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Massive Overreactions from the Carolina Challenge Cup

Let’s not panic...or maybe we should?

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota United played five publicly announced games in preseason over the past few weeks. Two were against college teams, one was against a USL side, and two were against MLS teams. What can we glean, if anything, from those games.


During the Carolina Challenge Cup we managed one goal. A single goal, and not even from open play. Kevin Molino tucked away a penalty kick against Atlanta after Rasmus Schuller carried the ball into the box and was brought down. In the first game against Charlotte they managed to carve out one dangerous opportunity that was well saved by the Battery keeper. Against Atlanta? Nothing. Against Columbus? Nothing. I’m putting less weight on the games against college teams because they were clearly outmatched and Kevin Molino vs 18 year-olds isn’t exactly a fair fight. Abu Danladi was isolated against Atlanta and Christian Ramirez was isolated against Columbus. While Ramirez had the strength to hold the ball up and Danladi had the speed to stretch the defense, neither had the guile to do it all on their own and needed some support from the rest of the midfield. Support that rarely came.

MLS: MLS Super Draft
Time to consider playing two up top?
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports


The one goal the we did score came from winning the ball high up the field and putting the defense under pressure before they had the time to get set. There was some interplay in the midfield, but not enough to be relied upon repeatedly. Too often only half of the team would press the back line or press halfheartedly and the opponent would pass around the Loons and move the ball upfield. We had players on the edge of the opponent’s box and on our side of halfway, making the field bigger than it needed to be. Pressing the opponent yielded a few chances, but unless we get better at it we’re going to get torn apart. The wings and forward got involved and often times a central midfielder or two, but more bodies committed to the press meant less bodies committed to defense. For a team with a questionable at best defense that relies on numbers, this could get dicey.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


Last year, Bobby Shuttleworth had to be a hero more than anyone should have to be. In preseason, he didn’t look bad, its just that he didn’t do anything special either. Matt Lampson on the other hand was put in the firing line against the second highest scoring team in the league last year. For the most part, he stood his ground and made Chicago question giving him up. The one shot the beat him was an absolute pearler. He didn’t look like he was going to be beaten all night and it took a peach from wonderkid Barco to do it. Shuttleworth was beaten by the Battery on a deflected shot in the Loons 1-0 loss. Maybe he could have done better, maybe not. Against Columbus he let a volley from Higuain slip through his hands and was beaten by a resurgent Gyasi Zardes. The Zardes goal would have been a miracle save, but he absolutely should have kept out the Higuain goal. Last year Shuttleworth was a fan favorite, but this season he may have some competition. The Shuttleworth/Lampson battle may be the most hotly contested spot in the starting XI all season.

MLS: Sporting KC at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the three games were against some of last year’s top teams. Not even the most enthusiastic fan would have been expecting us to put up big numbers. A number other than zero would have been nice, though.

In the end, it’s only preseason. Preseason is a time for experimentation and trying new things. Some things worked: three goals against in two games against two very good teams. Some things didn’t: one goal in three games, and zero goals from open play. The Loons have a week to figure things out, and here’s hoping that preseason doesn’t mean anything.

Save your #PANIC...until next week.