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Notebook: Set-Piecing the Jelly from End to End

Hear from Vito Mannone, Adrian Heath, Ethan Finlay and Sean Johnson on Minnesota United’s 3-3 draw with New York City FC

Vito Mannone
Vito Mannone looks on during the inaugural match at Allianz Field
Tim C McLaughlin

In the 33rd minute of Minnesota United’s 3-3 draw with New York City FC, the Loons pulled ahead in an unlikely way.

For whatever reason, Sean Johnson, NYCFC’s normally stout goalkeeper, misplayed a simple back pass, letting it roll into the back of his net.

It was a glaring mistake from the ‘keeper, who was exposed by his position’s prominence. Vito Mannone, Minnesota’s goalkeeper, expressed sympathy for his counterpart after the match. “Mistakes happen on the field,” said Mannone. “It happens to anyone and unfortunately [we are] the last line of defense.”

“[I’m] obviously disappointed to let the guys down in that moment, but things happen, and they know,” said Johnson of the play. “I apologized to them, put my hand up, and we moved forward. Everybody assured me that they had my back today, and we were able to come back out with a point.”

OG
MNUFC vs NYCFC
Sean Johnson reevaluates life after giving up an own goal during MNUFC’s inaugural match at Allianz field

After a blunder like that, it can be hard for a goalkeeper to mentally recover, especially when away from home, Mannone said. “You have to [realize] it’s only one mistake, one football game and focus on the next one,” he explained. Soccer “always gives you another chance, so you need to come out and perform at your best.”

Still a work in progress

The third goal the Loons conceded was an unfortunate one, with a free kick set piece taking a deflection off of Francisco Calvo and into the net.

Mannone was disappointed to have given up such a simple goal. “It’s a ball played with pace and our front line is meant to clear it,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, they didn’t. It came off as [Calvo’s] fault and mine, so everybody was waiting for the videos. These things happen sometimes.”

Just a bit too quick

The match began with an emphatic scoring spree, with four goals in the first twenty minutes. “The game was too open,” said manager Adrian Heath. “It was too end to end. It was like the feeling of a playoff game when somebody had to win at the day.”

Winger Ethan Finlay agreed with his coach. “You know, it’s tough because it’s being the home opener, the tempo, we start to feed off the crowd and you saw that. We start to kind of pick up and maybe we have a little sense of urgency and maybe lose track of it,” he said.

Adrian Heath expresses his frustration during the inaugural match at Allianz Field
Adrian Heath expresses his frustration during the inaugural match at Allianz Field
Tim C McLaughlin

Though the rapid bouts of goals are fun for neutral fans, it poses a challenge for goalkeepers — often the defensive organizers — to control. “It wasn’t easy [to settle down] because the first half was crazy enough and in the second half, we went end to end again,” said Mannone. “You don’t like to get counter-attacked and we can’t defend 3v3, 3v4 every time because today, we come up with a point, next day we come up with zero.”

You always remember your first

Midfielder Ozzie Alonso scored the first goal at Allianz Field, a well-hit volley to open the scoring. “It was crazy,” he said of the moment. “When I saw the ball, I thought I had it, I hit it well, I scored a goal and people started screaming — it was a great move from me I’m never going to forget it.”

He drew envy from some of his teammates for the finish. “It has got to feel good and it was a class goal too. What a finish! Perfect technique. I was a little jealous,” joked defender Brent Kallman.

April 13, 2019 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States -Minnesota United midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (6) celebrates the first goal to be scored during the Loon's inaugural match at Allianz Field. 

(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)
April 13, 2019 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States -Minnesota United midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (6) celebrates the first goal to be scored during the Loon’s inaugural match at Allianz Field. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Looking forward to games 2-17

Needless to say, there was a lot of hype for the Allianz Field opener. The club — from executives to the technical staff to the grounds crew — was inundated with interview requests for much of the last week. “It’s been a great day, and pretty much relieved it’s out of the way now and we can concentrate on just doing what we do, which is playing football and not doing an interview every 20 minutes about the stadium,” said Heath. “I’m glad that it’s all over. I’m glad that we didn’t lose. I thought our supporters were magnificent. I thought the noise in the stadium was incredible. And it bows for better times ahead.”

A game of numbers

For the second week in a row, United were the lesser team in terms of statistics. The Loons held just 34% possession and were outpassed 516 to 217 by the visiting side.

Jan Gregus had some of the more impressive numbers, with 43 passes, 6 ball recoveries, 2 tackles and 3 interceptions — a well-rounded performance from the DP central midfielder.

Half-Volleys

Announced attendance was a more-than sellout crowd of 19,796 ... Defender Ike Opara left the match in the second half with a head injury; he was still present in the locker room after the game ... The Wonderwall’s tifo display (below) was its largest ever ... United’s next game is on Friday, away to Toronto FC, who fell 3-2 to the Seattle Sounders earlier Saturday

TIFO
The Wonderwall unveils their TIFO before the match

Thoughts on the match? Discuss the home opener in the comments section below!