So for about the first and last 20 minutes of Minnesota United’s season opener at San Jose on Saturday night, the Loons looked, actually, pretty good.
It was those pesky 50 minutes in between where they did anything but embody the new-year, new-you mentality that ended up delivering the team’s 3-2 defeat.
“When I look back at the first 25 minutes of the game, I thought we were in control of where we wanted to be,” coach Adrian Heath said after the game. “It looked like a really good performance. And then we make two errors in the space of, like, two minutes, and obviously it changes the whole complex of the game. But the guys kept going, and we nearly dug ourselves out of it.”
Of those two defensive breakdowns in the first half, the first looked like a miscommunication between center back Michael Boxall and right back Tyrone Mears about who would go up for a header that caught the pair out of position. The second was center back Francisco Calvo’s failed clearance that caused a costly turnover.
“We didn’t defend well enough. That was it,” Heath said. “Made two poor decisions, two poor choices, and at the end of the day, individual errors have cost us two goals. You can’t hide away from that.”
Heath said he would have to think about the possibility of making changes along the back line. Mears, Boxall, Calvo and left back Jerome Thiesson worked together all preseason. The most likely change, should there be one, would be Brent Kallman stepping in for Boxall. Kallman started before Boxall’s arrival last season and is Calvo’s replacement when the Costa Rican heads to the World Cup this summer.
Heath also did not have any updated time of arrival for Luiz Fernando, which is too bad for the Loons; a solid No. 6 defensive midfielder would probably do them some good.
Two goals by Kevin Molino in the last 10 minutes nearly mounted the comeback after digging a three-goal hole. While it wasn’t enough in the end, Heath said he’s happy about what Molino’s performance will do for the midfielder’s confidence. Heath said he and Molino had a long talk about their expectations for the season, and they settled on 10 to 12 goals and 10 to 20 assists in 2018.
Heath made two interesting lineup choices when he started goalkeeper Matt Lampson instead of Bobby Shuttleworth and swapped out last year’s leading scorer, Christian Ramirez, for Abu Danladi at forward. Heath said Lampson just seemed more game-ready, as Shuttleworth dealt with a few minor injuries in preseason. Danladi was a more strategic call, as Heath said he felt the striker’s speed on the counterattack would be helpful on the road.
And it was for about 30 minutes until Danladi pulled up because of a hamstring injury. Ramirez came on for him and rolled his ankle shortly after but played through it. Heath said both injuries “don’t bode well” for Saturday’s match at Orlando City SC.
All in all, though, it was a better showing than last year’s inaugural game, a 5-1 defeat at Portland.
“It was a defeat, and this was another defeat, so you don’t like to start with a defeat,” Heath said. “We’ve got [six] of the first 10 games on the road. So it’s not going to be easy for us in the next few weeks.”