Loons Draw New England Revolution in Preseason Opener

by on 31 January 2017

Minnesota United FC played its first game of the 2017 preseason on Tuesday, taking on the New England Revolution at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Ariz. Both teams are using the facility, which is also hosting Real Salt Lake and is the permanent home of the RSL academy.

As always, it’s difficult to judge just how important these preseason friendlies, and their results and lineups, actually are. Of course, for the coaches it’s a big opportunity to see their charges in action in a semi-competitive match. For the players, it’s an opportunity to build on their fitness and cohesion, as well as impress the coaching staff. But we’re not privy to most of that, and when nothing is streamed, we have to make do with a few highlights and quotes, and try to parse the tea leaves as best we can.

The Loons started the match in a 4-2-3-1 formation that seemed a total mix of players who are likely to start on opening day alongside reserves. But notably, none of the team’s most highly touted players, from defender Vadim Demidov to big-money attacker Kevin Molino, were among the opening group. This is likely due to the late arrival of these players at camp. Demidov reached Arizona a few days after the start of MNUFC’s preseason, Molino just arrived, Francisco Calvo and Johan Venegas just returned from international duty with the Costa Rican national team, and it’s unclear if Rasmus Schüller has made his way stateside.

The first serious moment of the match came as the Loons committed a foul in the box and Minnesota native Teal Bunbury stepped up to take the penalty kick for the Revs. But old man John Alvbåge made an immediate impression, denying Secret Agent Bunbury from the spot.

After being bailed out by their goalkeeper, the Loons seemed to manage more of an attack, with Abu Danladi getting a pair of chances. The first was saved, while Danladi put the second over the bar.

At the 30th minute, the Loons made wholesale changes, bringing on a fresh XI.

(Alternately, this may have been a 4-4-2, with Starikov as the second forward.)

This squad wasted little time in making their mark, scoring the opener for United in the 39th minute. After a flurry of shots, the first saved by Revs ‘keeper Matt Turner, the second off the bar from Christian Ramirez, it was Eugene Starikov, one of the Loons’ most enigmatic trialists, who bundled the ball home.

After a quick break, the Revs made their own wholesale swaps, including bringing on another Minnesota native, goalkeeper Cody Cropper.

The Loons would obligingly help out Cropper’s case for the starting spot in New England, testing him multiple times in the second half without a breakthrough. Instead, the next goal would come for the Revs, seemingly against the run of play, as Kei Kamara nodded home a cross in the 78th minute to even the score.

Neither team would be able to break the deadlock in the final stages of the game, and the match ended 1-1.

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