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Recap: Kevin Molino leads the Loons to a tournament opening win over SKC

MNUFC restarted the 2020 season at Disney, and just like a Disney movie it was full of twists and turns. However in the end, their dreams came true.

Michael Boxall kneeling before the MLS Is Back Tournament match in Orlando, FL on 7/12/2020
Twitter (@josiaspereira)

Well this game happened and most Loons fans will be left feeling a roller coaster of emotions from this one.

Right before kickoff Minnesota United had to deal with an Luis Amarilla injury, leaving Mason Toye literally minutes to warm up pre kick off. Here was the Loons Starting XI:

Up until the hydration break in the 23’ the game was mostly stuck in the midfield. Chase Gaspar had an early physical challenge on Roger Espinoza and was looking to get forward whenever possible. MNUFC was struggling managing the space defensively between the backline and the central midfield pairing of Jan Gregus and Hassani Dotson in moments, but also sometimes sitting too deep, they could not find the required balance together. The only other noteworthy common occurrence was Dotson turning the ball over in midfield. Dotson may be good, but the Loons missed Ozzie in the first half. Then the Loons finally registered a shot thanks to Gregus, which was a good look but a relatively simple save.

Below is a simple pattern MNUFC was trying to attack down, the identity this team plays with hasn’t changed regardless of the players on the field. That is a promising sign, even though the first half performance was lackluster.

Then it happened, Tyler made a mistake, theres no sugar coating that. However I won’t be too hard on it, goalkeepers make mistakes just like the rest of us (the difference is they get criticized more for them). It was bad, but Alan Pulido was magical with the flick to set it up. I know Heath compares Amarilla to Pulido, but this is a part of the game we haven’t seen from Amarilla yet.

In the 58’ Aaron Schoenfeld came on, and almost immediately the midfield behind him started playing better. Aaron was making consistent decisive runs and the midfielders started finding him leading to many good opportunities for the Loons. Leading to the goal that was disallowed with VAR for Molino being offsides. It was ultimately the right call in my opinion, even though it was not obvious (which is how the rule is determined for MLS VAR but I digress.) VAR is working better here then in most places around the world, and they probably got this call right.

After this goal the team woke up and Aaron Schoenfeld created a couple more chances, one of which lead to Sporting Kansas City’s goalkeeper, Tim Melia, deservedly being sent off. The ensuing free kick by Gregus will be one to forget.

In the remaining minutes MNUFC dominated with the player advantage, but SKC showed they are a veteran team through adapting and taking the right tactical fouls, until finally in the 92’ the ball finally found the back of the net legally, even if it went off of Shelton’s neck.

That wasn’t it for the Loons and they pushed for a winner with the player advantage, notably Kevin Molino was dominating the game in a free role attacking spaces all over the field and around the 18 yard box. He was the “official man of the match,” and would have been mine regardless of the goal. That being said I leave you with the moment of ecstasy.