MNUFC Depth on Display in 1-0 Loss to Hertha Berlin
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - On Wednesday night, Minnesota United welcomed the Bundesliga's Hertha Berlin for the first ever international friendly at Allianz Field. The German side arrived in the Twin Cities having just completed their season while the Loons took the opportunity of the midweek game to get some minutes into players like Hassani Dotson, Wyatt Omsberg, Dayne St. Clair and others who have either had limited or no opportunities to play with the first team so far. Despite losing 1-0, Head Coach Adrian Heath and his staff gained valuable information on players they will no doubt need to lean on with impending international call-ups and the Gold Cup promising to challenge the squad's depth.
"I thought it was a great crowd," said Heath. "I thought the game was very good for what it was, considering they just finished [their season]. I thought some of our younger players did excellent. Kevin [Molino] is the only worry. We're hoping it's not too bad for Kevin, but if Kev comes through unscathed tomorrow, it's been a good evening."
Early on, Dotson showed he was up for the task. Playing at right back despite mostly training as a midfielder, he cagily poked the ball away from a Hertha attacker in the box and overall showed a great deal of savvy and awareness. St. Clair, likewise, impressed early with an excellent save on a cannon of a shot from outside the box. The 22-year-old goalkeeper - who's been spending time at Forward Madison this year - stabbed the ball safely away and off to the side, eventually making a number of clutch saves.
"There were some excellent performances," said Heath. "Hassani [Dotson] at right back was excellent. I thought Wyatt [Omsberg] was really good. And I thought Lawrence Olum - considering he hasn't had a 90 minutes in a very long time - was outstanding. I thought there was a lot of good stuff this evening."
Midway through the first half, Hertha appeared to settle in and take control of possession, forcing the Loons back into their own half and pinning them in front of goal as they moved the ball around. This did begin to open up counterattacking opportunities that could have been dangerous for an MNUFC attack featuring speed demons like Abu Danladi and Mason Toye. Time and again, though, Danladi found himself on the wrong side of the offside line, displaying a lack of awareness unbecoming of a third-year player.
"I thought the movements at times was good," said Heath when asked about Danladi and Toye. "I thought they ran too early at times. I already spoke about that to them both in the past. Athletically they're both very, very gifted. The secret of playing up front is knowing where to run and when to run, and that's what we're still working on with them. But, you know, they have a lot of tools to work with and we'll keep working with them. I thought Abu [Danladi] was dangerous at times in the first half against a really experienced defender. So, there have been some good things. But plenty for us to look at and them to learn when we look at the film back."
In the final 10 minutes of the first half, midfielder Kevin Molino did what he could to assert himself, firing a shot that pinged off the crossbar after receiving a bullet of a low cross from Dotson. He also drew a free kick near the edge of the box, but was forced from the field after picking up a knock in the 41st minute.
With the first half winding down, Hertha jumped. In the 43rd minute, Andrej Duda ripped a shot from the top of the box that St. Clair managed to stop, but the young keeper couldn't corral the the rebound. The ball found its way to the feet of Peter Pekarik - a teammate of Jan Gregus' on the Slovakia national team - who fired it past St. Clair and into the left side of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead heading into the break.
For the second half, Heath brought on a few veteran players, including Gregus, Brett Kallman, and Darwin Quintero. In the 56th minute, Gregus smashed a solid free kick shot that didn't quite dip on frame and instead rose over the crossbar. Minnesota continued to generate counterattacking opportunities, especially with the help of Quintero's distribution through the middle of the park, but Toye - who shifted over to forward when Danladi was subbed out for Ethan Finlay in the 67th minute - couldn't get enough space to get off decent shots before being shunted off the ball by Hertha's centerbacks.
Sometime around the 70th minute, Hertha lost Florian Baak to a possible concussion. Because the visitors had used all their subs in two large chunks, Hertha were unable to put on a sub, leading to the German side playing the remainder of the game with 10 men. Despite the numerical advantage, MNUFC ultimately couldn't mount a comeback and the game would end 1-0.
The score, though, was ultimately immaterial. The important thing for the home side was the quality shown by players like Dotson, St. Clair and Omsberg - who made a number of heads-up defensive plays and did well in distribution from the backline as well. Add to their number Lawrence Olum, a veteran midfielder and defender acquired earlier in the season who got his first minutes at Allianz Field on the night. With squad rotation becoming a necessity as players depart for international call-ups and the upcoming Gold Cup, Minnesota United will be heartened by a handful of performances on the night going forward.
Minnesota United's next game is on Saturday, March 25 against Houston Dynamo at Allianz Field at 7:00 p.m. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Hassani Dotson, Michael Boxall (Brent Kallman HT), Wyatt Omsberg, Miguel Ibarra (Jan Gregus HT); M Lawrence Olum, Collin Martin, Mason Toye, Rasmus Schuller, Kevin Molino (Darwin Quintero HT); F Abu Danladi (Ethan Finlay 67')
MIN Unused Subs: GK Vito Mannone; D Ike Opara, Romain Metanire
Hertha Berlin Starting XI: GK Thomas Kraft (Dennis Smarsch HT); D Peter Pekarik (Maximilian Mittelstadt HT), Karim Rekik (Jordan Torunarigha 64'), Niklas Stark (Florian Baak 64'), Marvin Plattenhardt (Skjelbred HT), Fabian Lustenberger (Javario Dilrosun HT); M Salomon Kalou, Ondrej Duda (Maurice Covic 64'), Marko Grujic, Valentino Lazaro (Pascal Kopke HT); F Davie Selke
HER Unused Subs: N/A
43' - Pekarik - HER
MINNESOTA UNITED QUOTE SHEET
MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH
On if he got what he was hoping to get out of the evening ...
"Terrific. I thought it was a great crowd. I thought the game was very good for what it was, considering they just finished. I thought some of our younger players did excellent. Kevin [Molino] is the only worry. We're hoping it's not too bad for Kevin, but if Kev comes through un-scaved tomorrow, it's been a good evening."
On Kevin Molino's injury and what it was ...
"He just said he felt tight but he didn't want to push it any further for obvious reasons. But it's, you know, this is why he plays in these games. Once you have that period of inactivity, it's very difficult when you suddenly get into the cut and thrust of it. But I thought there were some excellent performances. Hassani [Dotson] at right back was excellent. I thought Wyatt [Omsberg] was really good. And I thought Lawrence Olum - considering he hasn't had a 90 minutes in a very long time - was outstanding. I thought there was a lot of good stuff this evening."
On how he considers Dayne St. Clair's performance tonight ...
"I like him a lot. And the kid has got a huge, huge chance. I thought he could push the ball maybe further out for the goal, but made big saves, looked competent, made good decisions. Kicking was good. The odd little mistake, well, for a young kid who is in the infancy of his career. I thought he showed a lot of promise."
On if he wanted to see Dayne St. Clair catch the one that ended up turning into the goal ...
"Well, yeah. If you don't catch it you have to make sure it goes out of the danger area. And it was near there. It was dropped in to someone. But he's aware of it, we spoke about it after the game. Hey, as I say, he's a young boy in terms of goalkeeping. He's got maybe another, what, 18, 20 years ahead of him as a goalkeeper. But he'll learn. If he keeps listening and learning and working hard at his game, he has a really good chance."
On how a team like Hertha Berlin challenged them differently than an MLS team does ...
"I think the biggest difference you will always find the higher up you go in the ladder - which, wherever - their decision making at crucial times is normally very, very good. When they go, they go full on. Their athleticism. They're generally bigger. They're generally quicker. Stronger. And that's why they play at the level that they're at. So, it was a good learning experience for a lot of our players this evening. But it was also good for them to get some football. It was a challenge. You don't have sort of reserve team football. It's something we've spoke of in the past. I think you can tell why it's benefited from probably playing more games than the rest. Which is probably the beauty of us in the Madison situation. But overall, as I say, my only disappointment so far is Kevin's [Molino] minor knock. Now let's hope it is minor."
On how he felt about Abu Danladi and Mason Toye's performances tonight ...
"Good at times. I thought the movements at times was good. I thought they ran too early at times. I already spoke about that to them both in the past. Athletically they're both very, very gifted. The secret of playing up front is knowing where to run and when to run, and that's what we're still working on with them. But, you know, they have a lot of tools to work with and we'll keep working with them. I thought Abu [Danladi] was dangerous at times in the first half against a really experienced defender. So, there have been some good things. But plenty for us to look at and them to learn when we look at the film back."
On the significance behind all of the short corners tonight ...
"No, we'll address that tomorrow."
On his reaction to the Romario Ibarra loan ...
"I think it's maybe something that will maybe benefit him. He's got one or two little issues that he wants to resolve off the field. He's getting his girlfriend and his baby, etcetera. We think that will help him being down there in his native tongue, etcetera. And we'll see where it leaves us. But at this moment we feel as if it's the best for everybody."
On Romario Ibarra being out on loan, Miguel Ibarra at left back, and Kevin Molino with a knock how he is feeling on depth ...
"Well, we are. We are. As I said, there's never a perfect time to make decisions when people want people to make it. You have to make that decision there and there. You know, the big issue for us is Chase Gasper, who we'd want in for these games, has had a little problem. And Eric Miller has had a little problem. And Ike [Opara]. They've been an issue for us, and they've been unexpected maybe a week ago. 10 days ago. So, we've got to get them back fit and healthier and when we do, we'll be fine."
On if there is any player that he hopes steps up in Romario Ibarra's absence ...
"Well, no. We're hoping that Kev [Molino], I saw enough in Kevin last week. And even in spells in the first half today, I think that he's getting back to something like he was. The last thing we need now is for him not to be available for the next couple of weeks. Not just because we're going to miss him, but because it would be a blow for him. He just started getting himself looking like his old self again."
On Darwin Quintero's ankle ...
"It's okay. Yeah. He's okay."
On what Collin Martin needs to do to stay around Minnesota more instead of be on loan ...
"Collin [Martin] is in the same boat really. You know, what do we do? Do we keep him in and around here, or do we try to get him games so when you do need him, and he proved in the first half today, he's a good footballer. But he'd be the first to say it, and he'll just tell you, he's thankful that he's out having 90 minutes over the last few weeks playing. So, you know, we'll assess Collin's situation - as we will everybody's - when we sit down and see what we have and what we've got in the next week or two. 10 days. Obviously we've got games coming up, Open Cup, etcetera."
On the specific message that he had when he took Abu Danladi off ...
"About timing of his runs, pulling away from the ball, not always running towards it. Little things that we've been talking about. But I think he's a little short on confidence in front of the goal. I think he's trying to rush things a little bit. It'll come. He keeps making the right runs. Get his timing right. He'll get his opportunities. You know, I know what striking is like. You get one, then hopefully you get a bit of confidence and then you start to get on a little run. "
MINNESOTA UNITED GOALKEEPER DAYNE ST. CLAIR
On thoughts on the pairing...
"It had a little bit of movement, obviously I wanted to push a little bit wider than it happened. It kind of caught me a little bit underneath but either you've got to catch it or push it wider."
On his experience overall...
"Obviously the fans played a big role and I think it was nice to get the first one at home out of the way."
On facing the Bundesliga...
"Everyone wants to challenge themselves and I think everyone did challenge themselves and I think it's a nice step being able to play a friendly like that against such quality opposition."
On having nerves...
"Not really, no."
On getting the save in the first couple of minutes...
"Yeah I think my mindset is I always want to make the first save and take the momentum from there."
On how he's fared so far as a goalkeeper...
"I think I've done well but I think there's always room for improvement. Being a rookie, there's always places you can learn from and things you're applying every day. It's going to make me better in the long run."
On playing in Madison...
"I think it's been good to play down there. Obviously, game experience is important at a young age and I think whenever I can get games is going to important for me in my development."
On starting at Allianz Field for the first time...
"It was a good feeling. Obviously, playing in front of the home fans for the first time was, you felt it. You feel like you have a twelfth supporter almost."
On where he could improve...
"Obviously, on the goal I think I can do better. And then I think just game management and things like that. Being a little bit cleaner in every aspect and trying to control the game from my aspect. Obviously communication is a little bit different when there's 20,000 people yelling so work on that as well."
MINNESOTA UNITED MIDFIELDER HASSANI DOTSON
On playing his first game in Allianz...
"It was great. This is actually my first technical start. Fans were great and it was nice to get some good minutes with the teammates and it was just an overall great experience."
On what some of the positives were for him tonight...
"I think first half I did well 1v1 defending, breaking up some plays, decent crossing."
On what he thinks needs improvement...
"Second half, I think switching over to the left side. I can work on my one touch passing with my left foot more. Just the positioning over on the left side is a little different, like the angle of your body. I can work on that as well."
On if he feels more comfortable on the right side...
"Yeah, but left with a couple tweaks should be the same."
On what it was like marking Salomon Kalou...
"I didn't realize that I was going to be marking him before the match. I'm a big Chelsea fan growing up, so it was cool. During the game you don't think about it, but afterwards you take a moment to appreciate that."
On if he recognized right away the size and quality right away playing a team from the Bundesliga...
"Yeah they're a great team. They like to keep the ball, passing it and breaking out of pressure. I think we did well against them, especially the first half."
On what Adrian's message has been to him as to how to get more first team minutes...
"Just keep focus, keep trying to improve, and when your opportunity comes make the most of it. So that's all I can do."
MINNESOTA UNITED MIDFIELDER COLLIN MARTIN
On being loaned out...
"There wasn't much of a reaction because I asked for it. I've asked to get out, I thought that I had a little experience down in Madison and I thought it would be better if I had a fresh start somewhere maybe in the USL and so I just had my agent start looking around and Hartford was the first one to express interest, they wanted me right away so I was like alright, let do it."
On getting minutes in...
"It's been good, it's been challenging but I've been real positive about it, something I've been working on while I'm down there. Obviously it's been the fitness but a lot of it has been just being a leader and rally the group down there, so it's been good for me."
On tonight's game...
"It was fine, I was little tired from Sunday, it was hot in DC like 90 degrees for our game there but I felt fine. It's funny to play right back... I've never played right back before, so that was kind of cool. I thought the first half was good and thought we could've been a little sharper and we could've gotten a goal but it was tough to concede."
On changes in locker room...
"Yeah, I didn't get to say goodbye to Francisco. I heard about Romario yesterday, I guess he was saying his goodbyes the day before I got here. So yeah it has been different."
On seeing opportunities after changes in team...
"Well the guys that left aren't really my position. I went on loan to be ready for when I get my chance. Before physically I haven't been ready in previous years, it's taken me a game or two to get ready, hopefully when I get my chance I'm going to be ready and when I come in and do more than just fit in. So I'm not too worries about changes, when they're ready to have me and the coach wants to put me in, I'll be ready."
On talking to Adrian or Manny...
"No, I don't think there's much to say from me. If they want to talk and tell me when they want me back. We have a schedule, sorry we have a schedule for the next six weeks and it's all tentative obviously for what games I can get in or at least have a lot of game with Hartford. It'll give a better base when I'm here permanently. I know it's announced as a season long loan but I'll be here eventually for the rest of the season."
On six weeks at Hartford ...
"It's a little bit back and forth, I'll be here for the open cup and a couple of the friendlies that are coming up. So if you want a date, I'll be back for the June 2nd game, I don't know if I'll be suiting up but I'm flying back then."
On playing in front of parents last weekend...
"It was really nice, obviously there wasn't a lot of people there so I had crazy brothers in the stands... they were wowed. I heard my crazy brother coaching me during the game, he was a little too crazy. I had my godparents there, my brother, my sister, it was really nice. We got our first win."
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