It was a beautiful day in Minnesota, the sun was shining brightly as the Loons took on Sporting Kansas City. The two teams have met in two of the last three US Open Cup runs with Kansas City winning both Cup ties.
Coming off of a 1-0 defeat to San Jose, Minnesota made only one change to their starting lineup. After the lackluster offensive display against the Quakes, head coach Adrian Heath gave first overall SuperDraft pick, Abu Danladi, his first MLS start in place of Johan Venegas.
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) May 7, 2017
A red-hot Dom Dwyer led the Sporting Kansas City starting XI. Dwyer had scored three goals in his past two game including a brace in a win against New York Red Bulls. Head coach Peter Vermes made three changes from that match against New York: Soony Saad replaced Jimmy Medranda on the left wing, Kevin Ellis replaced Ike Opara as Matt Besler’s defensive partner, and Igor Julião replaced Graham Zusi at right back. This was Julião’s first MLS appearance since 2014.
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 7, 2017
The Loons suffered an early scare when an errant pass by Ibson was intercepted by Dom Dwyer. Francisco Calvo neatly tidied up the the through ball by Dwyer, sparing Minnesota blushes.
The Loons, too, had an early chance when Abu Danladi sent a lofted ball to Christian Ramirez in the second minute. Ramirez took the shot on the volley and sent it into the side netting. Early on, Danladi pressured SKC’s back line using his speed to disrupt their rhythm.
Danladi’s speed also allowed for a counterattack in the 17th minute. Sporting took a corner kick that was cleared by Ibson and fell to Ibarra, who found a streaking Danladi. The Loon forward turned around Julião and would have had just one Sporting defender to beat in fifty yards, but Julião took Danladi down and earned the match’s first yellow card.
The pace and quick passing by Minnesota’ s forwards had put SKC in some awkward positions. A couple lofted through-balls by the full backs to Ibarra and Danladi had the SKC center backs on their heels.
One such lofted pass came from Ibson in the 22nd minute. He sent Ibarra down toward the corner and the speedy winger took one touch to cross the ball into the box where it found Danladi, who scored his first MLS goal in his first MLS start. The goal ended SKC’s 193-minute shutout streak.
Ibarra was again causing trouble on the right side of the defense. Making his way into the box he attempted a cross which struck Julião’s outstretched arm. The referee didn’t have a good angle on the play and missed the handball call. No penalty was given.
Minnesota would double their lead in the 39th minute as Danladi cut the ball past his defender to a streaking Ibarra. Batman then found Superman as he sent in a driving cross that Ramirez drove in with his head.
Sporting finished the half with a few chances of their own. Julião tried his luck from distance but Bobby Shuttleworth got his hands on it and knocked it out for a corner.
Near the end of the half, Dwyer held the ball outside of the box and sent a nifty through-ball to Gerso Fernandes. However, Marc Burch and Shuttleworth put off Fernandes enough for the ball to go out of bounds for a goal kick, which ended the half.
Unsurprisingly, Graham Zusi replaced Julião at right back for Sporting Kansas City, as he had been continuously beaten by Ibarra throughout the first half. Yet again, Sporting had an early chance in the half as Saad sent a dangerous ball into the box that found no one and bounced out for a Minnesota throw.
In the 55th minute, Seth Sinovic sent in a long shot that Shuttleworth seemed to miscalculate, but he made the save and the rebound was cleared by Burch. Moments later a pass in to Dwyer led to a collision between his foot and Shuttleworth’s face. It was a scary moment as Shuttleworth was on the ground holding his head. It turned out that Shuttleworth’s nose was bleeding and after it was properly plugged by the trainer and a once all white towel had done its duty, Shuttleworth continued on. He now leads the league in times kicked in the face.
— Jérôme Thiesson (@j_thiesson) May 7, 2017
In the 60th minute the Loons thought they had added to their tally after Danladi put the ball in the back of the net, only for the goal to be called offside. A quick attacking play found Molino, Ramirez, and Danladi streaking up the field. Molino played the ball out wide to Ramirez who crossed the ball to Danladi. The rookie forward neatly tucked the ball away, but was several feet offside at the time.
Moments later Dwyer had his first clear chance of the game as a through ball was played to him in Minnesota’s box. Dwyer tried to beat Shuttleworth at the near post, but Shuttleworth saved easily.
A long ball by SKC put the Minnesota defense in an awkward position. Calvo was giving chase and Shuttleworth came off of his line and out of the box. Shuttleworth headed the ball away but collided with Calvo who spent a bit of time on the pitch but would continue.
Tempers flared shortly after a hard foul by Dwyer, and in the resulting scrum both Calvo and Dwyer would receive yellow cards. Heath made a defensive substitution, bringing on Collen Warner for Danladi, who received a standing ovation as he made his way off the pitch. Shortly after, Jermaine Taylor was subbed on replacing Thiesson, who had missed training the previous day with the flu..
With ten minutes left to play a cross was sent into the box by SKC. Shuttleworth got a hand to it but was pulled out of the goal by his effort. The ball fell to SKC substitute Daniel Salloi and saw his effort saved by Taylor.
SKC continued to pile pressure on. Roger Espinoza found an unmarked Zusi who saw his shot saved by Shuttleworth. Bloody nose and all, Shuttleworth seemed determined to keep a clean sheet. Shortly after, Ramirez walked off the pitch to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Johan Venegas.
As the game closed down, Minnesota focused mainly on defending while SKC took control and tried to push for a goal. Chance after chance for SKC was snuffed out by the Minnesota defense. Eight minutes of stoppage time were added in the second half. Eight. Minutes.
A dangerous ball by Melia of all people found Dwyer outside the box, but he volleyed the ball over the net. That was SKC’s best chance of the extremely long stoppage time. Credit to the Loon’s defense as they kept their shape and never really seemed to be caught out of position.
As the final whistle blew, “Wonderwall” pumped through the loudspeakers. During the chorus the song dropped out over the loudspeakers, to reveal the Dark Clouds and True North Elite leading the stadium in singing, “And after all, you’re my Wonderwall.” The moment was reminiscent of being back at the National Sports Center after a Minnesota win.
Minnesota United put forward a complete performance in this match. The forwards, midfield, and defense played well as separate units and together as a team. Even when Sporting Kansas City was putting on a lot of pressure, the Loons kept their shape defensively and thwarted whatever SKC threw at them. Altogether a fantastic performance and a well deserved three points.
Minnesota United – Sporting Kansas City
Venue: TCF Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.
Weather: 61°, Sunny
22′ Abu Danladi (1)
Assisted by: Miguel Ibarra
33′ Christian Ramirez (6)
Assisted by: Miguel Ibarra
46′ Graham Zusi in for Igor Juliao
56′ Jimmy Medranda in for Soony Saad
72′ Collen Warner in for Abu Danladi
75′ Jermaine Taylor for Jerome Thiesson
77′ Daniel Salloi in for Gerso Fernandes
84′ Johan Venegas in for Christian Ramirez
17′ YC Igor Juliao (Unsporting Behavior)
51′ YC Christian Ramirez (Unsporting Behavior)
72′ YC Fransisco Calvo (Unsporting Behavior)
72′ YC Dom Dwyer (Unsporting Behavior)
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) May 7, 2017
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