Dropping a soccer match 4-0 did not sit well with Minnesota United FC players.
When the match is a rare international friendly against an English Premier League team, however, the tone softens.
Wednesday’s exhibition match against AFC Bournemouth drew an announced crowd of 8,333 soccer fans at Blaine’s National Sports Center Stadium. Local product Ismaila Jome of the Loons hoped to send the crowd into a frenzy early but his shot hit the post in the 22nd minute.
“I thought it was going in,” said Jome, who helped Prairie Seeds Academy of Brooklyn Park win a Class 1A state title. “I would have went wild if it did.”
Jome, making his debut in a Loons’ uniform, got the start in a match he won’t soon forget.
“This is a great marker for where you’re at and where you want to go,” Jome said. “I want to play at the highest level one day, and I think it’s a great experience to do that early on.”
Allowing players to aspire to the highest level is part of the reason owner Bill McGuire has scheduled such matches in his four-year tenure. Under McGuire, Minnesota has played two English Premier League teams and twice faced Club Leon of Mexico’s Liga MX.
Those matches, he said, are “part of a bigger process. They promote soccer in the state. And this week up here in Blaine you can see soccer is pretty strong in this state.”
Wednesday’s match was played during the massive Schwan’s USA Cup youth soccer tournament, which draws 1,178 teams and 16,000 soccer players from more than 19 states and 19 countries.
Young players in attendance were reminded even professionals make mistakes. Moments after going down 1-0 on Callum Wilson’s goal, Minnesota suffered an own goal. Goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock inexplicably threw a clearing pass into his net for a 2-0 deficit.
Wednesday’s match, coming in a stretch during which United plays three times in eight days, saw two players on trial. Norbert Csiki and Christoffer Nogueira, both played in the second half.
Though United dropped both of its international friendlies this summer, Blake said they hold value beyond the scoreboard.
“To play against international competition and Premier League opposition is once in a lifetime, really,” Blake said. “Having that experience can only be a positive thing.”
Bournemouth’s Emerson Hyndman, an American-born rising star for the Cherries, did not make an appearance in the match due to a sprained ankle suffered while training.