Minnesota United vs. New England Recap: Loons Defensive Woes Continue Out East

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - MARCH 18: The Minnesota United soccer team huddles before the game against the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park March 18, 2017 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

After the initial disastrous first two weeks of the season, last week saw the Loons gain a bit of credibility in their 2-2 road draw with the Rapids. Hoping to build on their growth in week three would be difficult, as Minnesota would be without five starters from the game in Colorado. Missing with International duties were Johan Venegas and Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica), Rasmus Schuller (Finland) and Kevin Molino (Trinidad and Tobago). Also out of the lineup was starting left back Justin Davis (suspension). The Revolution on the other hand had a full lineup and were also hungry for their first win of the season.

Minnesota United vs. New England Recap: Loons Defensive Woes Continue Out East

The first half had an all to familiar start for Loons fans, with New England’s Juan Agudelo scoring in the 4th minute. He easily rose up between four Loon defenders and headed home a nice cross from teammate Chris Tierney. Minnesota fought back and evened the score in the 14th minute with a goal from Collen Warner. Loons striker Christian Ramirez fed the ball to Warner at the top of the box and he hit a beautiful low bender that curled just inside the right post.

Unfortunately that momentum was shattered by three more goals for the Revolution in the next 25 minutes of play. Former MLS All-Star Kei Kamara started the bleeding in the 21st minute. New England’s Lee Nguyen dribbled into the box, drawing all four Loons defenders toward him, and he then chipped the ball over the defense to a wide open Kamara at the far post. Kamara easily slotted it home against helpless Loons and former Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

Other than last weeks game in Colorado, Minnesota’s defensive positioning has been atrocious. I’m not sure if this is because of the unfamiliarity of the players (four different starting defenses in four games) or the formation. They had better figure it out soon or they will easily set an MLS record for goals conceded in a season.

In the 32nd minute things got worse as Agudelo made the most of contact from Loons captain Vadim Demidov in the box. Nguyen converted the penalty to give New England a two goal lead. Demidov has been a particular sore spot for Minnesota fans. He was brought in (and sold to fans) as a player with years of European experience as a calming veteran presence on the back line. He has been anything but. He’s been responsible for two penalties in his three starts among countless other mistakes. He seems far to slow for the MLS and I’m not sure Minnesota’s coach Adrian Heath can continue to justify starting him.

The first half finished with the Rev’s Agudelo left all alone on the left side of the box, slotting home his 2nd of the day around helpless diving Loons defenders in the 41st minute. The opening 45 minutes¬†ended 4-1.

The second half started with a change in tactics from Minnesota. Heath switched to a five man defense, bringing on defender Jermaine Taylor for midfielder Bashkim Kadrii. He also brought on attacker and number one draft pick Abu Danladi for midfielder Miguel Ibarra. The tactical change worked amazingly well as the Loons would not concede another goal in open play for the rest of the match.

Minnesota came out with energy and started the second half very positively, scoring only four¬†minutes into the half. Danladi was fouled about 15 yards from the box, sandwiched between Rev’s defenders Tierney and Antonio Milnar. Loons midfielder Mohammed Saeid then fed a beautiful cross into the box on the resulting set piece. After bouncing off Agudelo it fell to the foot of London Woodbury and Minnesota’s own Brent Kallman. Kallman, a carry over member from the Loons days in the NASL, calmly drove it into the back of the net.

This was pretty surprising considering in his previous 40 appearances for Minnesota, the defender had only one goal to his credit. This energized Minnesota with dreams of a comeback. Those dreams were dashed unfortunately when, less than five minutes later, a poor officiating decision lead to a second penalty for New England. In the 52nd minute Rev’s winger Diego Fagundez was tripped running at the edge of the box by Minnesota’s Warner. The replay clearly showed he was outside the box when tripped, then fell into the penalty area. A foul to be sure, but not a penalty.

It was lazy of Warner to stick his leg out and leave it in the official’s hands to begin with though, as Fagundez didn’t even have the ball when tripped. New England’s Chris Tierney smashed the penalty in the upper right hand corner to effectively end any chance of a comeback. Other than Rev’s keeper Cody Cropper making a great save on Ramirez in the 64th minute, the final half hour played out fairly uneventfully, seeing New England win deservedly 5-2.

Through four games this season Minnesota United has been outscored 18-6. We here in Minnesota expected some growing pains going into our inaugural MLS campaign, but this is alarming. Hopefully with the return of most of our starters next week, we will see the team that was competitive in Colorado, not the team we saw today. Next week the Loons return home to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday night, sill looking for their first win of the season.

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