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Nicholson, Boxall Debut as Drought Reaches 350 Minutes

by on 22 July 2017

Three hundred fifty-one minutes. A goalless drought reaching as far back as the end of June.

With Saturday’s 3-0 loss to New York Red Bulls, Minnesota United has not scored in the entire month of July, despite there being an abundancy of chances against the New Jersey squad.

“As long as we keep creating [chances], we’ll get a goal,” Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath said. “You need to take those opportunities when they arise. We played against a really good team, and not a lot’s gone our way. I’m more proud of the guys today than when we took something from the game Wednesday night.”

Part of the excitement for Saturday’s game was around the debut of Scottish midfielder Sam Nicholson on the wing and Michael Boxall on the back line, filling in at the center back role with Brent Kallman.

“I thought they were terrific,” Heath said. “Take in that Michael got in late last night and has been in Canada for four days and yesterday was on a couple airplanes…thought he was terrific.”

“I love the commitment to the two fellas because they are so far behind this group.”

New York’s Daniel Royer put the visitors on the board in the 16th minute, hitting home from outside the penalty area with plenty of space around him. The failure to close down on the shot caught goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth flatfooted, leaving little doubt for Royer to score his eighth goal of the season.

The goal seemed to help Minnesota settle, rattling numerous chances through Nicholson, Christian Ramirez and Miguel Ibarra. The best seemed to come in the 39th minute, when the debutant fired his cross just high. Ibarra had three chances at a cross on the play, finding the winger on the back post unmarked with the third, but the Loons went in down one at the break.

“Sam Nicholson showed glimpses of what he’s going to be,” said Heath. “He can play, he can run with the ball.”

Coming out for the second half, Minnesota seemed to regress from its form to end the half, allowing New York to press and play dangerously through Bradley Wright-Phillips. The forward finally got his breakthrough, albeit on a play that could have drawn the Loons level on the other end.

Ibarra seemed to get his feet tangled inside the penalty box and went to ground. Shouts from the Minnesota faithful wanted a penalty — the third shout for a spot kick from the fans around TCF Bank after two apparent hand balls in the first half. Referee Hilario Grajeda deemed the play clean, and an immediate counter from the Red Bulls allowed Wright-Phillips to get in the penalty area and slot home his 19th goal of the season.

“At one-nil, wondering is it a penalty, is it not, and then go down to the other end and score, it takes the wind out of the sails” Heath said. “Takes the energy out of the stadium.”

Chasing just a goal, Minnesota gave up a third late to Alex Muyl. The midfielder was able to work the left flank and find the upper corner on the near post to ice the game.

The quest for the next goal and potentially win No. 6 will come next weekend against D.C. United at home. The battle of the Uniteds will pit the last place team in the East against the team in last place in the West. Some questions could be asked if the goalless or winless streak continues for Minnesota.

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