The team on the pitch in the 2-2 draw with Colorado looked virtually nothing like the one that capitulated against Atlanta last week, and I don't just mean in terms of personnel.
Manager Adrian Heath made several changes to his line-up this week, including bringing NASL vets Justin Davis, Brent Kallman, and Miguel Ibarra into the team.
3-time NASL Best XI left back Davis started the first game against Portland but was dropped for the Atlanta match. This week he replaced Jermaine Taylor and certainly brought more pace to the position than the Jamaican did. Although it looks like he might still be adjusting to playing at this level, Davis was doing fine until his unfortunate red card.
Further up the field, winger Miguel Ibarra started in attack alongside his partner-in-crime Christian Ramirez. The chemistry between the two was apparent from the pregame warm ups. Ibarra dovetailed into the attack well, bring pace and danger to the left side of the field.
Minnesota’s own Brent Kallman received his MLS debut in the match as well, partnering Francisco Calvo in the heart of defense to great effect. Kallman’s no-nonsense approach was something the Loons’ backline had been sorely missing so far this season. The Woodbury native stood his ground admirably and headed away everything that came near him. He certainly made a strong case to become a regular starter.
In an effort to add some composure to the midfield, Heath put Ibson on for Rasmus Schuller at half-time, and the Brazilian did not disappoint.
While he could look indifferent at times in the NASL, Ibson looked like the Champions League vet he is against the Rapids. He brings a calm and savvy composure that none of the club’s other midfield options really have. His control in tight spaces and his eye for the right pass helped the Loons retain the ball and prolong possessions.
The match against Colorado was undoubtedly the best the team has played thus far. United scored multiple goals for the first time, got their first ever point, and even briefly held their first lead.
After a pair of disastrous opening games, the #PANIC! was beginning to set in with many fans and pundits. Something clearly needed to be done in order to get the team on track, and credit to the manager for having the bravery to make four changes to his starting line-up.
Ibarra was a constant danger on the left, always looking to get in behind or to run at his fullback. Ramirez is still the only player to score from open play for the team. Ibson helped the club settle the game down a bit in the second half and allowed them to impose themselves a bit more until JD’s sending off.
However, the real standout last night was Brent Kallman. It goes without saying that Minnesota has been poor defensively thus far, having conceded 11 goals in just two games. But Brent wasn’t going to let that happen on his watch.
The hometown hero was named man of the match performance in his first taste of MLS action, and the honor was thoroughly deserved. His athleticism and astute position allowed the Loons the keep Colorado’s offense relatively quiet, even when down to 10 men.
Many people have questioned whether MNUFC’s NASL contingent would be able to make the step up and be successful at this level. But of all the players on the field last night for United, it was those players who stood out.
While there certainly have been (and will continue to be) growing pains in this process, last night those same players acquitted themselves well en route to the club’s first point of the season.
What did you think of the lineup vs. Colorado? Are there other faces you're still waiting to see on the field? Let us know in the comments below