Another bright tournament run from Minnesota United FC ended on Thursday night as the Loons fell to Orlando City SC, 3-1.
United looked to be up for the match and appeared to be the side in the ascendance throughout the first 30 minutes, but Luis Nani’s brace, highlighted by a couple spectacular instances of quality, completely halted Minnesota’s momentum.
The Loons looked a shell of themselves during the middle portion of this match until leading scorer Kevin Molino was introduced. The Trinidad & Tobago international was fantastic throughout his time on the pitch and helped bring the Loons within one with a fabulous assist to Mason Toye.
Ultimately, Minnesota couldn’t complete the comeback and thus were forced to take their first loss of 2020 on the chin. The defeat will hurt, but the club should take many positives with them as they leave the MLS bubble.
Being shorthanded. I’ve said previously one of — if not the — most impressive things about this run from Minnesota is that it felt like consistently they’ve done it with at least one arm tied behind their backs. Tonight’s key example of this was being without Romain Metanire, who would’ve been lined up across Orlando’s most dynamic player Nani.
There were two more examples: Luis Amarilla still not appearing to be at his best and Molino only being available for a portion of this match. When fully fit, and with full use of its DP slots (which we’ll discuss below), you have to walk away from the MLS is Back Tournament feeling confident the Loons can handle any MLS opposition on a given day.
Exasperation. It could seem like an easy excuse, but I really believe Minnesota was low on fuel in this match. Particularly certain players like Ozzie Alonso and Jan Gregus, who just didn’t seem to have the legs to impose themselves as much as they otherwise would.
Coach rating out of 10
7 — It’s hard to see what Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath could have done differently. He played the same starting XI that bulldozed San Jose in the quarterfinals. When things needed adjusting he did so fairly quickly and decisively, bringing on subs en masse in the 58th minute — a massive deviation from Heath’s normal tendency. And despite two preternatural plays from one the league’s best-ever talents, his team were inches from forcing penalties.
This loss falls almost entirely on the players.
There’s one thing I would add though: Remember that Minnesota is one of the rare teams in MLS who is NOT utilizing all three of its allotted designated player slots. Contrast that further by the fact that Orlando’s key difference maker is one of the league’s highest paid DPs. It’s been high time for United to sign its final DP and this match only further served to underline that.
1-10 | 10 = Best
*Players introduced late may get no rating.
GK Tyler Miller, 4 — Did not need to rush out of his goal to assist on Nani’s first goal. Though Hassani Dotson was beaten, Michael Boxall was in a good position to potentially cover, and the danger could have been abated. In no way at fault for the second goal as it was a perfect strike.
RB Hassani Dotson, 6 — Had a solid performance apart from letting Nani drift behind him for the opener. One thing definitely holding him back from being an elite outside back is break-neck pace; he’s got everything else. Did a lot more than a number of his teammates in terms of making this a positive result for his side. His volley shot and last-minute cross were United’s best chances of a dramatic final stanza.
CB Michael Boxall, 5 — Did a good job winning balls in the air. Would have liked to see him hold the defensive line higher to put more pressure on Orlando’s play out through the middle third.
CB Jose Aja, 5 — Barely put a foot wrong and nearly started a fight, so that’s fun.
LB Chase Gasper, 5 — Decision making was another Achilles heel for Minnesota in this match, far too often they chose the wrong option. Gasper, uncharacteristically, was among this group: a number of times he got on the ball he tried to force something that wasn’t there.
This play, however, was as nasty as it gets.
CM Jan Gregus, 2 — Very frustrating match from Gregus. Numerous times his teammates needed help to relieve the intense pressure put on from Orlando’s high-intensity tactics, but he and Alonso were atypically absent more than any other match in recent memory. Furthermore, when down and out, United needed its best to stand up and be counted. Gregus should have been among those thrusting himself into the match by getting on the ball and at least trying to make incisive plays. He was nowhere to be found. Molino’s zestful contributions only highlighted this further.
CM Ozzie Alonso, 3 — Similar to the points on Gregus, and defensively he struggled to make his usual impact of often winning back possession.
CM Jacori Hayes, 4 — A far cry from what Hayes has produced recently. This was a match where it appeared his lack of playing time and chemistry with the starters reared itself and stymied the Loons functionality.
RW Ethan Finlay, 3 — In simple terms, he and Robin Lod just aren’t influential enough. They both have quality, yes. They both can be positive contributors, most certainly. But we’re getting to a point with Minnesota where they need to start measuring themselves against championship standards, not playoff-team standards. It’s been a rapid rise for the franchise, but that’s where we are. The MLS trophy is there to be had. LAFC is, to me, the only MLS team that you can argue is unequivocally better than the Loons.
Thus, other considerations need to be made. It sounds like they very well may be happening soon with the reported signing of Emanuel Reynoso from Boca Juniors.
LW Robin Lod, 3 — See above.
ST Luis Amarilla, 3 — I said last week that a quality striker might be the missing piece for Minnesota in terms of taking the next step. That only seems more true after this match as Amarilla was poor and was among the players who held United back in this one. He is allegedly fully fit, but this performance looked like his others post-injury.
CAM Kevin Molino, 8 — Easily Minnesota’s best performer on the night, Molino provided an inspirational performance against his former club. His assist to Toye, like most of his play tonight, was utterly sublime.
ST Mason Toye, 7.5 — Showed exactly why he should clearly be considered Plan B should Amarilla ever need replacing.
ST Aaron Shoenfeld, N/A
LM Raheem Edwards, N/A