Photo courtesy Minnesota United FC.

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Minnesota United FC Starts Strong, Beats Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2 on the Road

by on 3 March 2019

Minnesota United FC started their 2019 campaign and five game road trip strong, beating fellow Western Conference side Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2. Darwin Quintero converted a penalty and Francisco Calvo and Romario Ibarra added goals in the second half to give Minnesota the victory.

The third year of the three year plan comes with high expectations. While many were not hoping for much out of the five match road trip to start the season while Allianz Field is finished in preparation for its inaugural season, Minnesota United proved the doubters wrong by starting the season off with three points against Vancouver Whitecaps.

Lineup

 

The team featured a starting XI that fans from 2017 or even 2018 would hardly recognize. In goal was Vito Mannone, the Italian who missed most of the preseason dealing with visa issues. Before the match the team tweeted a picture of his jersey with his name misspelled.

The center back pairing included former MLS defender of the year Ike Opara and Michael Boxall, while Calvo was out on the left side. On the right was another newcomer, Romain Metanire. The midfield looked different as well, with two more players making their Minnesota United FC debuts, Jan Gregus and Ozzie Alonso.

The attack had a more familiar flair, although Rasmus Schüller had rarely played on the wing for Minnesota before. On the other side of the pitch was Miguel Ibarra, while Quintero and Romario played more advanced, attacking roles.

First half

On both sides of the ball Minnesota continued the success they had had in the preseason. They created dangerous opportunities on the attack and their defense did not allow a goal during the run of play.

Instead,  miscommunication and confusion during an early free kick would put Minnesota behind early. Whatever was practiced during preseason was not implemented, and Ike Opara found himself covering two streaking Whitecaps off a free kick from 25 yards out. Erik Godoy had the inside track and easily directed the ball passed a flat footed Mannone.

Despite all the offseason changes the team still gave up a soft goal.

Minnesota rebounded quickly and largely dominated the remainder of the half. In the 36th minute, Calvo was recklessly brought down in the box. Quintero buried the ensuing penalty in the upper ninety to even the score.

Second half

While the Whitecaps came out in the second half looking to break away from the visitors, Minnesota stood firm and they were able to weather the initial storm. By the 60th minute, Minnesota was back in control and a go ahead goal seemed inevitable.

Calvo again found a lot of attacking space and freedom along the left wing. He jumped on a misplayed ball in the midfield by the Whitecaps and kept running toward goal after playing it off to Romario. Quintero would settle the ball and send a perfectly placed lofted pass right to Calvo, whose diving header was impossible for the Whitecap goalkeeper to stop.

Romario would add a third for Minnesota in the 70th minute. Quintero won the ball deep in the opponent’s half with Romario grabbing the loose ball. He waited for Maxime Crépeau to dive to his right to stop the cross before burying the ball into the near corner.

Vancouver almost pulled out a comeback in this match. The home side played a short corner kick late in the second half, then moved the ball quickly to the center of the field. Minnesota lost their marks and two players were left open in the middle of the six yard box. Doneil Henry headed home it in to make it a one goal game.

The fans who had trekked to British Columbia, along with those at home, held their collective breath for the remaining 10 minutes plus stoppage time, but Minnesota emerged victorious, finding themselves at the top of the table for the first time in their MLS history.


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