MN United beats Colorado 1-0 for 2nd straight home victory

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (April 23, 2017) — In their first home match since dispatching Real Salt Lake 4-2, MNUFC held the visiting Colorado Rapids scoreless in front of 17,491 fans to earn the team’s first clean sheet in MLS. A heavily possession-based match, each goalkeeper stopped three shots. Unfortunately for the Rapids, the Loons took four shots on goal, enough to gut out a 1-0 win to kick off their first homestand of the season.

The first half was dominated by alternating possession play in midfield. That wasn’t all that unusual for Colorado, a team that thrives on limiting opportunities from the opposition and eking out defensive wins — they came into this match having allowed just eight goals, but they’ve also scored only five.

It was a little more unusual for a Minnesota side that’s shown dynamic attacking play all season long, even during their early struggles. The back four in particular had drawn heat but Head Coach Adrian Heath saw much to praise tonight.

“They’ve had a lot of criticism,” he said. “The one area of our team which has had a lot of praise is our attacking play. I thought it was reversed today. I didn’t think our front four were as good as they have been. Combination play and just being a threat — wasn’t as good as it has been. But I was pleased for the defenders because people who’ve been out to training know how much hard work they put into it. For them to get a clean sheet and defend the box the way they did at the end of the game, I’m really pleased for them.”

The bulk of the first half was given over to probing by both sides with Minnesota stringing better possessions together while Colorado seemed to slightly win out in the quality of their chances — although one of their best by forward Kevin Doyle ended with Doyle bicycle kicking the ball into his own head. Overall, each team seemed to be gauging the opposition, alternately building up and breaking out without much success either way.

“I thought we started really slowly this evening and let the opposition take the initiative and control possession, which is something that I don’t particularly like,” said Heath. “Anybody who knows me knows that I like to control the game through possession and we didn’t do that tonight. We had a few words at halftime and I thought we were a lot better in the second half.”

The MNUFC team that came out of the tunnel to start the second looked looser, more opportunistic. Within the first few minutes they had a pair of free kick opportunities and then in the 54th minute, a terrific opportunity went begging when goalkeeper Zach MacMath barely got a finger on a close range shot by midfielder Kevin Molino. As the ball dribbled away from MacMath, forward Christian Ramirez swooped in but was narrowly beat out by a Rapids defender who toed it past the endline.
It wasn’t long before Colorado got a good look, but forward Dominique Badji dinged the crossbar and Shuttleworth made a clutch save off the second shot in the 61st minute. Moments later, midfielder Johan Venegas crossed the ball into Ramirez and MacMath saved it over the bar.

The pressure was beginning to mount and it was the Loons who cashed in. Midfielder Ibson’s shot in the 72nd minute found the post and as it floated out, Venegas headed it across the face of goal and found a diving Miguel Ibarra who put it away for his first MLS goal.

“I don’t really do that often,” said Ibarra of the diving header. “So it was actually a surprise for me to be there in the box. I think it was an important goal for the team. Most important was that we got the three points. Just keeping that shutout and getting three points was really important.”

Down the stretch, MNUFC shifted to a more defensive posture and stopped several Colorado threats in the box. Shuttleworth came up big a few times as the team worked to shut the match down and was gratified to come away with the win and the shutout.

“We’ve been working on our shape tirelessly in training,” said Shuttleworth. “The coaches have really been harping on it because we’ve been conceding a lot of goals and it feels good for the group to kind of dig in. I’m sure everyone feels how gratifying it is to be consistently putting in that work and finally see some results.”

“Another tough game, but we want to keep winning at home,” said Heath. “We want to make this a fortress. Sometimes you get scrappy 1-nil wins. I’ve played in games where you don’t really deserve anything. I think attacking-wise today, it was probably the worst we’ve been since the opening day of the season. But we got the result that I think the players deserved.”

MNUFC will be back at TCF Bank Stadium again next week to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, April 29 at 7 p.m. Coverage on My29 and 1500 ESPN kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

Lineups

Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Marc Burch, Francisco Calvo, Brent Kallman (Jermaine Taylor 66’), Jerome Thiesson; M Sam Cronin, Ibson, Kevin Molino (Justin Davis 84’), Johan Venegas, Miguel Ibarra (Abu Danladi 85’); F Christian Ramirez

MIN Unused Subs: GK John Alvbage; M Collen Warner, Bashkim Kadrii, Ismaila Jome

Colorado Rapids Starting XI: GK Zac MacMath; D Eric Miller, Bobby Burling, Kortne Ford, Mekeil Williams; M Dillon Powers, Michael Azira, Marlon Hairston, Mohammed Saeid, Dominique Badji (Alan Gordon 75’); F Kevin Doyle

COL Unused Subs: GK John Berner; D Mike da Fonte; M Josh Gatt, Sam Hamilton, Ricardo Perez; F Caleb Calvert

Match Events

Goals
72’ – Ibarra (J. Venegas) – MIN

Discipline
18’ – Badji (YC) – COL
33’ – Molino (YC) – MIN
90+2’ – Williams (YC) – YC

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