Courtesy of Minnesota United FC


A Late Goal Gives United Its Fifth Draw of the Preseason

by on 16 February 2017

Two goals by Kevin Molino looked to set up Minnesota United for its first win of the preseason. Real Salt Lake answered with three goals of their own in the second half, but in the final seconds of the game Johan Venegas leveled the scoreline.

Minnesota began the game with a starting lineup that could very easily feature as team that will face the Portland Timbers next month in United’s MLS opener. The notable exception was keeper Patrick McLain who took the place of John Alvbåge.

The game started slowly for Minnesota as it attempted to build its attack from the back, but failed to create much danger for Salt Lake. Solid play and organization by the central defensive pairing of Francisco Calvo and Vadim Demidov kept RSL’s attack mostly quiet.

In the 24th minute Minnesota turned a run of sloppy play from both sides into a counter attack when Calvo played the ball to Christian Ramirez in RSL’s half. Ramirez sent a one-touch pass into the path of Johan Venegas along the right side of the field where the Costa Rican sent a low cross to a wide open Molino for an easy tap-in at the top of the six-yard box.

The United attack continued to press as the half progressed and nearly replicated its opening goal when Ramirez played Johan Venegas into the box. However, Venegas’ cross was blocked by an RSL defender. The ball did find Molino in the end, but Molino dragged his shot wide of the goal and just out of the reach of a sliding Ramirez.

Two minutes later Ramirez was in a similar position when he slid in to get a touch to a cross from Molino, but the ball popped up off his leg and fell harmlessly into the arms of former United keeper Matt Van Oekel.

Minnesota came out of halftime with the same attacking pressure it finished the first half with and within three minutes had their second goal of the night. After winning the ball in the middle of the field, Molino sent a long pass forward into the run of Ramirez on the right side. Molino continued his run into the box where he connected to a cross from Ramirez sending a powerful header past a frozen Van Oekel from the penalty spot.

In the 56th minute RSL pulled one back after Rasmus Schüller was called for a foul on Jordan Allen in the box. Yura Movsisyan, who had seen a number of his attacking runs flagged for offside, stepped up to take the penalty and placed his shot passed McLain into the lower left corner.

After the goal, Minnesota brought on Mohammed Saeid, Ibson, and Kevin Venegas for Collen Warner, Ramirez, and Jermaine Taylor. While the United midfield struggled to get back into rhythm, Salt Lake raised their pressure and made a mass substitution at the 75th minute mark.

The influx of fresh legs for RSL quickly began to overrun the tiring Minnesota defense and in the 79th minute the game was level. The pressure from three Salt Lake players led to a giveaway by Ibson in United’s half. The ball was then sent forward to Chad Barrett outside of the box. When no one from Minnesota stepped up Barrett took a touch to his left and sent a low shot through a couple of players, past a diving McLain and just inside the far post.

In the 87th minute RSL took the lead when Omar Holness sent a high cross towards the far post. Barrett sent a header back across the face of the goal where the ball got caught under the feet of Calvo. With the defender unable to clear the danger, RSL’s Andrew Brody pounced on the ball for Salt Lake’s third goal of the night.

The game seemed all but finished for Minnesota, but in the 93rd minute Molino found second-half substitute Eugene Starikov at midfield. Starikov played the ball forward, splitting the RSL center backs, for Johan Venegas to run on to. Venegas took one touch into the box before sending a shot far post to bring the game level in the dying seconds.

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  • I hope there’s a way we can keep Starikov as a Loon. I know he isn’t at the caliber of our newest attacking additions but he’s made some smart plays and been a bright spot this preseason. If only we had a reserve team set up where we could stash him in case we need him at some point.

    • BJ

      I think he a an every game 18 guy. Maybe a start if we have some injuries, but he is the bulldog fighting for every ball guy you need on every team.

    • Chris RB

      well, trading away Femi certainly makes that more possible. He’ll still be down there on the depth chart behind CR21 and Danladi, but with FHJ gone, he’s our 3rd stringer I guess?

    • Really?!?!?

      I agree with BJ….Starikov is a keeper, and can be more available than a reserve team guy. He’s someone who can play a bunch of different positions (similarly to many Loons), including up top (where it is basically CR21, Danladi, Kadrii, & Venegas at 2 striker positions) and seems to do well with some tough play and linking some passes (also seemingly a common trait amongst a lot of Loons this preseason). I’d have him in my 18 if I’m Heath.

      Personally, roster:
      CR21 – J.Venegas
      Ibarra – Schuller
      Davis – Calvo – Demidov – ? (Jones / K.Venegas?)

      Shuttleworth, Kadrii, Starikov, Saeid, Ibson, Taylor, Kallman (?)

      I think Danladi needs a bit more work, I like Collin Martin but think Ibson is a little ahead of him, and

  • Hopeful Balls

    Here’s an observation/thought/mild epiphany I had last night while watching the game:
    I’ve changed my expectation slightly regarding how MNUFC might attempt to manage the game. Since Heath was brought on board and started building the team fans have heard that we can expect a focus on controlling possession and attacking soccer, and Heath confirmed that again in the recent interview here on fiftyfiveone. My assumption has been we’d try to set up shop within attacking third to posses the ball with the team collectively moved into an advanced position.
    Now I am wondering if Heath is actually planning to sit back further than I initially assumed. I still anticipate they’ll try to control the majority of possession in games, however I think it makes sense to keep the ball behind or near the midfield stripe to set the opportunity for quick strikes when the interchanging (and very speedy) attackers create space that can be exploited.
    Our goals and best chances seem to be coming either from pressing and converting turnovers, or suddenly springing forward from the midfield line. I haven’t seen us moving things around as effectively in the final third with the other team set defensively.
    IDK, maybe that was patently obvious to others. But it was something I was thinking about last night – the idea of WHERE we’ll try to posses the ball to make effective use of our attacking talent.

  • Troy Kadlec

    I really enjoyed watching the team show some grit to close out the match. Being able to to salvage a tie in the waning minutes might not sound glamorous, but 1 pt is better than 0 and giving your opponent 3. Also, did you see the looks on the RSL players’ faces? Priceless. I was a little surprised at how many shots RSL took at Ramirez. I think that he and Ibarra are going to draw some attention similar to rookies in the NFL. All in all, a decent game from the team. They need to solidify a bit more defensively, but the first team D was pretty solid before all the subs. In a normal match, I don’t think we give away that lead.