One year it’ll be above freezing when Atlanta comes to town. This was not the year though. It was a balmy 22 degrees at kickoff with a brisk west wind cutting in from the open side of TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota soccer weather.
After the international break when Minnesota had 5 players out with injuries or international duty, the starting XI looked very familiar against Atlanta.
Goalkeeper Matthew Lampson continued to start in goal, while Tyrone Mears was back from injury on the right. Michael Boxall and Francisco Calvo were back from international duty in the center of the defense while Marc Burch took the place of the injured Jérôme Thiesson on the left for the second week in a row.
Ibson and Rasmus Schüller were the two central midfielders, with Sam Nicholson and Ethan Finlay in their usual spots out wide. Miguel Ibarra again was in the number 10 spot, with second year player Abu Danladi replacing Christian Ramirez as the striker.
Ramirez has had a tough start to the season, with no goals yet, although he has been excellent with his link up and hold up play.
Atlanta was again without Ezequiel Barco, but with Miguel Almirón and Josef Martínez, it’s hard to see that as a serious loss for Atlanta. After starting the season with a shocking 4-0 loss to Houston Dynamo, Atlanta has rattled off two wins.
While weather was cold, the game started hot. In the first minute, a yellow card for Leandro González Pírez was given after he took down Nicholson from behind. Mears’s shot on the free kick was handled easily by Brad Guzan.
Atlanta came right back down the field after the free kick and put Lampson under duress with a shot he had to palm wide for an Atlanta corner kick.
On the ensuing corner, the ball was poorly deflected by Ibson on the near post and Lampson had to desperately try to clear the ball. It didn’t go far, falling to an Atlanta player. The header back on goal by Héctor Villalba hit the bar, rebounded off Calvo and back into the net.
Neither team looked truly comfortable for much of the first half after the goal, but Atlanta created the better chances off of counter attacks.
The deciding moment in the game came in the 38th minute when Pírez got his second yellow on a foul on Nicholson. Pírez was caught pushing Nicholson into the boards after the ball had gone out of bounds.
After the sending off, Minnesota dominated possession, and forced Atlanta to fall back into a very defensive shape. On the fly Minnesota could not figure out a way through, and resorted to long balls or passes to players triple teamed.
The Loons and Coach Adrian Heath would have to rethink their strategy over the break.
At the half, new signing Darwin Quintero joined the supporters in the Wonderwall. The newly signed designated player was unavailable this game as his visa was being sorted out.
Minnesota dominated possession, but couldn’t find the final pass to unlock the bunkered defense of Atlanta United. They continued with their strategy of long balls into the box, which rarely found a Loon.
Still, the majority of play was on the Atlanta half.
In the 61’ Christian Ramirez came in for Abu Danladi, who wasn’t able to find a way through on goal.
As the veteran goalkeeper Guzan kept employing delaying tactics as shot after shot of Minnesota’s would go wide, Ibson ran over each time to grab the ball and set it up for Guzan. It wouldn’t be until the 90′ that Guzan would receive a yellow for time wasting.
As Atlanta player after Atlanta player fell to real or exaggerated injuries, the fans became more and more frustrated.
The play became more and more choppy, with Atlanta players arguing every call.
Still Minnesota struggled to get anything on net, with Calvo’s 81st minute shot off the side netting as close as the team got.
Even with seven minutes of extra time, Minnesota could not create any real chances on goal. As the match ended, Minnesota would record 70% of the possession, but only create 3 shots on goal.
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) April 1, 2018
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