from their celebrations to spend some time with the kids on the field. Maybe. But I would like to think that if the score had been reversed, if it had ended with a 2-1 loss instead of a 2-1 win, I would still feel incredibly lucky to have shared an experience with this club with my new friends from Boise and that I could still revel in the memories with them the next morning while standing on a muddy field in Blaine.
Thankfully, I will never know because Minnesota won, 2-1, on goals from Christian Ramirez and Darwin Quintero. A much too easily given penalty to the Revs in the 52nd minute was the only damper on anight which saw Minneapolis-based Surly Brewing forced to honor for the first time this year, the “Surly Bird Special,” a free beer awarded to any fan with a ticket stub when a Loon scores in the opening ten minutes of a home game.
Ramirez scored in the fifth minute, his fifth on the season. Quintero added one just before the halftime whistle. Adrian Heath was actually happy after this win because of a number of standout performances by his defense, most notably centerback Brent Kallman.
With that win setting the tone for the conclusion of the homestand, a tired United faced a depleted LAFC. As always, there was concern that goals would come early and often. Indeed, six goals were scored in 60 minutes of play, four of those coming in the first half.
Surprisingly, five of the six goals scored were earned by Loons. An even bigger surprise was that Minnesota successfully defended 15 LA cornerkicks (LA’s lone goal by Benny Feilhaber came from a sequence following a corner in the 26th minute). Perhaps the biggest surprise yet was who opened the scoring: midfielder Rasmus Schuller knocked in a beauty in the 25th minute, with an even prettier assist from Quintero. It was the Finn’s first MLS goal.
AND QUINTERO!!! (Sorry, I was too busy editing Batman to catch The Scientist)
Just before the half came a shot from Ramirez, assisted only by a goalkeeper error. 2-1 Minnesota in the 45th minute. Less than sixty seconds later, Quintero added another, assisted by defender Eric Miller, to go 3-1 into the half. Would they fall apart after halftime, with LA coming out of the locker room hot (yet another humid night) and bothered (coach Bradley was irked by the boos his son received when Toronto FC was in town) and hungry to even the score?
No. The Loons ripped open their shirts and unfurled their capes. Miguel “Batman” Ibarra notched the fourth goal of the night in the 56th minute, assisted by best buddy Christian “Superman” Ramirez. Less than two minutes later, the Dark Knight returned the favor, assisting a Superman brace. 5-1 Minnesota. The following thirty minutes saw a flurry of subs (including Ramirez coming off for Romario Ibarra to make his debut), but the tired, tested Loons came out on top against the fresh legs of LAFC.
The press conference and locker room were both much more festive Saturday night than they were for the 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake the previous weekend (the night Heath raged furiously at his players while opposing coach Mike Petke made his now-infamous VAR speech). Heath was happy, the players were happy. And it would seem that happiness made all the difference.
“It’s amazing! Everybody’s happy in the locker room,” Ibarra said of the streak. “We’re all enjoying playing. You can just see it out there on the field. We scored, we conceded and we just didn’t put our heads down. We kept going and we kept playing our game. The second half, we came out hungry.”
Ramirez reflected, “I think [the club] is getting a winning mentality, that every game we need to go out and win wherever we play. In these three games at home, we’ve shown that we want to be playing to fight for the finals.”
But now the Loons go on the road, where they will play for the better part of the next month. Heath holds no misconceptions about the promise of replicating the win streak, saying, “Let’s win one first on the road before we get to three.”
Defender Francisco Calvo had an interesting perspective on the first away match, this Saturday in Vancouver: “I don’t think we have to change anything. Anything. Because, if we play — I mean, I never play in Vancouver, but I think that the field is the same, or more awful than this one, you know. So, I mean, we have to feel like we’re playing at home. Try to do the same thing.”
Have you ever stepped onto astroturf and said, “Ah! Feels like home!”? Neither have I, but the Loons have always had a gritty attitude perfectly suited to such reflection so maybe…
Just days after a 2-1 ‘friendly’ loss to Costa Rican club Saprissa, Minnesota United FC took the field again on yet another hot evening in Minneapolis. Fans who have seen more than their fair share of temperature fluctuations over the years flocked to TCF Bank Stadium in the hopes of being cooled off by a solid Loons performance… But hopefully not a cold one. They wanted to sing Wonderwall again after facing the team that gave them their first chance to sing last season: Real Salt Lake.
The first half was a mixed bag for Minnesota. The back three, especially Brent Kallman, made some big clearances and the attacking trio of Chris Ramirez, Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra provided plenty of sparks. Unfortunately, no one could get into position in the final third to finish the job. The Loons’ best chances came from Ibarra’s speedy runs and Quintero’s newly unlocked long-range shots. Too bad they were up against Nick Rimando this week. Oh, wait…
Too bad Rimando was up against Darwin Quintero this week.
Minute 52: Quintero finds space, turns with the ball on a tight angle near the right post, opts to cross it in front of Rimando where the inside of Ibson’s right boot is waiting. Goal.
Minute 62: Quintero receives a beautiful ball from Calvo and turns to fire it from long range between the heads of two defenders and over Rimando. Yes, over. Another long chip from the Scientist finds the upper left corner. Goal.
Minute 68: Ibarra, on the run, one on one with Rimando. Rimando goes to the ground. Ibarra passes him and slots the ball into the net. Goal.
Jeff Rueter, of The Athletic, led the press box into the Twilight Zone.
Then, it nearly all came crashing down when Plata scored for RSL in the 77th minute (a set piece, go figure) and 85th minute. A nearly sterling defensive performance broke down, allowing two goals inside of ten minutes.
And just as three points were nearly tossed away, so were most of the words I had written before heading downstairs to coach Heath’s presser and then on to the locker room.
After Heath stormed away mid-interview with on-field reporter Jamie Watson; after he sent the players’ kids out of the locker room and gave his team a dressing down which could be heard through the concrete walls (“Nothing I can really repeat,” said defender Michael Boxall); after he settled down just enough to sit in front of the media, Heath was asked to describe the takeaway: “Three points. Did our best to throw it away. Tried to throw away 75 minutes of good work by people deciding that they know best. They’ll do what they want rather than doing what we know is right.”
What does he want from his players moving forward? ” For them to understand that they don’t know everything. And do what’s asked of them. And they’ll be okay. There are too many people in and around this football club that have an opinion on it.”
Neither Boxall nor Miguel Ibarra (who was once again one of the strongest Loons this night) could shine any light on that last statement from their coach. But both spoke of the mental lapses and lack of focus in the dying minutes of both this match and the win against Toronto FC last week. Ibarra added, “I think we’re fine. I mean, we as a team talked about it right after [Heath talked]. He’s right, we gotta do better at closing out games, but we got three points which is the most important thing.”
A win is a win is a… Well, sure, couldn’t it always be better?
Fresh off an exhilarating win at home against MLS defending champs Toronto FC, Minnesota United flew to Houston and quickly rediscovered their reality. The Loons’ 3-0 loss to the Dynamo on Saturday night was the club’s eleventh on the season, with most of those losses coming on the road.
Despite the Loons’ poor performance in set pieces being an overwhelmingly obvious factor in the loss, coach Adrian Heath told the media, “I don’t think we were sharp enough all evening. Overall it was just another indication that we have issues on the road. I am disappointed with the level of commitment considering where we were on Wednesday.”
Fans were disappointed with Heath’s lack of ownership in the loss and Minnesota soccer Twitter succumbed once again to a barrage of #HeathOut statements, including one from the #HeathOut barometer:
Another quick turnaround to yet another hot, humid, Wednesday night match brought seeds of hope, but also anger. The international friendly against Costa Rican club Saprissa, planned long before United’s recent woes, nonetheless came at a very inopportune time.
All the usual starters got a rest or rode the bench, except for centerback Francisco Calvo (having rested in Houston on yellow card accumulation) who captained the squad of young or untested players. Frantz Pangop, a high profile signing in the preseason, was a bright spot that night, scoring his first goal in the Black and Blue (yes, I know the shirt’s grey, but the song has been ‘Boys in Black and Blue’ for as long as Minnesota has been horrible in set pieces). Unfortunately, that was their only goal. The Loons would give up two goals to the visitors, both on mistakes from Pangop’s countryman, Bertrand Owundi Eko’o.
Fans and analysts all agree that United’s defense desperately needs help and the midfield needs effective coordination. These were the expectations as the transfer window opened. Signing announcements came quickly. And, just as quickly, criticism followed.
First came 23-year-old Romario Ibarra of Ecuador, an attacking midfielder from Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica. But he is neither the Ibarra (“His brother is better,” said nearly everyone on Twitter) nor the midfielder (they just signed a DP mid who likes to score so why add another?) the Loons so desperately need.
Next was 29-year-old Colombian, Angelo Rodriguez. The forward for Club Deportes Tolima (Columbia) signed as Minnesota’s second Designated Player. These additions are confusing considering their positions and their international status. Jerome Thiesson received his green card this week, clearing the way for Ibarra to fill Minnesota’s seventh and final international spot.
Someone will have to go before Rodriguez clears up his visa paperwork and arrives in Minnesota. Rumors cite an end to Alexi Gomez’s transfer deal to clear the way for Rodriguez.
International slots aside, the signings are confusing in light of these most recent displays of MN United’s problem spots. Why splash money on goal scorers when your defense is leaking goals? When you have a striker in Christian Ramirez who you have held on to despite bids from MLS and Liga MX clubs? Heath’s praise for the two signings offer no real explanation other than stressing each player’s ability to score.
On Rodriguez: “He is a big-time player. We have just added a difference-maker to our roster. He’s a player who is physical, skilled and knows how to score.. He causes stress on defenses by closing down and pressing.”
On Ibarra:“We have been looking for some change-of-game pace for the team and that’s one of the best things Romario does: He changes games with his pace and he challenges defenders.”
Maybe there is a huge surprise, a big change, in the works for the defense. The Loons did shock everyone earlier this week when they drilled on set pieces in training ahead of Wednesday’s friendly so…