As international players began to filter back to their MLS clubs following the international break, Minnesota United FC welcomed SC Paderborn 07 of the 2. Bundesliga to Allianz Field for a friendly. Minnesota was the first stop in Paderborn’s preseason tour around the United States and the club became the first ever club from Germany’s second division to play against an MLS side. Fortunately for the Loons, Paderborn also became the first non-MLS international visitor to fall to MNUFC since the club joined the league in 2017. Minnesota United scored first and held off their friendly foe for a 4-3 finish.
With a number of starters still making their way back from international duty, Adrian Heath fielded a heavily rotated squad in a 4-3-3, with a handful of second team call-ups on the bench.
The 4-3-3 and Metanire are back tonight. Rosales and Hayes join Trapp in midfield. Amarilla will play between Fragapane and Reynoso. Miller in net.— E Pluribus Loonum (@EPluribusLoonum) June 11, 2022
And the guys are wearing their Pride kits to get the most out of a shortage of June games.#MNUFC | #MINvPAD https://t.co/kYs0zwT0jL
For the first time in the 2022 season, Minnesota put itself in the position to trade goals, rather than just long shots and yellow cards. Bakaye Dibassy scored first, a header off of a corner kick in the 6th minute. Sirlord Conteh levelled the score in the 21’, putting a quick finish past Miller assisted by Adrian Gryszkiewicz, who kept things interesting in the midfield through the first half. A banger from Hayes in the 46+1’ saw MNUFC regain the lead before the half.
While a 2-1 score at the half was a great result for a goal-starved Loons squad, it came at a cost. Leftback Kemar Lawrence took a hit inside the box in the 3’ and was slow to get up. He returned to the pitch but slowed in the 12’ and was replaced by Oniel Fisher. In the 26th minute, Metanire pulled up mid-run, grabbing his left hamstring. He was done for the night, and possibly for the season, with Heath saying he could be out for two months with this injury – just as he was regaining fitness in the right hamstring. Two goals, two injuries, one half of a friendly.
Subs ruled the second half for both sides, with MNUFC2’s Fred Emmings making his first-team debut in goal. Justin McMaster (Fragapane), Niko Hansen (Reynoso), Nabi Kibunguchy (Dibassy), and Adrian Hunou (Trapp) also entered. Emmings conceded a well-played equalizer to Marco Schuster in the 53’, a neat one-timer that lofted just over Emmings’ tall reach and into net. Amarilla regained the lead with a much-needed goal of his own in the 64’, putting the Loons up 3-2 just before he was replaced by up-and-comer Aziel Jackson.
In the 76’, just six minutes after checking in, Jackson took a picture perfect freekick that floated undisturbed into the top corner of the net. The second-teamer is a top scorer in NEXT Pro play and proved he can hold his own on a senior level, albeit in a friendly atmosphere. Emmings conceded just one more, a shot by Jonas Carls in the 80’ that brought Paderborn back within one, but a flurry of fun plays by both sides in the final ten minutes came to nothing, even when Hansen stepped off the pitch a few minutes shy of full-time. With no more subs, Minnesota played down a man, but held on to the 4-3 lead until the finish.
Heath was heartened by his side’s performance despite the losses in personnel: “On the break I thought we looked dangerous this evening. The other thing when I looked at the game, when you consider we got probably four or five other really good chances. That’s pleasing because obviously goal scoring has been an issue.”
“If we could come through unscathed and got everybody minutes,” he lamented. “Luis [Amarilla] will be better for getting another 65 minutes in under his belt and getting a goal. I thought he took it really well, it was a good first touch. I thought Joseph Rosales and Jacori Hayes had a good evening as well and it was great to see Fred [Emmings] getting on the field. He didn’t look out of his depth and he looked the part.”
The second team successes were the most exciting feature of the friendly, Jackson’s performance especially. While Heath doesn’t seem sold (“He’s got talent and what he needs to do is make sure he honors all his talent and concentrate on his game. Because he does have talent.”) and the midfielder is already on full-season loan status with MNUFC2, it is good to see that this club has solid depth options in its player pool that could be made available in case of emergency. And, as this club knows well, personnel emergencies abound in a post-covid condensed season of league action with multiple international competitions happening at once.
The true test will be a depleted squad’s performance in New England as the club returns to league play. With five players depth players added to the injury list (Abu Danladi, Niko Hansen, Romain Metanire, Callum Montgomery, and Tani Oluwaseyi) and two starters questionable (Kemar Lawrence and Kervin Arriaga), the Loons will lean heavily on whatever confidence Reynoso and Amarilla can bring to the attack and on the centerback pairing of Dibassy and Michael Boxall, the latter of whom returned days ago from New Zealand All Whites duties.
MLS-veteran Kemar Lawrence said it well: “Especially when you’re going to play a well-coached team, a team with a lot of senior guys, they just know what they’re doing. You got to be on your game. I emphasize that we’re not. We haven’t been picking up the points we need and we have to go there [to New England] and we’ve got to make it hard for them to play in their own stadium and we’ve got to get points.”
Minnesota United FC will go there on Sunday afternoon, with kickoff set for 4 PM CST.