Here is my gamer from Minnesota United's 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. (Tangent: When I posted this blog, my gamer hadn't been updated to its final version, and my notebook wasn't online yet so like ... read those once they're posted.)
And now for more from midfielder Collin Martin. Martin made his first start for United on Saturday in just his fourth match for the Loons. He played the full 90 minutes alongside Ibson in place of injured Sam Cronin.
"I played with him in preseason a lot, and I thought we did well in preseason, and I really like playing with him," Martin said of pairing with Ibson. "I think early on, maybe I lost discipline, and I was running, maybe, at a position that I found if I held more, that works better with that relationship. But I really enjoy playing with him."
Coach Adrian Heath said the 22-year-old Martin had a tough job working into an injury-ravaged lineup against such a tough team.
"It's difficult when you come in, you're playing against a really good team. You're playing against a team that possesses the ball really well," Heath said. "And then Felipe [Martins] and Sacha Kljestan, they’ve got real quality. And not only the quality, they're really savvy players. They get the game. They know when to put you under pressure and when to leave you. But Collin's worked really, really hard. He's worked hard for his opportunity, and I think he's done OK today."
As far as new players having to figure out their place in the lineup, Martin said United plays a pretty simple system that everyone understands, so it's not hard to slot into the group. He wasn't the only new starter, as new signings winger Sam Nicholson and defender Michael Boxall also made their debuts and fit in "perfectly," according to Martin.
Boxall said with being gone most of the week to finish up his visa paperwork in Canada and only returning Friday night, this wasn't the best preparation he's had for a match.
"When you come in, you want to get used to the guys and figure out and understand how each other play as quickly as possible, And I think I've really only trained with the guys two or three times the full team all together," Boxall said. "And then I haven’t really played for a month. So to want to get the fitness back and then having to spend the whole week in Canada with that stuff, it's less than ideal."
Nicholson said he hadn't played in about two months and also felt not quite fully 100 percent for this match. But he seems to have already developed an understanding with fellow winger Miguel Ibarra, as the pair switched sides during the match after just sharing a look as a way to confuse the opposing team.
"I thought they were terrific," Heath said of Nicholson and Boxall. "When you consider that Michael Boxall got in late last night and has been in Canada for four days and yesterday was on a couple of airplanes … hasn’t trained, thought he was terrific, though. Sam Nicholson showed glimpses of what he's going to be. He can play. He can run with the ball. He can combine. But more importantly, I love the commitment of the two fellas because they are so far behind the rest of this group in terms of fitness and just even feeling comfortable with the group."
Forward Abu Danladi also returned from the latest in his string of injuries this season, replacing Nicholson after 60 minutes. Heath said the rookie "was really sharp when he came on" and gave the team "a real threat in behind."