Tag Archives: Francisco Calvo

That Escalated Quickly: MNUFC Trades Calvo To Chicago

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Few Loons have drawn more fury from Minnesota United fans after a poor performance than defender Francisco Calvo. On Friday morning, just two weeks after the perennial captain took a late red and left nine men to finish an ugly match in Toronto, it was announced that Calvo had been traded to Chicago Fire for some GAM and TAM.

For two weeks, fans reveled in a thankless and useless game — a pastime, really (I blame our long, dark winters) — of ‘What if: Heath dropped Calvo?’ What if coach Adrian Heath — who is particularly well-known for his frequent use of the two phrases, ‘We need two or three more good players’ and ‘Players drop and promote themselves’ — dropped the one player whose errors never seem to count against him and acquired a few more players who better fit his system? Of course, this game rarely goes anywhere. However, there are notable exceptions.

Calvo has company in this camp. Two spring immediately to mind: Vadim Demidov and Johann Venegas. Demidov’s star was victim to United’s atrocious goals-against record in the club’s inaugural MLS season and Venegas, who just couldn’t find a way to score a goal while wearing the Black-and-Blue (he’s scored aplenty for Costa Rica and Saprissa) followed him out of MLS not long after.

And so, we find ourselves in an awkward position. A Weezer song about pulling a thread and walking away comes to mind:

I was fully behind Calvo retaining the armband this season despite his obvious reluctance to fill in for Jerry Thiesson on the left at the end of 2018. Throughout the long road trip that kicked off the club’s third MLS season, Calvo showed signs of being a new man, a new captain, in his new role. He was a calm communicator, quick to rally the squad after conceding a goal, shared smiles and handshakes with teammates to loosen them up on the way to a dressing room dressing-down.

But it’s easy to captain a winning team. Simple mistakes have a way of snowballing for this club and Calvo struggled to slow the roll without making desperate attempts by going it alone and building a snowman in the process. Even after the two draws that opened Allianz, while his teammates chatted and joked with one another, Calvo stood alone. He was a large presence in the locker room, but his impact is up for debate. He was always prepared for the media and answered questions evenly, with one notable exception in 2018 when he demanded that one outlet not be part of the scrum because of an unfavorable tweet. He was also not shy about calling out those who discredited Minnesota’s place in the league.

Perhaps that is why he was not made available for interviews last week. Calvo watched Wednesday night’s clash against LA Galaxy from one of Allianz Field’s tech crew boxes while serving his red card suspension and was nowhere to be seen after Sunday’s win against DC United, a match Heath left him out of to avoid “negativity” on the pitch. While both Heath and Manny Lagos, director of player personnel, deny that the red card and what followed were not a factor in the trade, the underlying theme certainly is. Calvo was not productive enough in his role to merit favor under these circumstances.

While a far cry from the $2 million cash offer United is rumored to have received for Calvo over the winter (a story the club’s PR director has been busy denying all day as we Twitter-happy correspondents rehashed the deal), the $200 thousand in GAM and $150 thousand in TAM to be paid out by Chicago over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, those Garber Bucks could go a long way in acquiring some much needed depth in the summer transfer window, if not sooner.

The Loons are sure to show exactly where their biggest weaknesses lie in the first match of the AC (After Calvo) Era on Saturday. While the veteran leadership and teamwork of Ike Opara and Ozzie Alonso, who captained the last two matches, has triumphed and allowed a new-look XI to shine, more moves are needed.

Before I return you to your regularly scheduled programming, “What will Heath do now?”, one more thing. I’ve taken my fair share of shots at Francisco Calvo in the last two years, but there are many ways in which he shines on and off the pitch and for which I greatly respect him. As one of the early international signings in the transition, he brought a lot of new fans to the club and legitimized the endeavor. In that sense, Calvo will always be El Capitan.

Gracias por todo, Capí.

Featured image: @MNUFC

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MNUFC Throws A Tantrum In Toronto

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Supporting a team like Minnesota United is always a trip. You experience the highest highs and the lowest lows, with plenty of boredom in between to keep your ego in check. It’s a life of balance. Not a healthy balance, to be sure, but a balance nonetheless. The Loons may fall from height, but never too far, never too hard, and they typically bounce back fairly quickly.

Occasionally though, they crash and burn. Then they dig the hole a little deeper, back up a few steps and, with a running start, dive into that hole, belly-flop on the bottom and throw a tantrum. This is the scenario we witnessed on Friday in Toronto.

United played a level-headed first half, perhaps the cleanest first half we have seen from them on the road since joining MLS. The midfield was well-composed, the backline was incredibly in sync given the circumstances and the attack showed growing chemistry. This was a surprise given the changes in lineup due to some huge absences: Brent Kallman filled in for Ike Opara at centerback, Rasmus Schuller was in for Miguel Ibarra on the wing (swapping sides with Ethan Finlay) and Angelo Rodriguez got another start at forward after ending his goal drought in the Allianz opener.

Toronto led 2-1 at the half, thanks to Alejandro Pozuelo answering Darwin Quintero’s 17th minute goal, not once, but twice, inside of two minutes. The Loons were not as organized in the second half, showing some fatigue on the cold, wet pitch. Despite the conditions Rodriguez found a second goal to draw level with the home side in the 57th minute.

Then, in the 70th, his smart hold-up play in the box drew a foul and Quintero, as always, converted on the penalty. With a 3-2 lead, United just had to be smart about the final twenty minutes: Disrupt Toronto’s attack (especially Pozuelo, who spotted the defensive gaps instantly in the first half) and make opportunistic plays in the final third to cushion their lead.

They did not do any of that. How bad was it? The only video that made it to the club’s twitter feed is Quintero’s first goal in open play in 2019.

A tired and frustrated squad gave up two more goals to Jordan Hamilton who, having come off the bench in the 73rd minute, scored beautiful goals in the 77th and 79th minutes. That neither Hamilton nor Pozuelo bagged a hat trick was a miracle. It was also a miracle that United coach Adrian Heath made not one, but two substitutes in the 82nd minute. It had appeared that he would be content to let his starters dig themselves out of this hole they dug for themselves, or flounder to the final whistle. Rather than bolster the defense, Heath swapped Schuller for Abu Danladi and Finlay for Kevin Molino.

It was great to see Molino make his first appearance since tearing his ACL in Orlando early in the 2018 season. Every body pressed forward in a desperate attempt to find, at the very least, an equalizer. Toronto, however, returned pressure just as adamantly and the game got a little…. Intense?

Defensive midfielder Jan Gregus, a little tired of being kicked around in his own third, made a hard challenge on Pozuelo which earned him a red card in the 89th minute. Rather than rally his men going into stoppage time, Loons’ captain, Francisco Calvo, made some questionable jabs of his own, earning a yellow card in the 90th minute.

Was that enough to cool him down or convince Heath to make a third substitution? Of course not. Calvo struck out at Auro seconds later. Another yellow. Another man ejected. El Capitan.

He had no words for his squad as he tore off the armband. He simply stalked off the pitch, leaving his teammates to wallow in the final few minutes of added time.

After the final whistle, Kallman stood on the pitch scratching his head while the remaining eight men rehashed the game with the winning side and the coaching staff. He looked shell shocked by the evening’s events. After a remarkably successful start on the road, the Loons crashed and burned Friday night, blowing a 3-2 lead and cancelling out a decent 45 minutes of football.

“It’s really disappointing. We fought and worked so hard to get back into the game. Not only do they get the equalizer but they take the lead,” said Kallman. “To give it away like that is not fun. We got to be better and we got to do a better job of being professional to close out the game. That’s not acceptable.”

It is not acceptable from any player. But from a captain who vocally demands respect from the league? Who has had very few glowing performances to redeem his errors? It’s downright shameful and embarrassing.

Joining #HeathOut in the Minnesota Soccer Twitter lexicon is #CalvoOut. Some well-known names in the soccer community have not been shy this weekend about their hopes that he is made to earn the armband back over a very long period, that others are given a chance to lead, not just in name but by example.

But in reality, it is quite likely that after sitting out Wednesday’s match, Calvo will return to the lineup next weekend, armband and all.

The exhausted, shorthanded Minnesota backline returns to Allianz Field to fend off Zlatan & Co on Wednesday and then Rooney and another United on Sunday. With any luck, the Bat Signal will shine over the Midway and Quintero and Rodriguez will light up the night.

Or, hear me out here, we all just go down to Valleyfair and ride the Wild Thing. That coaster tends to get stuck in the high spots.

Featured image: @MNUFC

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Loons Face A Revolutionary Resurgence

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Saturday, March 30: 2-1 loss

Throughout its first two years in MLS, Minnesota United FC was a terrific matchup for a struggling team. The Loons’ perennial road woes were a gift to any team looking to turn around a losing streak or get a boost of confidence at home. After going 2-1-0 on the road, the Loons returned from the international break expecting their own rebound of sorts in New England, the scene of a catastrophic start for the Revolution.

Rather than get their own boost of confidence over a ramshackle squad, however, the Loons served up yet another comeback for an opponent. I cannot help but think of a scene from a movie full of people facing adversity of all kinds. From Annapolis (pulled from IMDB):

Twins You want to know why I stay in this room?

Jake Huard Yeah.

Twins Cause Jake, you’re my Mississippi.

Jake Huard I’m your what?

Twins People who live in Arkansas, you know what their favorite state is?

Jake Huard No.

Twins Mississippi. Cause Mississippi’s the only thing that keeps Arkansas from being the worst state in the whole country.

Jake Huard I’m Mississippi.

Twins Well you sure as hell ain’t California.[…] That’s why I stay in this room Jake. Cause if Mississippi quits, then all of a sudden Arkansas is the worst state in the whole country.

Minnesota United is certainly less of a Mississippi so far this season, having earned more points in four road games than the team earned on the road all last season. But the fact that this trend continues still stings.

Some huge defensive glitches in the box cost Minnesota the game, most notably when the backline and even ‘keeper Vito Mannone disregarded the man on the back post (Jalil Anibaba) before ten minutes was up and when captain Francisco Calvo got lost outside the box. Those mistakes led to some pretty New England goals.

But there were also some great moments, like midfielder Ethan Finlay getting his first start since his ACL tear last April and making an impact from start to substitution. DP/Striker Angelo Rodriguez also made his first start and succeeded in a few hold-up plays that gave Darwin Quintero chances to find space and take shots. Despite Quintero’s penalty being United’s only goal, the stats show improvement.

The Loons drew five offside calls on Saturday afternoon, more than they drew from the previous three matches combined. They put plenty of pressure on the struggling home side and by all accounts should have taken at least a point. Did you know that one offside is equal to a glimmer of hope? In fact, Calvo would have given his side a shot of life early on if not for the crossbar (and the offside rule) when put his head on a Jan Gregus corner.

So the Loons come home empty handed, but another Minnesota club is incredibly happy this weekend:

Minnesota could have drafted the Minneapolis City SC alum, but instead he became a hero in New England with a little help from the Loons. And with an assist from Teal Bunbury. A Minnesota native.

How awesome is that?

The Loons play one more on the road against the New York Red Bulls before coming home to Allianz Field. One more match to prove they’re not Mississippi to every Arkansas in the league.

Featured image: @MNUFC

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New Season, New Narrative for MNUFC

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United opened the 2019 season by doing something thought impossible just six short months ago: Earning three points on the road and closing out the night on top of the Western Conference. It wasn’t easy though. In fact, that evening in Vancouver started off on a horribly familiar note.

The Vancouver Whitecaps got on the board first, thanks to an unfortunate lapse in the Loons’ defense that threatened to knock their fans right back into the depths of despair just six minutes into what was supposed to be a fresh start. But, rather than collapse into chaos as in the past, the Loons rallied with a United front. The new-look back line (Francisco Calvo on the left, Romain Metanire on the right, Michael Boxall and Ike Opara in the center) appeared motivated—despite an obvious lack of chemistry—to assist the midfield in pushing the ball forward—and keeping it there.

Thanks to some incredible stops by Metanire and simple leadership from newcomers Ozzie Alonso and Jan Gregus, the Loons were able to gain some ground. Calvo, reprising his role as captain and making run after run into the Vancouver half, forced a foul that led to a Darwin Quintero penalty kick in the 37th minute. Of course he nailed it. Minnesota breathed a sigh of relief as the Loons entered the locker room level.

If the start of the match was like an unpleasant blast from the past, the second half was like an alternate reality. One scoring chance after another sprang from the Loons’ front line, which featured Romario Ibarra at forward with Rasmus Schuller, Quintero and Miguel Ibarra, creating in the space behind him. Romario would capitalize eventually, but the Loons’ first run-of-play goal came from the newly branded full back:

Calvo may miss his spot at centerback, but he cemented his place on the wing Saturday night. With the freedom to move forward (without abandoning the ‘keeper), the captain at times led the attack with brilliant runs forward that made space for Quintero and Romario to work the box. With his ability to help finish the job in front of goal, I don’t expect Calvo to return to the centerback position anytime soon.

Another Loon may have earned himself a new position after opening night. With Angelo Rodriguez on the bench injured (he did come on for Romario in the 83rd minute), Romario started at forward instead of on the wing. Though he struggled to finish chances in the first half, he finally connected with a ball from Quintero in the 70th minute (just four minutes after Calvo’s go-ahead goal).

Vancouver would take one back, but it didn’t matter. The Loons came out on top, a 3-2 win on the road.

The best part? It was a team victory. Before entering the locker room at halftime, Calvo rallied his squad for a quick huddle. There was no yelling, no angry gesturing; it was a perfectly healthy regrouping, something we’ve rarely seen from previous squads. The team celebrated each goal as a team and came together again after the final whistle.

Now comes the hard part: The Loons need to build chemistry in training and enter Week Two in San Jose with a 0-0 mindset. 2019 has only just begun.

Featured image: @MNUFC

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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

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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

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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.


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

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