HARRISON, N.J. – There were no excuses from Adrian Heath, Minnesota United FC’s head coach. He said his team wasn’t up for the fight in a tough 3-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night. There was no sugarcoating, no explanations for his team’s performance despite missing nearly half of its starters.
International call-ups and injuries meant that the Loons were without five starters against a Red Bulls side that has been among the best teams in the league the past six seasons. Despite coming into Saturday’s game off two straight wins, Minnesota dropped to 2-2 this season.
A goal by Red Bulls winger Alex Muyl opened the scoring in the 15th minute and then a brace by Bradley Wright-Phillips on either side of halftime sealed the three points for the home side. The Red Bulls had a decided advantage in time of possession as well as clear edge in chances created.
The lack of cohesion to the starting lineup wasn’t to blame for his team’s choppy, sporadic performance, according to Heath.
“I would like to say a lot, but I’ve got to be honest,” Heath said. “I thought they wanted to win the game more than us. I thought their energy was fantastic.”
“We spoke about it all week — we watched the [Red Bulls’ 4-0 win] against Portland Timbers and they weren’t ready for it and we weren’t ready for it today. There was a lot in the first half, we had a couple of good breakaways, and if we had a bit more quality …
“Their quality showed out. Two top-draw finishes from Bradley Wright-Phillips and I was disappointed with the individual effort. I don’t think we won many individual battles against their players.”
The Red Bulls, despite missing four players of their own because of the international window, showed off their depth and synergy. Minnesota’s back line, featuring nearly a complete overhaul because of all the changes in the lineup, struggled at times.
Not only did they have difficulties containing the deep runs from New York, but their opponent’s pressing and counter-pressing high up the field made possession play difficult.
Very often, the Minnesota back line resorted to long balls, pumping possession up the field, which led to turnovers and more pressure on the back four.
Midfielder Ethan Finlay said the Loons “didn’t build the ball out of the back as good as we had hoped.”
The star winger admitted that things were difficult for several players in the back four who were making their MLS debut in Red Bull Arena.
“Those guys are always training with us, right?” Finlay said. “But when you’re thrown into the first team, thrown into your first game and it is an away game … sometimes the plan kind of goes out the window and you have blinders on.”
Saying that the Red Bulls “like to suffocate the hell out of you,” Heath didn’t want to blame international call-ups or injuries on the loss.
“Collectively the better team won,” he said. “I think the better team wanted to win more than we did, which is not a good thing to say.
“It’s been a disappointing day. It gives me food for thought of a lot of things because a lot of people had been waiting for an opportunity.”