Photo by Daniel Mick.

Photo by Daniel Mick.

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In a Clash of Uniteds, Minnesota Comes Out on Top 4-0

by on 29 July 2017

Minnesota United FC beat fellow basement dweller D.C. United 4-0 in Minneapolis. Christian Ramirez started off the scoring in the seventh minute with Abu Danladi adding another goal to give Minnesota a two-goal lead entering half. After the break, it was an own goal by D.C. United and a goal at the death by Miguel Ibarra to give the Loons their first win in more than a month.

The last few weeks have truly been the dog days of summer for Minnesota United FC. A promising May has turned into a dire July as Minnesota went a month without scoring in league play and even longer without a win.

As the late July sun shone down on the plastic pitch at TCF Bank Stadium and the supporters and fans slowly dribbled into the lower bowl, Minnesota warmed up much as they always have. There was no obvious sign of desperation in their actions. The team was loose and ready for the match to begin.

The supporters have been fantastic. They were again tonight. 20,000 people when we haven’t been winning every week.
-Adrian Heath

D.C. United, the only team in MLS with a worse record, had only arrived in the Twin Cities seven-and-a-half hours before the match was to begin. In some regards, it made sense that Minnesota was loose. This was the type of game that should help a team break out of their slump and right the ship.

Lineups

Minnesota finally had all its players back from international duty. From the regular starters, only Brent Kallman and Marc Burch were out.

Bobby Shuttleworth started in goal, his position assured with the end of John Alvbåge’s loan spell with the team. The defense featured centrally New Zealand international Michael Boxall and Francisco Calvo, back from international duty with Costa Rica in the Gold Cup. On the right side was new father Jérôme Thiesson and, on the left, Ismaila Jome.

Sam Cronin returned to his defensive midfield position after missing a game with an injury. Ibson was the deep lying playmaker. Kevin Molino was in the attacking position, finally feeling fit after dealing with a bad ankle for the last month. Joining him in the attack was Sam Nicholson on the left and Abu Danladi out right. Christian Ramirez again took the spot at the top of the formation as the striker.

For the first time in weeks, Minnesota had a full complement of players on the bench. For head coach Adrian Heath, it’s not coincidence that the team played well, as a full compliment of players meant there was competition for spots on the field.

Competition for places is pretty fierce at this time. After 40 years of doing this, probably more, it’s still the best form of motivation for players when someone can come and take your place.
– Adrian Heath

D.C. United is a team struggling, moreso than Minnesota. The only player who received a national call up in July was Bill Hamid, who featured in only one game for the USMNT — a 3-0 win against Nicaragua in pool play. D.C. has fallen apart, and has lost its last five matches.

First half

Minnesota came out ready in the first half, dominating play from kickoff. It didn’t take long for the home side to find the back of the net.

“The ball Molino put for Christian is as good as you’ll see. He can create with the best of them.”
-Coach Heath

In the seventh minute, Molino played a great ball, dropping his pass just behind the D.C. defense, perfectly weighted to allow Ramirez run onto it. The Loons’ leading scorer let it bounce twice and then slammed it past D.C. goalkeeper Hamid with authority.

After the goal, Minnesota seemed to let up, allowing D.C. a chance to find their way back into the match. Shuttleworth brought the crowd back into the game, making a great save. D.C. striker Deshorn Brown got in on goal after a defensive miscue, but Shuttleworth was there to grab the shot. Chants of “M-N-U-F-C” from all corners of the field poured down onto the pitch, urging the players to keep after the visitors.

Minnesota controlled possession, but couldn’t find a way in on goal. D.C. was quick to counter, but each time Shuttleworth was there to make the stop.

Minnesota doubled its lead in the waning minutes of the first half. Danladi, against the run of play, slipped the ball into the near post against an out-of-position Hamid. Molino had an assist on the goal with a great through-ball to the streaking Danladi.

After the goal, Ramirez came out with an injury, replaced by Miguel Ibarra.

The second goal took the wind out of D.C. United, who had looked to be close to finding a goal. Minnesota was able to see the rest of the first half out without incident.

Second half

D.C. brought in two new midfielders in the second half, looking for some way to shut down Molino and the Loons. They almost had an early chance, but Shuttleworth came out of his box early in the second half to shut down Brown, whose eventual shot from an impossible angle went into the side netting.

Minnesota was lucky that D.C. didn’t find the back of the net in the early minutes of the second half. An early chance arrived for the visitors when Ibson fell down, looking for a call. D.C. kept attacking, finding space on the left side of Minnesota’s defense and it was only a great save by Shuttleworth, diving to his right, that kept the shot out.

It would be a miscue from a D.C. defense competing with Minnesota for worst in the league that would put the game out of reach. Ibarra sent in a cross into the box that second half substitute Jared Jeffrey, under no duress, put into the back of the net.

The supporters cheers rained down on the field as the sun set behind the Minneapolis skyline. Minnesota kept weathering attacking attempts from the visiting United, responding to each D.C. foray into Minnesota territory with a chance back the other way.

In added time, Ibarra scored on a shot that Hamid got a glove on but couldn’t push it far enough wide. The ball hit off the inside of the far post and went in for Minnesota’s fourth goal of the game.

Moments later, the full time whistle blew. While the match was only a victory against the rivals for worst team in MLS, it didn’t matter to the supporters, who belted out one of their loudest renditions of “Wonderwall” since the first win against Real Salt Lake.

Three stars

Player ratings

Match statistics

Minnesota United FC 4 – D.C. United 0
Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. (CDT)
Weather: 82°, Sunny
Attendance: 20,146

Scoring summary
7′ Ramirez
40′ Danladi
58′ Jeffrey (own goal)
90′ Ibarra

Disciplinary

Taylor Kemp (36′, Unsporting Behavior)
Bobby Shuttleworth (79′, Time Wasting)
Sam Cronin (86′, Unsporting Behavior)

Game highlights

 


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  • Michael Clark

    That was the first MNUFC game in a long, long time where I sat back and did not worry for the full 90. D.C. is either that bad, or we really needed all our starters back.

  • Steve Lindley

    Is it an MLS rule for the game highlights to be so short? They were consistently 7-9 minutes long last year and are less than 2 minutes this year.

    • Mallahet

      I think first highlights are less than 2, and then a day or so later you can find the longer ones? I’m probably making this up, but I thought it was a thing.

  • Pete Bissen

    Is the set-piece situation so dire that we can’t even attempt to put a ball in the box on a regular basis? Ibson either hits a high, floated ball into the box (normally grabbed by the GK) or a backwards pass to Cronin or a defender. Not sure if we don’t have the right players to offer a dangerous set-piece or if we’re just not willing to commit men forward so often. I want to see a screamer into the upper 90 every time but I would be willing to settle for a few connected FK headers on goal or at least close.