Minnesota United FC continued its current road swing, stopping in Salt Lake to take on one of two teams beneath it in the Western Conference standings. The Loons got Francisco Calvo, Johan Venegas, and Kevin Molino back from international duty, but lost Joe Greenspan to concussion protocol. Molino and Calvo both were in the starting XI.
Coming off a disappointing 4-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup, Minnesota traveled straight to Salt Lake. The Royals hadn’t won a match since May 27 — a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia — and had lost three straight, including an Open Cup defeat at the hands of the NASL’s Sacramento Republic FC. May 27 also marked the last time RSL conceded fewer than four goals in a game.
Kevin Venegas made his second-consecutive start at right back, with first-choice Jerome Thiesson covering the left in the absence of Marc Burch and Justin Davis. Christian Ramirez led the attack, backed up by Abu Danladi, Kevin Molino, and Miguel Ibarra.
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) June 18, 2017
Real Salt Lake started former Minnesota Stars midfielder Luke Mulholland alongside USMNT stalwart Kyle Beckerman in the center of its formation. Nick Rimando was in goal, hoping to avoid another blunder like he suffered in the two teams’ last meeting, and the Salt Lake attack was led by Joao Plata, Brooks Lennon, and Luis Silva.
Beltran Glad Maund Acosta
Lennon Silva Plata pic.twitter.com/qmxGAyjYa6
— RSL matchday (@RSLmatchday) June 18, 2017
Minnesota began the game on the front foot, quickly winning a free kick on the left flank that was steered out for a goal kick. Molino and Danladi combined to create several half-chances for the Loons, but Minnesota was unable to find a way through the Salt Lake defense. The Royals were also unable find joy in the early going. Luke Mulholland was fouled by Sam Cronin at midfield. On the ensuing free kick, Silva laid the long ball for Jefferson Savarino, who’s shot was steered wide by Bobby Shuttleworth.
Salt Lake played a heavy press with the intent of denying Minnesota time on the ball. This resulted in a very physical opening to the game, with players on both teams falling to the pitch with some frequency. Another effect was the removal of Christian Ramirez from the run of play; the Loons’ striker seldom touched the ball in the first 25 minutes of the match.
The two most dangerous moments of the first half hour came between the 20th and 25th minutes. In the first, Kyle Beckerman released Plata with a through ball. Plata ran around Cronin and laid off for Silva, who’s shot was saved by a diving Shuttleworth. Just three minutes later, Kallman misplaced a pass and gave the ball to Silva just outside the penalty area. Silva rounded Kallman and Shuttleworth before a diving Cronin saved what was a sure goal.
This sequence marked a change in momentum. Minnesota had been the better team early, but from the 20th minute on, RSL controlled play, and Bobby Shuttleworth was called into action on several occasions to keep the proverbial sheet clean. Salt Lake controlled the remainder of the half, with only brief respite for the Minnesota defense.
The Loons were completely unable to possess the ball and move forward, and failed to create chances. That the first half ended in a tie, much less tied at 0-0, is a marker of how well Bobby Shuttleworth played over the contest’s first 45 minutes.
The second half began much as the first did; Minnesota pushed forward early and created a few chances, the best of which was a Cronin shot from distance. Within a few moments, though, RSL reasserted its dominance. In the 49th minute a long ball was controlled by Brooks Lennon and centered for Savarino. The Venezuelan’s shot caromed off the crossbar and back out before being cleared by the Loons’ defense.
Cronin would show off his vision again, in the 50th minute, with a through ball to Danladi, but the youngster made a mess of his first touch and the subsequent shot was well high. Moments later, RSL sent a shot wide, saving the Loon defenders their blushes. In the 55th minute, Shuttleworth came up big yet again, this time in a one-on-one stop on Lennon.
The Loons continued to defend frantically, and RSL continued to pour on the pressure. The home team failed to put its best chances on target, or found Shuttleworth in the way. Plata was denied one-on-one by the keeper in the 73rd minute, as Shuttleworth dove at Plata’s feet to snatch the ball away.
RSL finally found the net. In the 84th minute, a corner kick appeared to strike a Minnesota hand. While both teams were looking for the whistle, Movsisian found the ball and launched it into the goal.
After the goal, RSL coach Mike Petke subbed Plata off for Chris Wingert in an effort to see the game out.
It was likely unnecessary. Minnesota largely failed to threaten the Royals’ goal even after falling behind. A final chance emerged via a free kick in the Loons’ attacking third. The chance came to naught, though, as the Loons were whistled offside.
After the match, Ramirez pinned the loss on “too many simple turnovers.” Adrian Heath said “[I was] disappointed with a lot of aspects of our play. I don’t think we moved the ball well. I don’t think we caused enough problems in their final third. I couldn’t fault the players for what they gave us.”
Minnesota now has another quick turnaround, with a match against the Portland Timbres on Wednesday. Back at home, the Loons will look to end the recent bad spell of form.
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) June 18, 2017
Minnesota United 0 – 1 Real Salt Lake
Stadium: Rio Tinto Stadium
Kickoff: 9:00 p.m. (CDT)
Yura Movsisian (84′)
Brent Kallman (21′ Unsporting Behavior)
Kyle Beckerman (74′ Unsporting Behavior)
Ibson (86′ Dissent)
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) June 18, 2017
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