Matt Lampson only joined Minnesota United in January after a trade from this past Saturday’s opponent, the Chicago Fire. But three games in, and the Loons’ defensive performances have impressed the seven-season MLS veteran.
“What we say in goalkeeping is, if you do not have to make a save, you did your job perfectly,” Lampson said after the 2-1 victory against Chicago. “And it’s a credit to the coaching staff, because we’ve been harping on it ever since San Jose [the season opener March 3]. Defensive organization, defensive shape. I’m doing my best to keep these guys organized in front of me. In the past two games, it has been flawless.
“These past two games have been some of the best defensive team efforts that I’ve seen in the league on the teams that I’ve been on.”
All this about the club that let in a league-record 70 goals in its inaugural 2017 season. Except that’s the thing: This isn’t the same team.
“It’s a different year,” winger Ethan Finlay said. “I kind of want to leave last year where it is. Now we’re a new team. We’re a different team. Our standard’s different. … We have high expectations.”
This newfound stability will be put to the test Saturday at the New York Red Bulls, as national team duty and a new injury will take four starters out of the defense. Center backs Francisco Calvo and Michael Boxall and holding midfielder Rasmus Schuller will miss this week while playing for their respective countries while right back Tyrone Mears picked up a calf injury against Chicago and is likely to miss several weeks.
Left back Marc Burch and center back Brent Kallman made their season debuts as substitutes against Chicago, and they likely will take up starting positions as starter Jerome Thiesson will move back to his natural right back. But there are some options as far as the other open spots.
Newly arrived Cameroon-ian center back Bertrand Owundi Eko’o or rookie Wyatt Omsberg could line up next to Kallman and make their debuts as Loons. As far as the midfield, it probably will be either Collin Martin or Collen Warner slotting in with Ibson. Coach Adrian Heath also mentioned rookie right back Carter Manley as someone who might see some playing time.
“No, I’m not worried about next week at all. We knew this was coming,” Heath said. “Huge opportunity for whichever way we go next week for these young guys to come in and stake a claim and show us that they can play at this level. I think they can, and it’s going to be a huge test for them.”
The Loons already have overcome two major injuries to Sam Cronin and Kevin Molino. And the Red Bulls will be missing four players to national team duty: midfielder Tyler Adams and defenders Kemar Lawrence, Fidel Escobar and Michael Amir Murillo.
In the end, Lampson said it’s a matter of staying together.
“Honestly, I’ve been really happy with all the depth that we’ve had …” he said. “We have to trust in every player next to us to do their job.
“And that’s what a team is.”