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Three things from #MINvVAN

In a must win game MNUFC did just enough while reminding us of so much more

May 12, 2021 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - The Wonderwall celebrates a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at Allianz Field. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

We are, of course, extremely lucky to get to do this. To get to spend two hours of a beautiful Wednesday night on this oh-so-serious whimsy, this competition and entertainment and passion. Lines are drawn, rules are agreed upon, and a space to play is created, a space in which we are invited to yell and sing and dance and live another kind of life. If it is not always pretty it is still the beautiful game, a practice of aesthetics, a creation of space and time. A beauty to which we add ourselves, all of ourselves, bringing with us all of the weight of our lives, all the joy and the sadness of this living - especially in these days when we are all, it seems, individually and together, carrying a bit extra. And then, in a moment a touch, a cross, a flick of the head and we can be perfect in a world that rarely is.

Or, as Ramón Ábila said after the game:

Que tal, buenas noches, la verdad que contento. Feliz de poder convertir, y que el equipo gane, que es lo importante. Volver a la ritual de que, de que tanto lo necesitábamos. Obviamente siempre la dedicatoria va a hacer para él. Ayer casualmente, se cumplió lo aniversario de su partida, entonces bueno, lo extrañamos. Es alguien que amamos mucho y mi familia todavía tiene ese dolor interno de ver perdido alguien, ¿no? Tan joven y una decisión tan, tan drástica, pero bueno, hay que seguir adelante, la vida sigue adelante, nosotros tenemos que salir a la vida y levantarnos y tratar de ser mejores y de conejar y de lo que podamos, asegurar que todos sentemos un poquito mejor y si este gol y la victoria sirve para que la gente está contento hoy, un poco más tranquilos, bienvenido sea.

(I’m really happy. Happy to be able to convert, and for the team to win, which is the important thing. We’re back to the ritual that we need to be on, we needed it so badly. Obviously the dedication will always be made for him. Yesterday coincidentally was the anniversary of his departure, so we miss him, he is someone we love a lot and my family still has that internal pain of seeing someone lost. He was so young and such a drastic decision, but hey, we have to move on, life goes on, we have to live our life and get up and try to be better and connect and what we can, ensure is that we all feel a little better and if this goal and the victory help people to be happy today, a little calmer, it’s welcome.)

  1. It is very fun to watch Hassani Dotson, Robin Lod, and Emanuel Reynoso play together. They seem to share a vision and a rhythm that is at times quite lovely. Unfortunately, on this team as it is now coached and constituted, they are isolated, floating free in the spaces they create. There were moments in Colorado when it seemed that Ján Greguš, pushed very high, could be a link to the structure of the rest of the team. But the cost of playing him that high was to play Ozzie Alonso and Wil Trapp as a deep pivot, which ultimately wasn’t sustainable against Colorado - that’s too many players in backing and supporting roles - and wasn’t possible against the Vancouver Whitecaps, who were more than willing to concede the wings to fill the middle of the field with bodies. And for all their creativity, Dotson, Lod, and Reynoso are without a true goal scorer, which became very clear in the 65th minute last night. For playing the three of them together to work they need to have someone making the bullheaded run to the posts, someone settling a body on the spot. or sneaking into the six yard box; someone to simply and without grace or elegance put a body on the ball and put the ball on frame. Last night that was Ramón Ábila. In the future it might be Adrien Hunou. But for most of the game last night everyone was still waiting.
  2. There were long stretches of the game when it looked like neither team was that interested in winning. Vancouver came out, for the first twenty minutes, quite content to play for a tie. They would have been happy, of course, to sneak in a counter-attack or a set-piece stunner against the run of play, and Minnesota United was lucky to not find themselves down early. But Vancouver was mostly willing to set-up just outside their eighteen, concede the wings and let Minnesota do as it pleased. Which really wasn’t much. The Whitecaps were able to find a bit more space in the middle of the first half, from about the 20th to the 30th minute, forcing the Loons into a change of formation. In his half-time comments coach Adrian Heath called it a return to the 4-2-3-1, but functionally it played a lot more like a 4-4-2, with Dotson and Greguš taking advantage of the space Vancouver was giving up wide, and Lod and Reynoso playing up top as a double false-9. Whichever it was, the game settled from then into a rather uninspired equilibrium. Until, of course, Ábila changed everything. When you are sitting bottom of the table at 0-4 a win is a win is a win. But this was not a game to take much confidence from.