Matchday Fourteen and US Open Cup: Loons Hit Doldrums In Mid-Country Tour

by on 7 June 2018

Minnesota United traveled to Kansas City last weekend and the result was the same as it always is when the Loons play at Sporting Park—a horrifying beatdown. They then traveled to Cincinnati for the first time for the US Open Cup, and the result was the same as it always is when the Loons play their first US Open Cup match—a joyless slog against a motivated, organized opponent. Perhaps there’s something to be said for consistency?

This is going to be the shortest note of the year. With the Sunday night match and the Wednesday night match, I haven’t had time to really reflect a great deal, and it’s helped that neither game was in any way surprising. I expected the Loons to get pasted at the Speedway, and I gave them even odds to prevail in Cincy. Consider my expectations satisfied.

The real takeaway from this week is that it’s over. MLS now pivots to a short break for the World Cup groupstage, and that will give the Loons precious time to recuperate a bit, and then hopefully improve as a team. It’s abundantly clear that this squad has to get better together, their tactics have to get smarter, and maybe there’ll be an opportunity to do some wheeling and dealing in the subsequent transfer windows.

What we saw in Kansas City wasn’t good enough, and what we saw in Cincinnati wasn’t good enough either. The bottom isn’t falling out of this team, but they’re not getting better relative to the competition right now, and that’s not good enough over all.

Miscellaneous notes

4. Don’t get too bent out of shape about the US Open Cup Yes it was a dire game. But let’s act like we’ve been here before. It’s always a dire game. Minnesota are not a good enough squad to impose their will on lesser teams who are organized and motivated. We knew that coming in, and we knew it when the NASL Loons played St. Louis FC on a plastic pitch in Fenton, MO, or even the Des Moines Menace in years before that.

Also, that’s how the Loons played when Sporting KC came to town in 2016. Remember, the Sporks only won that match in extra time, after the regulation expired 1-1.

That doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied with how the game went, but please don’t act surprised. This is the US Open Cup, this is how it goes. The Loons are through to the next round, and that’s what matters.

3. I’ve still got Maximiano stock even after his horror showing against Kansas City, and the game against Cincinnati demonstrated why. The Brazilian was far and away the Loons’ best two way player, operating like a less insane Ibson. While he lacked some of his elder countryman’s flair, his positioning was way better, and frankly he was a lot more unselfish in combination play.

Most importantly, he was much less suicidal in defense as he was against Kansas City. I’ve written and said before that he is clearly a player who is not afraid to ‘get stuck in,’ which is both good and bad. The Portland Timbers’ Diego Chara is the master of fouling up a storm in midfield and never getting sent off for it. Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman is another legendary practitioner of the dark arts. Maximiano has none of their subtlety, and that’s why he has a yellow card every half hour of play so far. A couple of those were tactical fouls, but others were tackles where he came in late with a locked leg and cleated or stamped a guy.

The Kansas City nightmare could’ve buried him on the bench for a while, but it came at the perfect time—right before a midweek chance for redemption and then a long break.  I have some faith that he can figure out the right balance between crazy man and savvy man. I like the way he positions himself, I like the way he moves, I like that he can pass between the lines. I like how he battles, and I’m hopeful we’ll see more of him, not less.

2. The World Cup is almost here, and it portends yet another morally questionable month of watching the world’s game at its best and worst. On the field, I’ve got France. I know their history of implosions, but their talent is unmatched in recent memory. You could make a cup favorite out of French players not even called into their team, that’s how good the ones that were called are. The only position where they are weak is at coach, but in a tournament where Diego Maradona succeeded, I’m betting on talent first and foremost. And of course, I’m cheering for Iceland and Costa Rica.

1. Quick hits. Alexi Gómez was dreadful against the Sporks and was rightly yanked at the half. It’s starting to feel like 2015 again, when there’s not a single good option at left wing (at least who isn’t better elsewhere)… …Brent Kallman and Michael Boxall have been decent together, but not an obvious improvement over the Calvo pairing. Last year, the Boxall-Kallman pairing was not great in their few starts together… …Collen Warner made his first appearance in forever against Cincy and was fine, but it’s kinda baffling how he’s just disappeared, huh?… …Thanks to the fine folks at Cincy Soccer Talk for having me on their live show on Monday night and having our own Bill MK on their podcast before that. I think they’ll be great additions to MLS, but I hope they get a move on building that new stadium, because honestly Nippert didn’t sound or look especially good…

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