United, individuals look off-kilter all evening
This was among the select few times in the last three months where Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath would have felt unbridled disappointment in his charges. It could also be categorized among the few occasions all season where effort and drive could be questioned throughout the squad.
Minnesota salvaged a draw with Orlando City on Saturday night, but throughout the majority of the evening, the Loons attack looked utterly discombobulated.
“[We’ve] got to do better, I just told the players,” Heath said. “[We] can’t keep getting our football between both boxes. Tonight at times, [our football] has been absolutely outstanding. [There] was just not enough quality in the final third… We’ve got to do better, individually and collectively.”
Individually, there was a number of culprits. Darwin Quintero and Robin Lod were woefully uninspired, and especially so in the second half. Quintero looked far too comfortable sitting atop the forward line as opposed to checking back to the ball, picking it up in midfield pockets as is more his normal flow throughout the game. His movement looked akin to having been informed he needed to run a marathon after the match and therefore should conserve every ounce of energy. His static nature in the second stanza was truly bizarre.
The newly signed Finnish international didn’t look much better as he appeared allergic to running in behind the defense. He attempted almost no take ons or dribbles, which as a winger is unthinkable. Though he did have United’s best chance from open play, this performance is officially a strike against his burgeoning reputation within the team. In a word, concerning.
Ethan Finlay and Kevin Molino, too, underperformed to say the least. This may have been the weakest game I’ve ever seen from Molino. He didn’t look like himself for much of this game, and his effort level seemed especially low. He was the first to be substituted on the night.
Finlay’s issue is potentially even more troubling. He gave his usually lung-busting effort throughout, but his inability to ever connect on a final pass is an issue. He’s majestically good at finding space on the wing, but never to feel confident he’ll be able to deliver the key pass to finish it off. Tonight was Example 1A as he had at least seven crosses with nothing to show for it.
“It’s a disappointment. I’m disappointed that we haven’t got the three points,” Heath said. “I know people might think, well he scored late, it’s a point. I always say to you guys, never underestimate getting a point at any stage of the season. It might prove [to be] really valuable to us moving forward. My overriding thought is the disappointment at this moment.”
Toye’s suspension still hurts
Speaking after Wednesday’s narrow 1-0 win at Allianz Field against the Colorado Rapids, Heath said he was quite displeased with his offense movement and the team’s finishing. To see United’s offense repeat all its early week mistakes makes it doubly concerning.
As I wrote previously in this space, Mason Toye’s red card and subsequent suspension was coming at the most inopportune of times. The last two matches couldn’t have validated that further. For all of United’s shortcomings this week, and it wasn’t all bad, the cardinal sins were lack of runs in behind and poor finishing. Those are the two things Toye has been bringing to the team during his breakout streak.
The fact that Angelo Rodriguez clearly pulled his hamstring in this match and will surely be out for some weeks, gives Toye a golden chance to redeem himself over the next set of fixtures.
“Well, he’s obviously going to be very important now,” Heath said.
The silver lining: Chase Gasper
Go ahead and mark it down. Mark down the evening of Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. That was the night rookie Chase Gasper officially became Minnesota United’s left back of the future.
The Maryland product has been growing in stature ever since he made his debut about halfway through the season. The kid does nothing but bring consistency and solidity to his position. It was once deemed a small sample size, and though 10 games still sort of is, nothing’s changed. Every performance has been quality.
And then there was Saturday night. In no uncertain terms, Gasper was Minnesota’s best performer on the night. Numerically, I would give Gasper’s performance a 9/10 and the next closest finisher would be lucky to get a 7/10. Most of United’s better performers on the night — Hassani Dotson, Jan Gregus and Michael Boxall — would probably end up with a 6/10.
Gasper’s performance especially stood out as he appears to be the only one who will to dribble and take on defenders. As the left back! He also provided the game’s most dangerous crosses — Romain Metanire, Ethan Finlay take notes — all while handling his defensive responsibilities flawlessly.
Fellow rookie Hassani Dotson was also solid in midfield, replacing injured captain Ozzie Alonso.
“I thought Jan [Gregus] and Hassani [Dotson] were excellent. I thought Chase Gasper was maybe the best player on the field,” Heath said. “Absolutely amazing, the two kids, absolutely fantastic.”
Abu finally breaks his duck
It’s been a real tough go as of late for United’s former No. 1 overall pick. His last-minute strike to earn Minnesota the draw was his first goal in his last 17 appearances.
“Well, I think the goal will give him a bit of confidence,” Heath said. “That’s one thing [that] he’s been lacking a little bit of [confidence] as of late so that will help.”