Friday night saw a new era begin in Minnesota sports. Minnesota United Football Club (MNUFC) officially made it to Major League Soccer. The opening game against the Portland Timbers did not go as planned, as it all seemed to fall apart at the end. By the final whistle, Portland took the three points with a 5-1 win. Here are three thoughts from the game.
Portland dominate in Loon’s MLS welcoming
It took just three minutes for the Timbers to take a shot across the nose of Minnesota’s defense. From that moment, it felt like the home side were in control, control they would not give up for 70 minutes.
Even though the Loons won the possession battle 53 to 47 percent, there was very little threat. The final cutting edge was not seen, and the attack was disjointed.
This could have been hindered by head coach Adrian Heath’s choice to start with a 4-3-3 with Johan Venegas at striker. The issue was that in defense, the formation changed to a 4-5-1, isolating Venegas. Without support, the striker often turned the ball over.
Portland meanwhile searched for the opener. They deservedly got it after a half hour, but there was controversy. Sebastian Blanco was physical in the lead up to the free kick which Portland would turn in. He appeared to foul the defender, but won the free kick none the less.
The 1-0 halftime score could have been worse, but just 90 seconds after the restart it was. Diego Valeri’s header was well placed, but underlined deeper issues.
MNUFC’s backline ripped apart
Hard to find fault in the first goal of the game, but the second showed what inexperience can do.
Valeri got on the wrong side of his defender, and was played onside by another dropping. Two simple mistakes and then a 2-0 deficit.
The penalty that led to Valeri’s second was another prime example. MLS debutant Vadim Demidov pulled down Portland’s Fanendo Adi, not for a first time. It was sloppy defending at best.
The fourth and fifth goals were both just lazy defending as the Loons looked for a goal and were stretched.
Of the back four, it could be said that left back Justin Davis was the best performer. The career Loon was admirable in defense and was willing to push forward.
It was just one game, but the status of the backline is reason for concern. One of the talking points of the team build is that there is a lot of money still to invest. Come the summer transfer window, expect a splash of money on the defensive side.
Superman and Batman need/deserve game time
The first ever MNUFC MLS starting 11 was without two of the most popular names. Christian “Superman” Ramirez and Miguel “Batman” Ibarra were assigned to the bench.
Ramirez was the first substitute sent on after 70 minutes. His effect on the game was immediate. That was helped by switching formation to a 4-2-3-1 with Ramirez up top and Venegas in behind him.
He was going to be the man to score the first MLS goal for Minnesota, and he took his chance well.
There was another pickup in energy when Ibarra went on, but that did not last long. Adi’s five-minute brace sapped all energy from the team.
No matter — both showed that the MLS is not too big of a stage and it will be surprising to not see Ramirez in the starting 11 next week. As for Ibarra, maybe a half-hour of work against Atlanta on Sunday.