Photo Credit: @MNUFC


Matchdays Twenty-One and Twenty-Two: A Tale Of Two Draws

by on 29 July 2019

After the Loons’ thrilling 1-0 win against FC Dallas, Head Coach Adrian Heath went after… the writers at… for… uh… ranking Minnesota too low in their Power Rankings.

As a former writer of Power Rankings, let me offer this advice to players and coaches: ignore them. By the way, if you are a player or coach reading this article… ignore it.

One of the most irritating things that keeps happening with this United club is a tendency to spike the football way too prematurely. Think the Power Rankings aren’t treating you fairly? Win some more games. Think the media isn’t covering you enough? Win some more games. Think you’re not getting enough credit for the coaching job you are doing? Win some more games.

Minnesota have accomplished nothing in MLS. Until they do so, they are not going to get the benefit of the doubt. If people are doubting you, the right remedy is to show them what’s up. Instead—just as they did when Francisco Calvo demanded respect for Minnesota (after a loss to Atlanta), and when Heath told everyone how much he knew what he was doing earlier this year—the Loons followed up their recent boasting by stepping on some rakes.

After Calvo’s comments, they lost two more games. After Heath’s first comments, they lost two more games. At least this time around, they didn’t lose. Away at Salt Lake, the team emerged with a satisfying-on-paper 1-1 draw. At home against Vancouver, they managed a terrible-on-paper 0-0 draw. So that’s improvement right there.

After both previous instances of premature celebration, the Loons did win the third game to follow up their two losses. A win this coming weekend against Portland would help make these two draws, especially the one to Vancouver, far more palatable.

But whether or not that happens, it would be great if the team would just keep their mouths shut next time they feel slighted by some Bleacher Report listicle that has them two spots too low. Use it as motivation on the field, stop embarrassing yourselves in the media by talking a tough game that you can’t back up.

Miscellaneous Notes

4. Too much of a good thing? More than a few people noticed that the Loons’ fantastic summer stretch coincided with the absence of their All-Star right back Romain Métanire, and that their relative struggles in the past couple weeks have coincided with his return from international duty. Against Vancouver, we got a good demonstration of this thesis.

There’s no doubt that Métanire is an excellent player. First and foremost, he is a strong defender. Secondly, he doesn’t lose the ball cheaply in bad positions. Third, he is an accurate crosser. But that’s also a large part of the problem. Being a great crosser is like being a great mid-range shooter in basketball or a great bunter in baseball. It’s a good skill to have, but it’s in an area that is not an optimal way to play. Sometimes you need to take a long two or bunt, but most of the time, those are sub-optimal plays. Crosses are deceiving, it looks like you are getting the ball close to the goal. But the numbers make it clear; they simply do not result in goals very often.

There is a time and a place for a cross, but there is rarely a good reason to take thirty-seven of them, as the Loons did against Vancouver. They completed just three. The Caps were bunkered in, with tall defenders and an active goalkeeper. Meanwhile, the Loons were targeting two small attackers (Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra), and a forward with no real jumping ability (Ángelo Rodríguez). Later on, they added a forward who does have a vertical leap (Mason Toye) and two of the three successful open play crosses, plus one successful long throw-in came after his introduction, but it still didn’t produce a goal. If you have Zlatan or Bas Dost on your team, take as many crosses as you can. But if you don’t have good crossing targets, it’s better to cycle the ball around or try and play a give and go to make space.

The Minnesota coaching staff needs to get a better handle on the team’s attacking tactics. It’s not acceptable to keep launching crosses into a packed defense with no real target for them. Métanire is a valuable weapon in the attack. He cannot be the only weapon in the attack. The ball needs to be at the feet of Quintero more, and Métanire less.

3. The Loons added a new piece, left back Wilfried Moimbé. The depth is fine, and perhaps the team has struck gold from the French second division again, just as they did with Métanire. That said, it’s frustrating that this addition might mean less playing time for Chase Gasper, just after Hassani Dotson has been pushed out of the XI thanks to Métanire’s return. The Loons have made clear in the last two and a half years that they will always trust an international signing over a domestic product. It’d be nice if they paid more attention to developing their own talent, since that’s a far more sustainable approach to building a roster than getting lucky in the transfer market.

2. Speaking of Dotson… The young midfielder was ordinary in his somewhat hyped first start in his natural defensive midfield position against Salt Lake. With Ozzie Alonso out, Ján Greguš stepped up and took over the midfield, leaving Dotson to mostly play a supporting role. It makes sense that it happened that way. Still, it would’ve been nice for Dotson to assert himself a bit more, as he did when he was placed in the fullback role.

1. Miscellaneous Notes. There was a clear hand ball committed by Vancouver’s Teibert late in the match. The arm was extended and the ball clearly hit it. At the same time, it was certainly a “ball to hand” situation. I don’t know how much any of this matters anymore, the enforcement of handball rules seems totally arbitrary these days. It would’ve been harsh on the Whitecaps, and I think justice was done by the no call, but it’s hard to understand what went into it… …Somehow the New England Revolution are the latest surging team in MLS. US National Team aside, Bruce Arena does know how to coach people. Brad Friedel probably does not though.

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