So, that happened.
Minnesota United were destroyed/spanked/crushed (take your pick of destructive verbs) by Portland Timbers FC, 5-1. The scoreline really makes the match look a lot more one-sided than it was. Upon taking a deeper look at the game I’ve realized it wasn’t all bad.
First off, it was MNUFC’s Major League Soccer debut. That in itself makes this game pretty awesome. We got to see our club, little old Minnesota United, play against the Portland Timbers in one of MLS’ most iconic stadiums, Providence Park. If that isn’t reason to have some happy memories from last night’s match, then I don’t know what is.
We saw some good, some bad, and certainly some ugly from our players in the match. Keeping with the optimistic tone of this review, I’ll focus on the good:
Francisco Calvo showed that he will be a star at this level of soccer. Many fans (myself included) had some reservations over his ability to defend, but those fears were quenched last night. Calvo was the savior of our back line, clearing a loose ball on several occasions and making some nice tackles in the box.
As far as the rest of our defending corps goes, we don’t need to be going completely #PANIC yet. Vadim Demidov was clearly not at his best and we know that he is a better center-back than to give up a penalty alongside some sloppy defending. Justin Davis seemed to be a little nervous, which is completely understandable. When he is thinking clearly and not trying to head the ball to our keeper in traffic he is a much better fullback than what he showed (see above). In order to keep this article positive I will stay away from discussing Jermaine Taylor, but I do have some good things to say on GK John Alvbage. He showed some leadership in directing our defenders around, and was put in very difficult situations where making saves was far from possible.
Mohammed Saeid and Collen Warner proved they can handle playing defensive midfield in MLS. Warner did pick up an unfortunate yellow card, but he and Saeid were able to play physical defense, as well as stay involved on the offensive side of play as well. It also needs to be noted that Portland’s attacking combination of Valeri-Nagbe-Adi-Blanco is one of the best in the league on paper, and it looks as if it will be that way on the pitch as well.
Kevin Molino will live up to the hype and maybe even exceed it. He put several shots on target from distance and forced Portland to give him a fair amount of focus. Bashkim Kadrii took a little while to warm up, but by the time he was subbed off for Miguel Ibarra in the second half he was looking threatening. In my eyes, Johan Venegas deserves the man of the match award. He had the difficult job of working alone in the attacking box and wasn’t getting much support from his midfielders. Once Christian Ramirez was subbed on the Loons changed their shape to a 4-2-3-1 with Venegas as a central attacking midfielder, or number 10. He showed a fantastic ability to track back into central midfield and his assist to Ramirez was sublime. If he can reliably play in that number 10 role, the 4-2-3-1 looks like an appetizing formation. Ramirez and Ibarra didn’t see much action, but we already know that they have skills that could translate well in future MLS matches.
The statistics from the match are far less disproportionate than one would expect. Minnesota United had 53.6% possession and similar numbers to Portland in total shots and passing accuracy. This reflects the quality soccer played by the Loons in the middle section of the second half where they snagged the loan goal.
As rough as some parts of the match were, Minnesota United showed that there’s signs of hope in many of our players. Hopefully the result will be flipped in the home opener next week against Atlanta United.
And no matter how bad we do, we can't be relegated!
Agree that this match wasn't all bad? Let us know below!