Playing the team tied for first in the Western Conference, who sits as the best defensive team (statistically) in the MLS, all on national TV (well, FS1), Minnesota United FC showed up. They did not play like a scared team in the bottom of the barrel of the Western Conference.
Quite the contrary, in fact. They won 2-0.
Keeping in mind this was Kansas City’s third game in a week, the game was still probably Minnesota’s best tactical game of the season. The clean sheet was the easiest thing to point to, but their balance offensively was wonderful as well.
“Probably the most complete 90 [minutes of play] that we’ve had in terms of both sides of the ball,” head man Adrian Heath said after the game. “We spoke about it in the week: we’ve had games where we look as though we’re a real threat going forward and then we’ve had days where we’ve been solid [defensively], but actually getting into both sides in one game, this is probably the best we’ve looked.”
Both goals came off beautiful feeds from Team USA member Miguel Ibarra. He first set up spot start Abu Danladi for his first goal with the club.
He followed it up with a perfect feed to Christian Ramirez, who finished his pass with an easy header. It was a game that could have had more goals, including a called off goal (due to offsides) that would have given Danladi his first 2 career MNUFC goals in the same game.
Still, Danladi getting a goal was big, and he can build on that to bring himself more playing time, Heath says.
“That’s up to him, he needs to keep working,” he said of his youngster. “I only pick the team, the players work themselves.”
In a way, there was a role reversal today. This was just the Loons’ second clean sheet of the season. Previous to that, they had given up 25 goals in 9 games. Today’s two goals for United now make up 40 percent of Kansas City’s conceded goals all season. Yes, they had only given up 3 scores in their previous 9 matches.
As smooth and seamless as the score may let on, this was literal bloodshed to get to this result. After more than one knock to the face by the game ball (off 8 shots on goal), Bobby Shuttleworth needed medical attention for a substantial period of the second half. Here was the result:
In addition, a collision between Shuttleworth and Francisco Calvo kept their caption on the ground for a few minutes as well, which subsequently led to a mini-brawl breaking out between both clubs. Mainly between Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer and Minnesota’s Sam Cronin.
“He came in aggressive on me, and I didn’t appreciate the way he came in, so I just tried to stand up for myself,” Cronin explained. “He flopped on the ground, and it was just a big scuffle. It was just a part of the game. It’s fine.”
After going 2-1-0 on a 3-game homestand, United will not hit the road until May 21. Next week, they’ll face Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and the East leading Toronto FC.
Going into the game tonight, United was tied for second to last in the West with eight points. This win puts them more in the middle, technically speaking. The upcoming road trip features elite competition, but Heath’s unwavering confidence remains.
“I think we showed a few people we are getting better, and this team, you have to take us seriously because if you don’t, we have too much talent not to hurt you.”