When? – 7:00 PM CT, Saturday, August 27
Where? - FIU Stadium, Miami, FL
How to Watch? My29 (Local), ESPN3 (Everywhere else)
MNUFC Gameday – @mnunitedgameday
With Minnesota United starting to build momentum, Carl Craig’s men will head to Miami to face The FC for the third and final time in the 2016 regular season. During the spring, Minnesota was able to secure a 2-1 victory over the visitors. However, The Miami came to NSC three weeks ago and walloped Minnesota to the tune of 4-0. With key players like Richie Ryan, Michael Lahoud, Jonny Steele, Danny Cruz, Kevin Venegas, and Ibson injured or suspended, this match will likely have a very different feel than the first two.
With the season series at stake, I’ll be providing personal reflections in a running diary format every five or ten minutes. I’ll also be regularly checking the comments section. Just like the usual match threads, post your thoughts and questions about this match or United/soccer in general below. First post should come around 6:50 or so.
0′ - Just over five minutes until kickoff! It seems like the rumored storms will hold off long enough for the match tonight. Both teams have greatly-revamped starting lineups from their last matches.
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 27, 2016
Minnesota will trot out Lance Laing for a rare start, with Jack Blake returning from suspension to plug into the center of the midfield. Brent Kallman also returns to the lineup alongside Damion Lowe, and Jamie Watson makes his third straight start. Somewhat frighteningly, two goalkeepers and an injured Stefano Pinho are on the bench today. Good thing you can only use three subs, right?
— The Miami FC (@TheMiamiFC) August 27, 2016
As expected, Steele joins Ryan and Lahoud as injury-related holdouts from the XI, though Lahoud is on the bench. The always dangerous Kwadwo Poku is the one to watch in this lineup.
1′ - The charming Luis Guardia blows the whistle and the match is underway. If you’re ever caught sleeping during the match, just stare at Guardia’s biceps. Those things look like they have their own feelings. (Note: the football field lines aren’t representative of how wide the pitch is. I’ve thought Minnesota has kicked the ball out of bounds three times in two minutes. This will suck.)
5′ - Both teams looking lively during the opening minutes. Most notable from this first passage of time is the presence of a vuvuzela in the crowd. I thought those things went extinct in 2012, but we all know that Miami keeps it four years behind the curve.
7′ - Yes, that was a missed penalty call for Guardia’s biceps. The Miami defender clearly hits Ramirez in the face as he holds him back from the ball. The same contact has gotten players a red card in dead-ball situations, much less in the box.
11′ - A couple of set-pieces miss the mark for Minnesota, with a Blake free-kick from 22 yards out hitting the wall and a Speas corner kick failing to find a target. Kudos to a traveling Dark Clouds contingent for doing the corner kick “Here We Go” chant loud enough for the feed to pick up.
16′ - A mis-settled ball by Lowe is stopped by Martinez, but Martinez’s passed to Cvitanich is well offside. Despite this, Miami FC’s fans cheer loudly as Cvitanich sadly kicks the ball in the net after the whistle. Party on, Miami.
23′ - The good part about playing in Miami is that the football yardlines make it easy to tell when an attacker is offsides. The bad part about playing in Miami is that you can clearly hear their fans doing the ‘p*to* chant. Absolutely inexcusable at this point. Hairy-arsed midfielder Pitchkolan has done well to shut down Poku through the first quarter of the match.
29′ - Much like the previous game in Oklahoma City, Chris Lidholm nails the sarcastic lawn-care advertisement as the camera zooms in on the turf. Also, we have yet to hear a Pitbull song from the Dade Brigade. There’s plenty of time left for that, though.
31′ - Miami forced to use an injury substitution to pull Gabriel Farfan for Lahoud. This puts the central midfielder at right back, giving Laing and Davis a lane to try and exploit.
36′ - Definitely the most exciting five minutes yet. Sammy Ndjock had to make a diving header stop outside the box to stop an attack. Later, Ndjock makes a point-blank save on an offside Cvitanich, which is good for confidence. Two kids in Barcelona alternate shirts took a picture with a cow mascot, and I didn’t know there were cows in Miami. Edge-of-your-seat stuff right here.
38′ - Less fun few minutes: Blake Smith scissor-tackles Ramirez’s legs in the box off of a free kick but doesn’t get a penalty called. Laing clumsily runs into a Miami player and draws a yellow card.
43′ - A couple of chippy fouls called against Laing to neutralize the Minnesota attack. More pressingly, Brovsky goes down off-the-ball holding his right knee. He’s able to jog off with the training staff and seems like he’ll be good to go.
45+3′ - Davis avoids a handball call and makes up for it with a well-timed slide tackle to neutralize his error. Ndjock catches a cross, settles it, and Guardia’s biceps blow the whistle on the first half. Pitchkolan and Davis the stand-outs so far, along with Nesta’s hair. Minnesota will be happy to keep this Miami side scoreless, but it’ll take a little more to beat the defense.
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 28, 2016
Miami has the majority of the ball, but Minnesota has twice as many shots, showing again that it’s not how long you hold the ball but how well you use your possession. Here’s hoping these shots hit the target in the second half.
46′ - No changes to either side (aside from the earlier Lahoud entry) as the second half starts. Laing has to be careful not to…what did he even draw fouls for again? Either way, he lobs the ball over the defense and takes off down the wing, only stopped by Martinez, who tugs on Laing’s jersey and draws a yellow card.
51′ - After fifty minutes of neutralizing Poku, a series of passes around the box turns into a cross by Rezende, who finds Poku’s head at the far post and knocks it in. Not sure who was marking him. Also strange that Miami’s crowd got quieter after the goal. Laing goes down in the opposite box after the kick, but again there’s no whistle. 1-0 Miami.
56′ - Minnesota shows some life after giving up the opening goal, with Davis charging into the box and forcing a corner kick. Speas’ cross finds Pitchkolan, but his header flies over the bar. Also, Lowe completed a Cruyff-turn as the last defender standing in front of Poku. Win some, lose some.
59′ – LANCE!!!!1!111ojuvbwofhiuwhf!!!!!!!
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 28, 2016
59′ - A quick counterattack started by Jack Blake bounces over to Lance Laing, who one-touch chips Vega from 18 yards out and finds the net. Laing celebrates by kissing the United crest on the jersey. This would be a great time for him to hit his usual mojo. 1-1.
64′ - A lot of swagger from Minnesota after the equalizer. Davis and Laing each charge on their own counter-attacks and Miami looks stunned to have conceded. The direct play is smart, and everyone looks re-inspired. There’s hope again for now. Adailton comes in for Wilson Palacios as Miami tries to refocus the defense. Banks on for Speas two minutes later.
70′ - Laing is subbed off (carrying a yellow) for Jome as Carl Craig tries to hold onto a result while preparing for Wednesday against Fort Lauderdale. Kallman makes a diving clearance in front of net as Minnesota starts to work the ball up the field. This feels every bit like a playoff game. It’s a shame only one of these two teams will make it, with Indy clinching through the spring and New York and Edmonton looking safe.
75′ - The Miami captain Borrajo falls to the ground off-the-ball due to a leg cramp. Takes a while to get up, but seems okay. Jome struggling to find his legs while Banks has found a good rhythm with Blake and Pitchkolan in the midfield. The last fifteen minutes will be closely contested.
80′ - Rennella in for Cvitanich as Miami uses their final substitute. Alan Willey doing everything he can to tempt fate by talking about how Minnesota has earned three points but admitting he would “settle” for a draw. Minnesota collectively plugs their ears and shouts gibberish to try and neutralize the voodoo.
84′ - Rennella brings a ball down with his hand in the box (no call, surprise!) and hits a bicycle, which sails over the net for a goal kick. Camera cuts to Carl Craig, pointing to the exact spot on his own arm to the 4th official. Guardia’s biceps seem to swallow his whistle when the ball is in the box entirely, creating some kind of dadaistic world where anything goes.
87′ – Borrajo shown a yellow card after clotheslining Davis on the wing. A low Watson cross nearly finds Ramirez before Bernstein clears it for a throw. Minnesota has a flurry of attempts and throw-ins around the box in the next sixty seconds, with none finding the frame. An impressive hold-up by Lahoud springs a counter, but Davis neutralizes Rennella on the wing to stop the rhythm.
90+1′ - Lowe and Blake both favoring some sore legs as stoppage time starts. Minnesota looks to have the better of the pressure, but Miami earns a corner kick with fifteen seconds to go. Thus begins an absolutely cringe-worthy minute of MIami play around the box, complete with Brovsky bicycle clearance, Lowe chested clearance, three Minnesota players heading it, and an incredible shoulder-save by Ndjock to preserve the point. Men of the match are Laing, Pitchkolan, Davis, and Kallman.
Minnesota will be much happier with this draw than Miami as Minnesota holds control of the playoff position over a charging The FC side. Next up: Fort Lauderdale Strikers.