Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath promised change — some of it inevitable — after his team came undone late in Friday’s game at Toronto. Come it did in Wednesday’s scoreless draw against surging, stingy L.A. Galaxy at Allianz Field.
Playing without suspended Francisco Calvo and Jan Gregus, Heath furthered remade his starting lineup by inserting veterans Kevin Molino, Eric Miller and young Abu Danladi while designating Michael Boxell, Ethan Finlay and both Ibarras — Miguel and Romario — as substitutes.
The result was improved defensive stability after United allowed seven goals in its previous two games and an outcome Heath felt deserved better against an opponent that gave up only seven goals in building a 6-1 record into this match.
“We were the better team,” Heath said. “I thought we were the most dominant team against a very good team. It’s two points that we’ve lost tonight. But as I just said to the players, never bemoan getting a point because at some stage it might help us.”
His United did plenty of bemoaning in its locker room after it lost a 3-2 lead and all three points Friday at Toronto. Its players did little after L.A. won Wednesday’s possession battle, but the Loons had the better chances. Included were second-half shots from Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez from close range that missed or were stopped, and more than one header off corner kicks by defender Ike Opara, who returned after he missed Friday’s game because of an injury.
Galaxy superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic had one first-half chance that went just wide, but otherwise was effectively checked by Opara and fellow center back Brent Kallman in a reconfigured back line.
The Loons have played two games at their new stadium and earned a point in each.
“I’m going to look at [this] from the last two games’ standpoint,” Opara said, referring to those seven goals allowed. “This is progress. If we play like that, I’ll take our chances more often that not that we’ll get wins.”
United goalkeeper Vito Mannone called the shutout alternatively “brilliant” and “fantastic” after leaky defensive performance against NYCFC and Toronto.
“The last two games we competed very well, but didn’t defend as [we’re] used to,” Mannone said. “We had to react after the Toronto game. We could have got all three points, away from home, against somebody at the top of the East. That was a shame to come out without point. Other days, some goals go in and you come out with the three points. That’s the only shame really. Tonight is a great point, something to build on.”
Miller, Woodbury’s own, played all 90 minutes in his first action all season. He took Calvo’s spot at left back. Kallman started at center back after Boxall misplayed the ball on Toronto’s late winning goal. Molino started for the first time since knee surgery early last season and played 61 minutes while Danladi played 87.
Heath attributed the two previous defensive performance to individual mistakes rather than poor team defensive shape and play.
“It’s great to show we can be organized,” Miller said. “We earned the clean sheet. It shows when we play as a unit, we can be a good defensive team.”
Wednesday’s game started in near-summer sunshine and progressed into a second-half downpour before an announced 19,779 fans that for the second time at Allianz came to get loud and sing “Wonderwall” postgame, a chance that never quite came.
“Players are trying everything they can,” Heath said. “I want to hear ‘Wonderwall.’ They want to hear ‘Wonderwall.’ So we’ll keep going and play again on Sunday. If we play like that, it might be enough.”