Tonight’s result was vindication for Adrian Heath. The current Loons gaffer spent the better part of eight years at the helm for Orlando City, taking them from an expansion USL side in Austin to MLS before he was relieved of his duties midway through last season. Minnesota United assistant coach Mark Watson told StarTribune reporter Megan Ryan earlier this week that Heath felt that the firing was “extremely personal” to Heath and that the Loons manager would relish in winning against his former side. Heath’s sly smile at the end of the whistle said it all tonight as his squad rallied around him and defeated Orlando City 1-0.
Minnesota’s plans were thrown into flux just prior to tonight’s match as Kevin Molino ended up as a late scratch due to an undisclosed illness. Ismaila Jome, who had been used as a sub in a handful of games recently, was called upon to make his first MLS start. Johan Venegas, who seemed firmly in Heath’s doghouse returned to the lineup in place of the injured Abu Danladi, and the Costa Rican International strung together a “man of the match” quality performance.
The Loons came out of the gates lethargic, which was hardly surprising given the fact that it often takes them about fifteen minutes to truly settle into the game. Orlando was able to take the play directly to the Minnesota backline, which resulted in a couple of early chances for the Lions. Eventually, Orlando fullback Scott Sutter made his way into the box in the seventh minute and he fired a shot that just crept wide of the post. Cyle Larin then found himself with the ball at his feet in the box just three minutes later but Bobby Shuttleworth was able to make a quick close-range save which kept the game scoreless.
Shuttleworth was called upon again in the 23rd minute when Matias Perez Garcia unleashed a free-kick that seemed destined to go in near post. The former Revolution keeper made an agile diving save and was able to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
The Loons mustered just two shot attempts in the first half and nearly went down by a goal with less than ten minutes to play in the opening part of the match. Orlando forward Carlos Rivas got free behind the Minnesota backline and ended up in a one-on-one with Shuttleworth but Rivas’ shot ended up ricocheting off the far post and somehow managed to stay out of the back of the net. Orlando was unable to capitalize on their handful of solid attacking plays and the two sides went into the half locked in a scoreless draw.
Minnesota manager Adrian Heath has done a fantastic job at making half-time adjustments so far this season, as evidenced by the fact that the team has scored 15 of their 19 goals in the second half so far in 2017. The Loons were able to control the play early in the second half, and they eventually were able to break through and take the lead with about thirty minutes left.
Ibson, who has been a fantastic fulcrum for the team as of late, played a quick ball into Johan Venegas who made an unbelievable flick which put the ball into acres of space. Christian Ramirez steered his way into the path of the ball, winning it away from Orlando keeper Joe Bendik. With a seemingly wide open net, the Loons leading scorer was patient on the ball, waiting the perfect amount of time to draw the two defenders out before emphatically smacking it into the back of the net. This goal was a complete one-eighty from last week’s debacle where Ibarra slipped a ball into Ramirez in space and Ramirez shot the ball too quickly which allowed the Galaxy to make a goalline clearance.
This is simply magnificent from Ibson. pic.twitter.com/vAUurUUg7m— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) May 28, 2017
After Minnesota United broke the tie, the Loons were able to impose their will on the visitors and ended up with plenty of possession in the last half-hour. Among the highlights in the last stretch of the game was an athletic play by Ibson, which resembled a “spinaroonie” from WWE legend Booker T. MNUFC’s defense was able to mark Cyle Larin tightly all game, and they really clamped down towards the end and were able to keep a clean sheet which secured the team’s first victory in three games.
All-in-all, it wasn’t exactly the most well-played game by both sides but the Loons walked away with three points and that’s all that mattered. Ish Jome filled in admirably for Kevin Molino and Johan Venegas firmly cemented his place in the team’s starting eleven for the foreseeable future with a gutsy performance. Next up for the Loons is a road game against Sporting Kansas City, a team that Minnesota beat a home just three weeks ago.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Who was your man of the match? Let us know in the comments below.