As his teammates filtered off the field after a home-opening victory, Matt Lampson trotted back behind his net to retrieve his Minnesota United scarf from where it hung on a barricade.
The new goalkeeper, who made his TCF Bank Stadium debut in the 2-1 victory against the Chicago Fire on Saturday in front of an announced 23,138, briefly lifted the scarf above his head in celebration before draping it around his neck.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played for a team that has had this type of support from a city and a fan base,” said Lampson, in his seventh MLS season with United after a January trade from Chicago. “It happened now and then in Columbus. Very rarely happened in Chicago. And it’s something I’m really grateful for. … These guys love us. They support us until the end, and it feels really good to get wins for them.”
In United’s first game without star player Kevin Molino, lost for the season because of an ACL tear, the Loons didn’t look like they were hurting at all as they improved to 2-1-0 while Chicago dropped to 0-2-0. In fact, coach Adrian Heath said his team’s response was “magnificent,” and it would have been a “travesty” if United hadn’t won.
The starting lineup was the same as for last week’s three-point victory at Orlando City, the game in which Molino hurt his left knee, except Miguel Ibarra stepped into Molino’s playmaking No. 10 role. That’s a position Ibarra played for United back in the North American Soccer League days, but he’s largely operated as a left winger off the bench in his MLS tenure.
“If it would have been a grass pitch, [Ibarra] would have covered every blade of it,” Heath said. He also praised the play of his back four and holding midfielders.
One of those midfielders actually broke the deadlock in the 55th minute. Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sanchez initially made the save on Ibson’s header from Ibarra’s cross before the midfielder collected his own rebound to put the Loons ahead on his first MLS goal.
“He shouldn’t have even been in there for his goal, but part and parcel with what you have with Ibson is his desire to get on the ball and play. At times, other people have to fill in and work around him,” Heath said. “The way the game was going, we asked one or two of the midfield players to get in the box.”
That personality trait of Ibson’s also contributed a bit to the equalizer four minutes later. United had too many players trying to defend in the box — Ibson, Francisco Calvo, Rasmus Schuller and Michael Boxall — and got in each other’s way, allowing forward Nemanja Nikolic to take a shot. Lampson parried that, but midfielder Elliot Collier buried that rebound.
“It seemed like a simple clearance to me,” Lampson said. “It was like a miscommunication between team United Nations in there.”
In the 65th minute, though, winger Ethan Finlay placed an absolutely perfect cross to winger Sam Nicholson’s head for the game-winner.
“I came in here as soon as the game was over, and I told the team, this is the feeling that we need to have every single weekend. This is the feeling we need to miss if we don’t get it,” Lampson said. “We’re doing our best to change the culture from last year, and we should be expecting to win games.
“And that’s what these fans should expect, too.”
Right back Tyrone Mears left the game in the 83rd minute. Heath said it looked like Mears had a right calf pull, which could be anywhere from a three- to six-week recovery.