Just when it appeared Minnesota United was set to continue its underwhelming ethos of years past, the Loons found a way to produce one of their best — and most improbable — results yet.
The New York Red Bulls have been among the class of Major League Soccer for years. Last year, New York was so dominant it won the MLS Supporters Shield, the award for best regular season record.
Meanwhile, Minnesota had just dropped points to the lowly New England Revolution and would enter a fifth straight road game without two regulars, including star man and potential MVP candidate Darwin Quintero.
Not only that, but United head coach Adrian Heath decided to employ a completely new formation in the form of a 3-4-3. The adjustment worked an absolute charm as the Loons kept the Red Bulls attack at bay whilst also twice pouncing on the counter-attack to great effect.
“I thought we deserved it,” said Heath. “We looked dangerous on the break all evening. The change in formation certainly helped us and I thought there was a lot of really good performances. But we spoke to the group before the season started and the five games on the road, and we thought that if we could come out with seven or nine [points], it’s been a really, really good start for us.”
Having had to play such a torrid road stretch to begin the season has its benefits as United have now effectively played a third of their entire away game allotment already.
Last season Minnesota mustered just one win away from home. This campaign they’ve already got three.
“It’s been a really, really good start for us,” Heath said. “So we’re delighted… As I said to the players after, it’s been a reasonable start, but we can get better.”
Coach rating out of 10
7.5 — Must be praised for getting this season’s best result and doing so with a majorly reformulated team shape and without two regular starters. The fact that United achieved this without Quintero is massive and the 3-4-3 seemed to certainly do a job against New York.
Select Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best.)
GK Vito Mannone, 8 — Individually he represented a microcosm for United in this match: performed quite poorly last week, but was in tip-top form this weekend. In addition to his 5 saves, the Italian also aggressively came out to claim two crosses that would have otherwise been sure goals.
LM Abu Danladi, 7 — Continues to demonstrate his ability as one of the most talented players on this entire squad. His goal was taken so sweetly as he slotted into the corner first time with no hesitation — durability remains his primary question mark, though, as he didn’t even feature in the second half.
CM Ozzie Alonso, 8 — It’s wildly clear that he’s experienced in the center of the park, and could be of the utmost value throughout this campaign. A lot of his work will be unspectacular, but it’s tight, nervy games like this where he navigates so many squeaky moments and pushes his team across the line.
RM Angelo Rodriguez, 7.5 — His hold-up play is sublime. The Colombian was a catalyst on the night as he played a key role in both Minnesota goals.