Tag Archives: Francisco Calvo

Minnesota United v LA Galaxy

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

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.

Featured image: Minnesota United FC Facebook

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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A tale of three Uniteds

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

No, this is not another story about the naming shenanigans that sparked a [forced] rivalry between D.C. United, Atlanta United and Minnesota United. This is a story about one club with a history of three very clear identities before its promotion to MLS. And its ongoing struggle to define itself in its second year at this level.

Over a period of three weeks, MN United supporters have seen three very different teams. First, they watched a club hungry for revenge hold off [another forced] rival Sporting Kansas City to split the points at home. Then, in the final game of a month-long homestand, they saw their superhero Loons demolish Montreal Impact (I know what you’re thinking about Montreal but this story is not about them) and send their captain off to the World Cup with Wonderwall in his ears. And, finally, they travelled to Kansas City… to eat barbeque in anger.

I have already written about facing SKC at home so let’s focus on Montreal and SKC away. Against Montreal, center back and captain Francisco Calvo was determined to end media criticism with his best game of the season before joining the Costa Rica WC squad. And he, along with his linemates, performed quite well (against a lackluster Montreal attack, yeah, I know). So did a trio of Loons from the clear-identity days.

Ibson connected with forward Christian “Superman” Ramirez who found the net in his most beautiful chance yet, after just missing out on a number of assists from DP Darwin Quintero. Then midfielder Miguel “Batman” Ibarra notched one of his own to put United up 2-0 and secure a round of Wonderwall. It was like the good ol’ days in the NASL. Surely, such energetic group play could be repeated against a top team like Sporting?

But even with vocal Michael Boxall taking the captain’s armband and Brent Kallman slotting into Calvo’s place in the lineup; even with the two dancing Brazilians, Ibson and Gomez, paired up again in midfield; even with Batman running full steam for 90 minutes… It was not to be.

Loon defender Tyrone Mears (filling the space usually occupied by injured Jerome Thiesson) scored Minnesota’s only goal on the night. He evened the score just minutes after the club gave up yet another early goal. That goal and the previous paragraph just about sum up the highlights of the match.

The Loons would fall 4-1 in a performance that saw numerous turnovers in midfield (many by Gomez), defensive miscues following each midfield disaster, very few shots taken (because it’s hard to shoot if you can’t carry the ball into the final third) and a strange lack of connection between Quintero and Ramirez after weeks of moderately successful interplay at home.

It is understandable that this club has not formed an identity for itself in MLS. With so little consistency week to week, what is there to define? The only consistency seems to be in the supporters’ reactions on Twitter, often summed up as: “Well, I guess it could have been worse.”

Featured image: Chris Ramirez striking the ball that put MN up 1-0 against Montreal

Photo by Daniel Mick / DanielMickPhotography.com

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MNUFC faces ever-growing faultline

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, May 12: 1-3 Loss

Going into Week 11, San Jose Earthquakes had notched just one win. That was way back on opening night, when they hosted Minnesota United. That night, the Loons started a disturbing trend of going two goals in the hole before halftime. They would give up one more in the second half before Minnesota midfielder Kevin Molino got two back to make the stats recorded under the loss look slightly less depressing.

This time around, Superman himself returned to the lineup after two matches off. A good sign in itself. Then the Loons gave up a penalty kick in the second minute.

Minnesota conceded all possession to the Quakes for the first twenty minutes, allowing themselves to be dispossessed much too easily, failing to carry the ball out of their own half over and over and over again.

Until a pass finally found the right foot of Superman in the 26th minute. And wasn’t it pretty?

He nearly added a brace in the 41st. It would’ve counted in FIFA, but in real life, it dinged the crossbar and was cleared. Defender Jerome Thiesson nearly scored in the first half’s injury time (that one wouldn’t have counted in FIFA), but they went to the locker room deadlocked.

In keeping with debut trends, making his MLS debut this day was referee Victor Rives. And what a performance it was. No one in the black and gray was happy with him after the match, least of all Adrian Heath and Francisco Calvo, especially after this play:

It wasn’t all Rives’ fault though. Sure, some calls (or the lack thereof) were debatable, but Minnesota had plenty of opportunities to take control. Instead, they forgot to put the cap back on the Hoesensauce bottle and paid dearly for their mistake. A lurking Danny Hoesen was assisted by Chris Wondolowski in what may have been the most easily poached goal allowed this season. And open-air TCF Bank Stadium seemingly deflated.

Wondo notched another on a penalty. And so the Loons dropped another perfectly winnable game to the least-winningest team in the west.

You can point to as many mistakes as you want and Calvo knows you will:

“If you want to point at me, point at me. I’ve been playing as a pro eight years. So, I know what this pressure is. So, if you want to say Calvo is doing mistakes, Calvo is not playing well, you can say whatever you want. But we are 11 on the field. Alright? So, if you want to talk, talk about the team. Don’t talk about me or any of my teammates.”

But the bottom line is this: If United can’t find a way to link their play from one end of the pitch to the other – for all eleven to work the same game plan, to play with the same energy and focus during the same match – they will have much bigger problems than San Jose.

And so it goes in the North.

Featured image: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Goals are great, but not enough for a MNUFC win

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, April 14: 3-2 Loss

Last week’s Minnesota United FC story was all about the positive expectations of Darwin Quintero’s debut, the fuel he could bring to the Loons’ offense. Against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night, he performed exactly as fans had hoped. The match gave some insight into the goal-scoring potential of the Loons’ attack with Quintero on the squad.

Unfortunately, the match also showcased the weakness that has proven to be the club’s Achilles heel since their major league debut.

Defense.

Powell was gifted a chance just 20 minutes in when, as described by the home side’s commentators, “he had the freedom to move forward” and “he had both defenders at his disposal.” Those defenders were Marc Burch, who found himself on the wrong side of his mark, and Francisco Calvo, who couldn’t beat Powell back to the box. Minutes later Powell is allowed plenty of space to feed Valeri, who was hanging out with little cover in front of the goal just waiting for a chance.

Similar scenes would play out again with Portland given plenty of chances to score. They would end with three goals, a fourth having been ruled offside.

Yes, Minnesota’s offense had plenty of beautiful chances as well. Darwin “The Scientist” Quintero notched his first MLS goal on a throw-in by rookie Carter Manley and, kind of,  notched a second when his volley was knocked in by a Portland defender who mistimed his clearance. Ibarra knocked one in which was ruled offside, then had a near miss later on. Ramirez, still yet to score this season, just missed a header assisted by Quintero and nearly executed a turn-and-shoot move which served him well in the NASL, but was off frame this go around.

The bye-week attitude was, ‘Sure, defense is necessary, but so are goals.’ After this weekend, having gifted Portland their first win of the season, it’s the reverse: Goals are great, but they mean nothing without defense.

If the Loons’ defense cannot hold up this coming Sunday, they risk giving last-place Seattle Sounders their first win of the season just as they did for Portland on Saturday. This weekend, Minnesota needs a well-rested defensive line of match-fit players who communicate successfully to stand strong against Seattle’s attack.

And, yes, they should probably score some goals, too.

Featured image of Quintero courtesy: @MNUFC

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Minnesota United v Atlanta United

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, March 31: 0-1 Loss

Two Uniteds meet again in the frigid cold. One dominates in possession and manpower. The other scores. Or did they?

Last season, Minnesota United lost their inaugural MLS home match to fellow expansion team Atlanta United, 6 – 1, on a league-record breaking, cold and snowy day, known simply as the “Snow Opener” (or “Snowpener” if you’re saving characters on Twitter). In the second home match of their second MLS season, Minnesota had a much different showing. But they still lost. So what went wrong?

The Loons were set up for an attack-heavy game, with a recovered Abu Danladi starting at forward in the preferred 4-2-3-1. Speed was favored over Christian Ramirez’s size up front. But Atlanta came out with a 3-4-1-2 setup, fronted by Josef Martinez and Hector Villalba, to exploit Minnesota’s defensive weaknesses. The focus on speed led to a frantic start, with Atlanta drawing a yellow card before the first minute mark.

Shortly thereafter, Atlanta scored on a corner, when a ball blocked by Matt Lampson was then redirected by Minnesota defenseman Francisco Calvo. His own-goal would seal the game.

Minnesota fans rightfully expected the game to turn around after Atlanta’s Gonzalez Pirez was sent off in the 37th minute. Surely the Loons couldn’t lose a match in which they would go on to dominate with 70.7 percent possession and while up a man.

Unfortunately, Danladi’s youth and speed did not figure into this match. He had some great attempts in the box, attempting to flick the ball around Atlanta’s defense, but seemed lost in the sea of peach-and-white. Ramirez, subbing in late, looked more comfortable in the box, but again saw no results. Rookie Mason Toye also looked dangerous in his few touches but has yet to find the net.

However, while both sides were focused on playing up high, chipping away at every gap in the other’s backline, Atlanta did the best job of closing in within the box. Despite being down a man, Atlanta fought off a number of crosses and keeper Brad Guzan put in a solid night’s work of blocking dangerous chances.

Saturday’s 1-0 loss was definitely an improvement over the “Snowpener” result. Coach Adrian Heath told the press after the match, “Overall, I’m absolutely delighted with my players […] and I feel for them tonight because they did not deserve to come out of the game with nothing.”

On why Atlanta succeeded where Minnesota didn’t: “We must have put seven or eight crosses in the box and I didn’t see anybody getting across the front of anybody […] Yeah, they (Atlanta) were a little bit dangerous on the counterattack. That’s what you get when you spend millions and millions of dollars on players.”

Next week, the Loons have a much-needed bye week. After time for recovery and training, we may discover exactly what potential this year’s squad might have.

Featured image courtesy: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale