You’ve heard the adage that ‘good teams make their own luck.’ A team like Atlanta gets so many penalties and cards on the opposition simply by putting them pressure. In contrast, Minnesota are proving the reverse is true, that bad teams make their own bad luck. In Colorado, against a team that would struggle to tie their shoelaces together, the Loons let their opponents off the hook time and time again, then lost their focus late and let all the points slip.
Of all 52 competitive games that Minnesota United have played since joining MLS, I don’t think you will find one more frustrating than Saturday night’s 2-3 capitulation to the Colorado Rapids, who are—and I want to stress this—an unbelievably bad team.
The Loons started the match like other teams start against them. They looked likely to score from the opening whistle, passing freely in the final third and winning the ball back immediately when Colorado tried to break out. But it was only after several missed chances that they finally scored, thanks to the alertness of Miguel Ibarra to clean up a loose ball, after great work from Rasmus Schüller and Darwin Quintero to create the opportunity. But several other great chances would go begging in the half and ultimately the score was just 1-0 to the Loons after the first forty five.
The game turned on its head in the second half, when the Rapids came out and finally played like a team starting a half against Minnesota. Their breakthrough came through their best player, winger Edgar Castillo, who got too much space atop the box and curled in a beautiful shot. The Loons took a while to respond, but ultimately found the net with a beautiful counter-attack from Quintero, Ibarra, and Christian Ramirez.
If you were to pause the match at this moment and taken stock, you would’ve been reasonably satisfied with the situation for Minnesota. The Loons had dominated a full half, and recovered from a bad spell in the second. The Rapids looked basically toothless, even when they had control of proceedings. Perhaps most importantly, Minnesota have been quite good this year at holding late leads in the rare moments when they have had them. But in this game…
… things didn’t work out so well.
Let’s break it down.
The Dumb Things That Went Wrong
5. Colorado equalized in the 74th minute through Joe Mason, assisted by the godawful turf of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Both teams had been slipping and sliding all over the field throughout the game. It nearly cost Colorado when goalkeeper Tim Howard fell over trying to get across his net in the first half, but they got lucky and no damage was done. Instead, the terrible conditions were Minnesota’s downfall. Mason was slipped behind the defense with a simple pass that Brent Kallman would’ve easily cut out, had he not lost his edge as he changed direction to intercept.
Well before the goal, we noticed the comical condition of the turf on Twitter, but little did we know it would prove the turning point of the match.
Players are slipping and sliding all over this field, it’s like a skating rink. #COLvMIN
— Fifty Five One (@FiftyFiveOne) June 24, 2018
Minnesota fans aren’t in great position to talk here, the field at TCF Bank Stadium is probably even with New England as the league’s worst surface. But it’s bad in an entirely different way. Colorado had played just twice at home that month, with the previous game coming ten days before. I’m not an expert groundskeeper, but the number of slips and falls in Saturday’s match was not acceptable.
4. Miguel Ibarra was sent off after catching Colorado’s Danny Wilson in the face while scrapping for the ball after the goal. He gave the referee no choice. It looked as if he wanted to push Wilson again (if he had wanted to punch him, why would he have hit him open handed?), but with Wilson stooped over his hands skimmed off his back and hit his head. A pretty clear red card and a dumb thing to do.
But while we’re on the subject, the kind of gamesmanship from Wilson to refuse to return the ball back to Minnesota, going out of his way to run the ball down, shield Ibarra from it, and pick it up and cradle it, is just embarrassing. We see that garbage all the time, and it’s no less stupid and childish. PRO could end that kind of nonsense tomorrow if it instructed referees to award an automatic yellow card to players who delay the game by refusing to hand over the ball after goals, and the other team would have more patience knowing that the offense would be punished. Ibarra was too easily baited, but I completely understand his frustration.
3. The Loons allowed a last second equalizer in the seventh minute of a six minute stoppage time. I care a lot less about referees reading exactly to the minimum allotted minutes than many people do, but it’s certainly frustrating when the other team gets that kind of leeway and makes the most of it.
I can wonder, too, about the elbow to the head of Wyatt Omsberg that Tommy Smith used to gain his position for the winning header. But that’s on Omsberg, who has two inches on Smith, and simply cannot lose that ball. Overall, Omsberg was pretty good when coming on, and he wins a very high amount of aerial balls. It was unfortunate that his learning experience came in such a key moment.
2. This was a game Minnesota simply could not lose, and it may as well end their playoff chances, barring a miracle.. The Rapids were bad coming into the game, they were bad during it, and the Loons lost anyway. The manner in which it was lost was infuriating, but bad teams make their own bad luck, and the Loons can blame only themselves for not putting the match away in the first half.
When you drop nine points to San Jose and Colorado, you’re not a playoff team, even in the west. Now seven points back of the playoff line, something dramatic is going to have to change with this team in order to see a revival. The summer transfer window is their biggest hope, but even with the addition of plenty of new talent, the team’s woes in midfield structure and defense continue to be glaring. After a year and a half, Head Coach Adrian Heath and his staff have yet to fix the team’s lack of organized midfield pressure, the team’s inability to hold the ball when it needs a respite, the team’s slow starts coming out of the locker room, etc. etc. etc.
You can rightly point out the deficiencies of this roster. But you do not need a team of all-stars at every position to compete in MLS, all you need is a team identity and good organization. Minnesota have none of that right now, that’s why they’re not in the playoffs, and the primary blame for that must fall upon the coaching staff. At some point, there needs to be accountability. If the season ended today, Adrian Heath and his staff have not earned a third season in charge of this team.
1. Quick hits. The red card put a damper on things, but Miguel Ibarra really was fantastic. He’s been the team’s best player by a wide margin this season… …Eric Miller needs to come back ASAP, because Alexi Gómez is not a fullback. His best minutes with the Loons have come at central midfield… …Speaking of which, where was Collen Warner to start this season? How can someone go from complete afterthought to starting? Where is Maximiano, who the team is paying a lot of money to ride the bench. Is he a red card risk? Yes. Is he the team’s only defensive midfielder? Yes. What’s going on here?… …Kudos to the fans who traveled to Denver for the match, you were louder than the Colorado fans on my stream… …Kudos to the Minnesota Unified Team, who by all accounts represented the state and the club well… … Why do I follow this team????????
FiftyFive.One is now on Patreon. Do you like the independent coverage of soccer news from Minnesota and beyond that FiftyFive.One offers? Please consider becoming a patron.