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Notebook: Metanire’s Return to Form and the Bug in the Loons’ Locker Room

Plus, an update on supporter protests during MNUFC’s 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake

September 15, 2019 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United defender Romain Metanire (19) congratulates team mate Ethan Finlay (13) for scoring a goal during the match against Real Salt Lake match at Allianz Field.
Minnesota United defender Romain Metanire (19) congratulates team mate Ethan Finlay (13) for scoring a goal during the match against Real Salt Lake at Allianz Field September 15.
Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography

Romain getting back into offensive form

While Romain Metanire has kept his defensive level up since his return from the Africa Cup of Nations, the Malagasy right back turned heads in Sunday’s game on the other side of the ball. Metanire was credited with his first assist since June 2nd on Ethan Finlay’s late goal to bury the game 3-1, and had a hustling recovery along the side line to keep the run alive for Darwin Quintero’s second goal shortly after halftime. His performance wasn’t lost in the minds of his coach and teammates.

“It’s been a while since we’ve seen it,” center back Ike Opara said after the game about his teammate’s offensive production. “But it really changed the game for us, the willingness, the hustle, desire. You can’t teach that. They won’t show up in the box score, but that was unbelievable.”

The hope around the team is that Metanire’s jaded patch was due in part to the fading exhaustion of a busy summer both personally—having another child—and with a Madagascar team that made the quarterfinals in its first major tournament appearance. “I think he came back extremely tired, not just physically but mentally,” head coach Adrian Heath said. “It was an incredible run for the country... I’m sure it took its toll. But if he’s back at his best like he was today, my God, he’s something to play against.”

Illness breaking through the MNUFC locker room

Lost in the shuffle of Wednesday’s loss against Houston was Kevin Molino’s absence. While the Trinidad and Tobago midfielder had played in both of his national team’s games against Martinique in CONCACAF Nations League, Molino was slated to play against the Dynamo but was a late drop from the team’s matchday roster due to illness. That same bug hit Michael Boxall, who according to Adrian Heath was a game-time decision on Sunday.

“We didn’t know until kickoff that Boxy was going to play. He hasn’t been well for the last couple of days as well,” Heath said, commending the defender’s 90 minute shift. “The likes of him and Kevin, who have not done much for the last two or three days, it was a big game for them.”

Having an ill teammate presents unique challenges, particularly on the back line. “I realized that he’d probably be a little more fatigued,” center back Ike Opara said. “It’s a little bit more work, but for those guys to get through was big for us. That bug’s been going around the whole team for a week or two...to fight through that and be productive instead of just being out there is impressive.” There was no word on how the team plans to fully fight that bug, but the postgame dinner spread was chockablock with vitamin C-rich foods.

Success on the counter and against Rimando continues

Sunday’s game could have been a difficult one for Minnesota United, a team that has recently thrived in low-possession games, going against a Real Salt Lake club that has been successful in stifling the counter attack. Yet both of Darwin Quintero’s goals came in transition, with Kevin Molino’s pass opening the first goal and a right-sided run through Donny Toia and Nedum Onuoha marking the Loons’ second. As Adrian Heath put it, the difference was the quality of his attackers, particularly in their ability to spread the field.

“When you get really good attacking players and they know where to be and you get the ball to them at the right time, it’s difficult to stop,” Heath remarked. “People have come in here and tried to take the middle of the field away. That’s okay, because now we can go wide.” That was on full display for the team in the two second half goals, both coming via runs from the right hand side—another point that Adrian Heath mentioned in his praise of Metanire.

It doesn’t hurt that Minnesota—and Quintero in particular—has had Nick Rimando’s number in its home stadiums. Sunday marked the third straight game hosting Real Salt Lake that the Loons have scored three or more goals, with Quintero being part of five goals in the process—two goals Sunday adding to a goal and two assists last July. Through a translator, Quintero couldn’t pinpoint why he’s had such success against one of the league’s all time great goalkeepers. “Not quite sure,” Quintero said. “Sometimes you just have teams where you always find yourself in the back of the net.”

Iron Front protests included at least eight ejections

According to multiple outlets—notably ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle—Minnesota United officials confirmed just one ejection from Allianz Field for participation in the Wonderwall protest of Major League Soccer’s ban on displaying the Iron Front. Around the 33rd minute, during a reworked version of the Italian anti-fascist folk tune “Bella Ciao,” numerous fans across the lower sections of the Wonderwall unfurled white pashmina scarves painted with the banned anti-fascist symbol, with a large black and rainbow flag passed through the sections as well.

E Pluribus Loonum independently confirmed that the team’s statement well undercounted that number. Two people were seen being removed from the stands by security in a video posted to Twitter by Workday Minnesota, with at least six others confirmed after the game to have been ejected for showing the symbol on their scarves and clothing. Additional reports posted by an official in the Red Loons supporter’s group put the overall number of ejected fans between ten and fifteen between their organization and others in the Wonderwall. At present, there’s no word from the team regarding additional sanctions on individual supporters or the umbrella supporter groups.

UPDATE at 10:30 AM September 16, 2019: Minnesota United FC provided a statement to E Pluribus Loonum saying that, “There was a single individual who was ejected from the game last night for refusing to abide by the fan code of conduct. No one else was ejected from Allianz Field for Iron Front related issues. Those are the facts verified with everyone on our staff and security. Anyone else who left did so voluntarily.” Some reports from fans our reporting cited as being ejected suggest that they were given the option to remove apparel bearing the Iron Front or leave the stadium. While we are aware that other fans did leave voluntarily without being asked to remove apparel following security’s intervention at halftime, they were not included in our count.