LOS ANGELES, Calif., (May 10, 2018) — With its second match this week and another to come on Saturday — plus a forearm-length list of injuries — Minnesota United found itself pressed to try something a little different when the team arrived at Banc of California Stadium to face expansion side LAFC. Instead of their customary 4-2-3-1 formation, the Loons rolled out in a 4-3-3. This brought three new midfielders into the mix (Collin Martin, Harrison Heath and Maximiano) as well as changing the role of danger man Darwin Quintero a bit. The change in personnel and tactics, though, could not ultimately stand up to one of the league’s hottest teams at home as a pair of goals in the first half proved too big of a hole for MNUFC to climb out of as LAFC came away with three points in a 2-0 win.
“I just thought they were two poor goals for us to concede,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “They did not have to work hard enough. They’re winning headers in the box and then we’re not ready for the second wall because we did not expect him to win it and then we did not deal with it. I thought the first one was a soft one as well. With the team we had out tonight, with no forwards, it made it a mountain to climb after.”
The first 10 minutes of the match had the teams feeling each other — and the woodwork — out. In the sixth minute, forward Diego Rossi fired a left-footed shot from near the edge of the box that looked for all the world like it was heading to the far post but instead hit the post. Barely a minute later, midfielder Darwin Quintero made a lovely and dexterous run through several LAFC defenders before striking his own shot that banged off the left post.
As the teams settled in, it became clear that the tactical shift of moving to the 4-3-3 was helping the shorthanded Loons maintain their defensive shape, particularly through the midfield. But it was also clear that the players on the field wanted for a bit of chemistry and understanding. Passes were often a bit off or a bit slow, and MNUFC struggled to get the ball into the final third.
On the other side, LAFC did a much better job of getting the ball over the top and into dangerous positions. In the 31st minute their work paid off when Rossi got the ball to midfielder Eduard Atuesta, starting in just his second match since signing with LAFC at the end of February. The 20-year-old was patient with the ball near the penalty spot, waiting for defender Francisco Calvo to overcommit before firing it on goal and giving LAFC a 1-0 lead.
Minnesota United responded to the goal well, redoubling its offensive efforts, but an underplayed ball up in the air in the box left the defense on the back foot when forward Latif Blessing won a header over Calvo and forward onto midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye’s foot. He found the back of the net immediately off the volley and doubled the home side’s lead.
“I think [Calvo] should have gone and attacked the ball,” said Heath. “It is as simple as that. It is what it is and we will move on.”
An excellent chance right before the half came to naught for the visitors. In the 43rd minute, midfielder Miguel Ibarra pulled goalkeeper Tyler Miller out of the face of goal to chase him down the right side. Ibarra squared up on the tight shot down the sideline and fired it in, but defender Walker Zimmerman was there to head it over the endline. LAFC headed to the break with a 2-0 lead.
The second half found LAFC in the driver’s seat and MNUFC unable to make themselves a threat. One of the major positives for the Loons, though, was the play of midfielder Maximiano, who started his first match for the team since coming over from Brazil earlier in the season. The 23-year-old showed flashes of defensive potential in the #6 role with several strong tackles and timely interceptions before he was subbed off in the 64th minute for Rasmus Schuller.
“I just don’t as a group think we defended the goal very well all evening,” said Heath. “I was very impressed with their front three; great movement and great pace. At this moment, I didn’t feel, unless Darwin could create something, we had anybody to match what their front three was doing. That made it difficult for us. With that pace, you’re frightened of getting too tight and then they come off and they play and the midfield three are all really comfortable on the ball. It was a tough night for us. We did have some opportunities in the first half. Darwin hit the post. One of them had to go in for us to keep the momentum in the game.”
Minnesota United next returns home to face San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, May 12 in a match that kicks off at 1:00 p.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium. Pre-match coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Go and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Carter Manley, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo, Jerome Thiesson; M Maximiano (Rasmus Schuller 64’), Collin Martin (Frantz Pangop 76’), Harrison Heath; F Alexi Gomez, Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero
MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Brent Kallman, Wyatt Omsberg; M Collen Warner; F Christian Ramirez
LAFC Starting XI: GK Tyler Miller; D Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman, Jordan Harvey (Omar Gaber 65’); M Eduard Atuesta (Calum Mallace 90’), Benny Feilhaber, Latif Blessing, Mark-Anthony Kaye (Lee Nguyen 82’), Carlos Vela; F Diego Rossi
LAFC Unused Subs: GK Charlie Lyon; D Dejan Jakovic, Tristan Blackmon, Joao Moutinho
31’ – Atuesta (Rossi, Vela) – LAFC
37’ – Kaye (Blessing) – LAFC
15’ – Calvo (YC) – MIN
33’ – Martin (YC) – MIN
34’ – Gomez (YC) – MIN
40’ – Atuesta (YC) – LAFC
62’ – Maximiano (YC) – MIN
90’ – Heath (YC) – MIN
MNUFC QUOTE SHEET
MNUFC HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH
On conceding two first half goals…
“I think [Minnesota FC Defender Francisco Calvo] should learn to attack the ball, simple as that. It is what it is and we’ll move on. We’ve got a couple days to get prepared now for what’s going to be a big game for us at home. We’ll watch the video on the way home and decide what we’re going to do on the weekend.”
On overall thoughts on the loss…
“I think it’s the odd slip-up in each game and the goals were, rather than individually, I just don’t think as a group we defended the goal very well all evening. And [LAFC] are good, I did say before I think I was very impressed with their front three. Great movement, great pace, at this moment I didn’t feel as though we could create something or had anybody to sort of match what their front three were doing. And then that made it difficult for us and with that pace, you’re frightened to get in so tight and then they come off and they play and their midfield three are all really comfortable on the ball, so it was a tough night for us. We did have some opportunities in the first half. Darwin [Quintero] hits the post, [Miguel Ibarra] goes around again, one of them has to go in for us to keep the momentum in the game.”
On starting a new midfield…
“It was difficult for [our new midfield] because you’re playing against a team that was in a lot of possessions and they have good rotation in midfield, their all comfortable on the ball, and then because of the threat that they have in front of them, the three front men, they’re difficult to contain.”
MNUFC DEFENDER FRANCISCO CALVO
On shutout loss…
“We’re disappointed for sure. Our team, we could do more, and we accept that. We just gave cheap goals away. When you’re away from home, it’s hard to come back. It is how it is, and now we need to switch our minds, and we have a game in two days.”
On defensive responsibility…
“For the second one, it was my responsibility because I didn’t jump. On the first one, if you think it’s my responsibility, I accept that, but we’re playing 11 [guys] out there. If I make a mistake, I put my chest on it.”
On playing through a mistake…
“Just keep playing and trying to do what is best for the team. You can keep thinking, the whole game, about the mistake, but if it’s on your mind, you can’t play anymore.”
MNUFC GOALKEEPER BOBBY SHUTTLESWORTH
On overall thoughts on tonight’s game…
“Yeah it’s tough, we always knew this was going to be a tough game for us. We had some injuries and rotated the team a little bit. They’re a good team, very well organized, tough to break down, so we knew it was going to be a tough game but obviously we’re disappointed.”
On conceding two goals…
“I’m sure I can go back and look at the video and nitpick things I could do differently. I think the first one obviously was a deflection and then the second one was just a header over the top so I think, yeah of course, I can go back and take a look and I think all of us will want to go back and do that.”
On new starting lineup…
“Obviously this happens during the season, it’s a long year, guys rotate and guys get opportunities. You need to show well and credit to those guys, I think they worked their tails off today and put themselves about. Obviously, it wasn’t good enough for us but I think there was some good play in there. Obviously, a lot of stuff we need to work on as well.”