LOS ANGELES – Soft. Sloppy. Cheap.
That’s how Minnesota United described its two goals allowed in a shutout loss at LAFC on Wednesday.
“We always knew this was going to be a tough game for us,” goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth said.
After this past weekend’s defensive stand against Vancouver that earned the team its second back-to-back win streak this season, the Loons endured a setback against the 2018 expansion team with a 2-0 loss at the new Banc of California Stadium in front of an announced sellout crowd of 22,000.
The Loons fell to 4-6-0 while LAFC improved to 6-2-1 and stayed undefeated at its flashy new home, which United’s upcoming Allianz Field is set to rival.
Against Vancouver on Saturday, United managed to take the lead and maintain it, all while playing a man down for most of the second half. The defense stood strong, thanks in part to team captain Francisco Calvo’s best game of the season.
But Calvo’s early-season struggles with individual errors came back with a vengeance four days later. On the first goal, the defense as a whole wasn’t tight enough, as pretty much every player failed to close down his man. That allowed LAFC forward Diego Rossi to put a cross in to midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who secured his first MLS goal in the 31st minute after it deflected off Calvo.
Then six minutes later, LAFC forward Carlos Vela put in a cross that somehow 5-5 forward Latif Blessing won instead of the 5-11 Calvo. With that turn of events catching the rest of the back line off guard, midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye was left free to bury a shot for his first MLS goal.
Calvo said the second goal was more his responsibility. He simply didn’t jump high enough to contest the cross.
“I’ve been playing as a pro eight years and have made brilliant games,” the team captain said.
“I’ve also made mistakes. I’m a human. … [Wednesday] happened to me, and I accept it.”
Coach Adrian Heath said while Calvo had his slip-ups, he doesn’t put the loss completely on the center back’s shoulders. This was a different lineup for United, as midfielders Maximiano and Harrison Heath were making their debuts and midfielder Collin Martin was getting his first start of the season. Those three combined for an entirely new midfield — with starters Ibson and Rasmus Schuller resting — in a 4-3-3 formation, which deviates from Heath’s typical 4-2-3-1.
The change was partly because all three of Minnesota United’s forwards are either injured or suspended. Only Christian Ramirez traveled, but he started on the bench while still mending from a hamstring injury. Recent addition right back Eric Miller also sat out of the gameday squad because of a hamstring injury he picked up after his debut against Vancouver.
Heath said he didn’t consider rushing Ramirez back when the game suddenly got out of hand. He also said Miller should be ready for this weekend’s game.
Calvo said working with a new midfield was a challenge, but in general, it’s hard to come from behind when playing on the road. United has struggled with road performances since its start last season and is 1-5-0 away from TCF Bank Stadium this year. But the good news for the Loons is they’re back home at 1 p.m. Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes, the last of three games in eight days.
Shuttleworth said the Loons, who are 3-1-0 at home, don’t usually concede such bad goals in front of the home crowd.
“As soccer players, we need to switch our minds,” Calvo said. “We need to go to sleep tonight, and then next day, think of Saturday’s game.”