In a way, Saturday’s warm weather (92 degrees at kickoff) actually helped Minnesota United to see off the Montreal Impact.
The help wasn’t the heat itself, but the 30th minute hydration break that it brought on. “Well, we had a few words at the water break,” said manager Adrian Heath. “I thought the first 25 minutes were as bad as we’ve played all season. I thought we were lacking energy, lacking desire. Whatever adjective you care to use...I thought after the water break we got a lot better.”
Midfielder and goalscorer Miguel Ibarra knew that the team needed a chance to reset during the first half. “We knew we weren’t having our best game at the beginning. It was for us to wake up and make sure that we put them on the back foot because we weren’t pressing at all,” he said.
Heath had more words for the team at halftime. “[He told us] just to keep the ball,” reported forward Christian Ramirez. “I think we were killing ourselves. Whenever we won it in a good spot, we would rush that first pass and not collect it. Once we fixed that, we found our tempo and things changed.”
Saturday’s victory was captain Francisco Calvo’s last match before he leaves to join the Costa Rican national team for the World Cup. With the crucial errors that had dogged the defender thankfully absent, Calvo logged one of his best performances of the season, according to Heath.
Fellow centerback Michael Boxall will serve as the captain while Calvo is gone. The team will have to amp up their effort to make up for Calvo’s absence. “Yeah, we know we’re going to lose our captain, a great player, our leader back there. Now we’re going to have to step up,” said Ibarra.
Heath will expect Boxall to be one of the players stepping up, especially as he wears the armband. “In terms of his personality, maybe a little bit, because he is one of those senior guys,” said the gaffer. “But in terms of the way he’s playing, he can’t do an awful lot more...he’s not one of them who screams and shouts, he’s more about his actions.”
Rasmus Schuller has been much improved from last season, when he was sent back to Finland on loan midway through the campaign. He was more involved in defense today than in some other games, helping to protect his backline and making a few individual stops.
“Maybe a bit more balancing in the midfield and trying to pick up their counter players and see where the spaces are that they are trying to exploit and stop them,” he said of his mentality on Saturday.
Schuller is currently one yellow card away from earning a fine and one-game suspension. “You have to go fully in every situation,” he explained. “Of course, I know I am one yellow away from suspension so in some situations maybe I am not lunging in like I can some other situations, because I don’t want to be suspended. But still you have to go 100 percent when you are on the field.”
- Alexi Gomez has struggled to maintain his previous levels of offensive production in the last two matches. “His work rate was good,” praised Heath. “You know, he’s settling in. And it’s never easy when you come to a new country. I think the fact that we’ve got so many Spanish speakers has helped him, but I think he’ll be better for getting a full 90 minutes under his belt, because that’s one thing he’s been lacking is a little bit of that game sharpness.”
- Here’s Ibarra’s narration of his golazo: “Again, it was Alexi going down the left side. And my instinct is to always getting back on the second post. Once I saw that it hit the defender and came back I reversed my run and all I had on my mind was get it in front of me and strike it.”
- United has two more matches before Major League Soccer takes a break for the World Cup, both on the road: Sporting Kansas City (we’ll have full coverage of that thanks to our KC correspondent) and FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup.