Minnesota United FC headed out East for their fourth match of the season, taking on the New York Red Bulls. The Loons walked into the match on a two game win streak, previously beating both the Chicago Fire and Orlando City. On match day 4, the Loons knew that they would face one of the toughest teams in the East, and to make matters even more difficult, a string of injuries and international call-ups hit the back line of the team prior to today's match. Fullbacks Tyrone Mears and Jerome Theisson were both ruled out with injuries, while Center back duo Michael Boxall and Francisco Calvo were both off captaining their national teams in friendly matches. In addition to the back line, central midfielder Rasmus Schuller was called up for international-duty as well. All-in-all, the Loons were to miss five players today, and they knew it would be an uphill battle to go into Red Bull Arena and come out with three points.
This is how the team lined up going into the match.
How we look tonight vs. the @NewYorkRedBulls— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) March 24, 2018
4-2-3-1 | #ScarvesUpMN pic.twitter.com/TfFImZimT1
Head coach Adrian Heath had to make decisions on his back line, and he ended up giving professional debuts to rookies Wyatt Omsberg and Carter Manley while pairing them with veterans Marc Burch and Brent Kallman. The lineup featured two professional debuts, while also having three players on the bench without an appearance under their belt; Owundi, Pangop and Heath.
The game kicked off and from the opening whistle it was fairly visible that the Loons were outclassed. Ibson was the only Loons player who stood out in the opening 15 minutes, and the team just seemed shook. The squad attempted to create chances and possession early on, but they couldn't develop anything concrete. Their early lapse in the game led to an opening goal in the fifteenth minute from Alex Muyl of the Red Bulls. Marc Burch lost his track on the attacker, and he slotted his shot in the bottom corner to put his side up 1-0. The early goal for NYRB led to a consistent amount of possession for their side. Constant giveaways around the back line accompanied by miscommunication led to a series of attacks in the following twenty minutes. The Loons had a few counter attacks mixed in, but they never led to anything concrete. In the 39th minute, midfielder Collen Warner received a yellow card for an unnecessary challenge, and that was what was written on the score-sheet for the Loons in the first half. Bradley Wright-Philips, the magician himself, lobbed a beautiful shot over Matt Lampson just before the halftime whistle. The scoreline at the half was in favor of the home side, and rightfully so.
We got our work cut out for us in the second half— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) March 24, 2018
HT | #RBNYvMIN | 2-0 pic.twitter.com/Ln7gORDMh5
The second half for the Loons started out the same way, if not worse, than the opening minute. Chaotic spells of possession nearly gave the Red Bulls a go-ahead third goal, but luckily Brent Kallman played hero to save the day. The Loons first real opportunity of the game then came in the 54th minute when Christian Ramirez flicked on a nice cross to Ethan Finlay, who ripped a shot from a tight angle at Luis Robles. The NYRB keeper pawed the shot away for a corner, and that was that. The Red Bulls countered right away and it led to Bradley Wright-Philips knocking a bullet of a shot off the woodwork. The press from the home side didn’t stop there, as they countered again, this time with Alex Muyl. The attacker blocked a Brent Kallman clearance and launched a shot on frame, but the defender picked himself up and got in the way of the shot to correct his mistake. This all occurred within a 10 minute span prior to the 60th minute. In the 64th minute, Adrian Heath subbed on Abu Danladi for Christian Ramirez, hoping to add some pace to the attack. Tonight was the strikers first appearance since going off injured in week 1. Continuing to add to the attack, Heath also subbed on Mason Toye and Frantz Pangop. Pangop came on for Miguel Ibarra, which was ultimately his MLS debut! Toye entered the game for Sam Nicholson, which switched up the formation to the classic 4-4-2.
The three attacking subs came on with about 20-25 minutes to spare, and the fan base was hoping this injection of pace could secure a goal for the Loons and possibly start a late game-charge. The change didn’t effect the game too much, but it did add a bit of pace to the counter attack. in the 78th minute, Bradley Wright-Philips added a third for the home side, and ultimately the dagger. The goal was a beautiful chip over Matt Lampson, who was questionably out of position for both of the BWP goals. The Loons best attempt of the game came in the 81st minute from Abu Danladi, who headed the ball on target but Luis Robles produced a fantastic wonder save to deny him. Following that attempt, Mason Toye registered a shot on frame but Danladi got in the way of it; a perfect explanation of how the Loons attack went throughout the night. The Red Bulls nearly added a fourth in stoppage time, but Lampson did well to get in the way of a Rivas shot.
That was all she wrote, a lackluster performance against an amazing New York side. Most people expected the Red Bulls to come out on top, as did the squad it seemed. The Loons shy’d away from aggression and competitiveness and it was written from the opening whistle. Fans should have zero reason to worry though, because of the fact that it was our 2nd string defense out there. The fact that the squad held them to three goals is actually quite the feat. Bradley Wright-Philips is easily the most dominant scorer in MLS and hes proven that in the past five years. Rookies Wyatt Omsberg and Carter Manley didn’t play terribly, but they also didn’t stand out. Omsberg had the better game between the two, but overall they should be happy with their professional debuts. Brent Kallman and Ibson stood out as the best players on the pitch today for the Loons, with Ibson orchestrating almost every sequence of possession and Kallman leading a young an inexperienced defense. The Loons head back home next weekend to take on expansion rivals Atlanta United, with the game being changed from Sunday at 1pm to Saturday at 7pm.
What were your thoughts on the game? Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave comments in the comment section or on twitter. See you next weekend, Loons faithful.