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Set Pieces and Class Separate Dynamo from Loons

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Minnesota United drop points against the Dynamo as Phillipe Senderos gets a brace of set piece goals and Alberth Elis scores in stoppage time

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t a huge surprise to see Minnesota United return to the 3-5-2 from the last two games; however, replacing the suspended Francisco Calvo with Tyrone Mears as a center back in favor of Wyatt Omsberg caught the ire of some in Loons fandom. Mears appeared alongside a central Michael Boxall and a left-sided Brent Kallman, with Miguel Ibarra and Alexi Gomez flanking the right and left. A midfield troika of Ibson, Rasmus Schuller, and Collen Warner fed the forward pairing of Darwin Quintero, playing a free role and Christian Ramirez leading the line.

To be blunt, it wasn’t a game where the formation—or its occupants—mattered terribly much. The two goals Houston scored outside of stoppage time were on the perpetual Loons bugaboo, with Phillipe Senderos scoring on a pair of set pieces on each side of half time. Alberth Elis scored in open play in the 92nd, sealing a thorough victory for the Dynamo.

The match started with little fanfare in the opening 30 minutes, with both sides weakly probing forward and Houston holding a fair bulk of possession. When the half chances came, they mainly went the way of the hosts, but not outside of the abilities of Bobby Shuttleworth. The Dynamo, however, were able to break through in the 36th minute, when Phillipe Senderos curled a ball through traffic off of a corner and smashed it into the top of the net.

It wasn’t a totally undeserved goal; the run of play erred toward the side of the hosts, and while there were shouts that Alberth Elis committed a foul on the first ball on Brent Kallman, Senderos made a good move to muscle himself into space for the shot. Nevertheless, it certainly set the tone for the remainder of the half. While Minnesota searched for a foothold, Houston became more comfortable as time went on, forcing additional work from the back line.

The second half called for a spark of energy to move the Loons forward; instead, it was the Dynamo who swapped Adam Lundqvist in at the break for Damarcus Beasley, who saw a few probing runs on the outside from Miguel Ibarra through the first half. The Loons were unable to get any great chances early, with Christian Ramirez almost immediately getting caught closely offside to start their second half pressure. As the Dynamo controlled the ball, they forced yet another set piece mistake from Minnesota, as Senderos scored yet another goal off of a corner.

Senderos’s success here was in pushing Michael Boxall toward the near post as the ball came through the box. It’s a clean play, with Boxall opting to abandon the mark and try to clear before it reaches him.

Artist’s rendering: Michael Boxall against Phillipe Senderos, 52nd minute of Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United FC
Plaster Brain

The second goal took much of the life out of the game for Minnesota United, and despite their best attempts (substitutes in the 66th and 72nd minutes for Mason Toye and Eric Miller to come in for Christian Ramirez and Rasmus Schuller, thus switching back to a 4-2-3-1) the best they could muster was a number of cynical fouls to limit the damage. The final thirty minutes saw Alexi Gomez, Miller, Ibson, and Harrison Heath (subbed in for Collen Warner in the 86th minute) all add to the card tally with Tyrone Mears, who got into the book during the 5th minute.

Things could have been worse for Minnesota, having given up a pair of second half shots that rocketed off of the post. Adam Lundqvist tried to make his substitution up early with a 52nd minute chance off the bar, and Tomas Martinez made another attempt go wanting in the 88th minute. Talismanic striker Alberth Elis wouldn’t make the same sort of mistake in the 92nd minute, ending on a series of give-and-goes in the box and slotting in far post.

None of the statistics flattered Minnesota United in the end. Per WhoScored, the Dynamo outshot the Loons 22-5; outpossessed 57-43; led in possession-heavy metrics like passing percentage, dribbles, and corners won; and even beat the Loons in stats that show a team being stuck in defensively like tackles and aerials. Perhaps the most damning for Minnesota United was the heat map, where the highest frequency of touches occurred. The left is for Houston, the right is for Minnesota:

WhoScored heat map, Houston Dynamo 3-0 Minnesota United
WhoScored.com - Major League Soccer 2018 Live

Yes, that biggest spot of action for the Loons is in front of their own goal.

Following a game that suffered from the lack of a spark like what Darwin Quintero provided against Toronto FC, MNUFC will look to shuffle their luck (and likely their lineup) in Wednesday’s friendly against on-loan Loon Johan Venegas and his Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa. Rasmus Schuller avoided the scythe of yellow card accumulation for the Loons’ match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, with Francisco Calvo set to return as well.