By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell
Saturday, March 24: 3-0 Loss
The key word in the title is not ‘lost’; the key word is ‘loomery’ – a breeding place for loons.
With nearly half of this season’s featured starters out on injury or international duty, the back four in Adrian Heath’s 4-2-3-1 looked quite a bit different. Jerome Thiesson (hip), Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica), Michael Boxall (New Zealand) and Tyrone Mears (calf) were replaced by Marc Burch, Wyatt Omsberg, Brent Kallman and Carter Manley, respectively. In addition, Collen Warner took the place of Schuller (Finland) beside Ibson in the backfield.
Between the rookies, Omsberg and Manley, and the off-the-bench players, Burch and Kallman playing their first full 90 of 2018, no one expected the backline to be as successful as the missing four have shown over the first three matches of the season. And, in the end, they weren’t. However, up against a team like the New York Red Bulls, they could have done a lot worse than the 3-0 loss this weekend.
Consider this: Last season, Minnesota United lost their first meeting with the Red Bulls by three goals to none. (Two of those goals were scored by Bradley Wright-Phillips and Alex Muyl, who both made the scoresheet this weekend.) The Loons were considered fully staffed, with newcomers Boxall and Nicholson joining Kallman, Thiesson, Calvo, Ibarra, and Molino.
Fans were understandably upset that this weekend’s rematch resulted in an identical scoreline. However:
- Despite repeatedly losing one-on-one matchups in the box, Kallman was a vocal leader on the backline, supporting and uplifting the rookies for the full 90, pushing everyone to regroup after their defensive mistakes.
- Sure, United keeper Matt Lampson conceded three goals, but he also made a handful of key saves against a patented Wright-Phillips attack which could easily have scored at least two more.
- While Nicholson and Finlay failed to replicate the magic they made at home last weekend, they never stopped trying. In fact, Finlay sent some beautiful crosses through the box and sent a howler into the crossbar in the final minutes.
- Yes, Heath pulled Ibarra and Ramirez from the game after they repeatedly failed to find the space behind Connor Lade, Tim Duncan and Kyle Duncan. But it is unfair to expect that Ramirez would notch his first goal of the season against Luis Robles and a backline that has conceded a single goal this season.
- And then the substitutes: Mason Toye, Abu Danladi (returning from injury) and Frantz Pangop (making his MNUFC debut) came on and were immediately a part of the attack. While their attempts toward goal were ultimately unsuccessful, they joined a team of Loons who were determined to fight together to the final whistle.
These are not the Loons of 2017, disjointed pieces failing to connect and communicate. This is a group determined to grow together, to fight together, to become a team with one shared purpose. From the veterans to the rookies to the new acquisitions, these guys want to work. Sometimes that isn’t good enough. But it isn’t a complete loss either.
Featured image courtesy: @MNUFC
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell
Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale