MN United

Player Ratings: Heath’s Stubborn Substitution Policy Holds Loons Back

Minnesota United FC clinched their progress into the knockout stages of the MLS is Back Tournament with a 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night.

Ethan Finlay’s two goals were the highlight of the night from a Loons perspective. Questions must be asked of some of Minnesota’s leaders on the night, however, particularly its manager’s delayed rotations, which appear to cost them points and first place in the group.

Positives

Unblemished. The Loons remain undefeated in this campaign thus far and that’s certainly a drastic improvement on years past.

Negatives

Tactics. Adrian Heath makes a lot of good decisions for the club, but making adjustments on the fly is certainly a weak spot at times.

Coach Rating Out of 10

3 — Wednesday must be seen as a damning indictment of Heath’s substitution policy. His squad looked bereft of energy or offense as the clock ticked down. A draw appeared inevitable. In the 86th minute, a time usually saved for substitutions that slow down the game and give players rest, Heath finally brought on his second and third subs of the match.

Keep in mind that they’re playing in Florida. In July. In a match where he’s allotted five substitutions.

Now comes the cherry on top: Heath’s team looked immensely better after bringing on fresh legs. Worse yet: The Loons managed just three shots in the second half prior to the substitutions. After those subs, Minnesota had seven shots in just nine minutes of action. The Loons looked likely to score in that final stretch, and it’s easy to imagine if they had more time that they would have.

Instead, Heath’s dithering cost them. As a result, United must now face MLS’s hottest team in the next round: Columbus Crew SC.

Player ratings

1-10 | 10 = Best
*Players introduced late may get no rating

GK Tyler Miller, 4 — Maybe it’s my fault and I keep comparing him to last year’s MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Vito Mannone. But for my money, he’s culpable for the equalizer and ultimately, United dropping two points. Yes, Jonathan Lewis’ strike was thumped, but Miller is able to get a full hand on it and doesn’t keep it out. Mannone keeps that out.

RB Romain Metanire, 7 — The Malagasy international is rounding into form. He looks fit and full of running once again. He provided a superb assist for the go-ahead goal. Makes you wonder, though, why isn’t he operating in advanced positions more often? United always seems to play far better when he does.

CB Michael Boxall, 4 — Has been steady throughout the return of play, but was despairingly out of position for Colorado’s opener. His partner, Jose Aja, had things under control until he wildly over-pursued.

CB Jose Aja, 6 — A solid performance here from Ike Opara’s stand-in. He was assured in his defense duties, made the hard challenges when necessary and also displayed an array of impressive passes for a center back in MLS. Based on this showing and on his growing body of work, he’s entrenched as the club’s No. 3 CB.

LB Chase Gasper, 6 — Like Metanire, he looks his most dynamic when he gets forward, so Heath should encourage that more. His consistency is marvelous — he essentially never has a negative impact on the team.

CM Jan Gregus, 7.5 — This rating is for his set piece delivery alone and his assist for United’s first goal. Right now, he’s the best dead-ball specialist in the league, in my opinion.

CM Ozzie Alonso, 6 (8 minus 2) — He’s so good. He’s so sturdy. He’s so valuable to this team. His ability to control tempo and possession is paramount for the Loons. A brilliant example of this was his part in United’s second goal.

Alonso takes the ball all the way from his own box to the center circle, not because he’s pacey, but because his intelligence and passing acumen forces Colorado player’s to continually back off him. When they do finally engage, he adeptly draws in one more defender before laying it on a plate to Metanire. Alonso has created the mismatch, he’s created the platform for Finlay and Metanire to put the finishing touches on a brilliant move. Most MLS players would have just dished this ball out to Metanire earlier to make sure they just retain position. But in doing that, you’d give them plenty of time to shift over and smother any possible danger. The timing makes this play possible, and that’s all thanks to Alonso.

Unfortunately, I have to take two points of Alonso’s rating since it was his dive that led to the first goal.

CM Hassani Dotson, 5 — A far better performance than his first post-quarantine showing. His running, touch and passing all looked back to the Dotson we’re familiar with. That said, he still didn’t look quite as good as he can.

RW Ethan Finlay, 8 — Great performance from Finlay to bag both goals.

LW Robin Lod, 3.5 — In fairness to him, he was United’s best threat in their last game against Sporting KC. On the other hand, he’s such a peripheral figure for a majority of matches that it completely befuddles the mind as to why Heath doesn’t rotate him with Thomas Chacon and/or Raheem Edwards. He has to lose his place at some point if this keeps up; he just has to.

ST Luis Amarilla, 4.5  — Amarilla doesn’t look at full speed right now. Hopefully, for United’s sake, Heath isn’t shoehorning him into the lineup before he’s ready.

Substitutes

ST Aaron Schoenfeld, 5 — Did nothing too noteworthy, but did offer industry when coming on. Not to diminish what he’s brought the team since it mostly has been a net-positive, but the more time he’s gotten, the more he looks like we presumed him to be entering the season: third-string.

LM Raheem Edwards, N/A — Impossible to give him a rating considering he barely played nine minutes. Withholding Hairston and him from contributing until it was too late must be deemed especially inexplicable considering how much better Minnesota’s thrust forward was after they entered the fray. Edwards in particular must be wondering what he has to do to earn more minutes on this team.

RM Marlon Hairston, N/A

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