MNUFC Draw Orlando 1-1 Despite Strong Performance
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Coming into the second of two important home games before an extended stretch on the road, Minnesota United was hoping to take six points on the week against an Orlando City SC team that's been the definition of inconsistent this season. While MNUFC dominated most areas of the game through 90 minutes, it struggled to find a final ball and let Orlando hang around long enough to draw a penalty that put the visitors up 1-0. A last minute strike by Abu Danladi saved a point for the home side and ended the game a 1-1 draw that the Loons will surely feel they should have gotten more from.
"It's two dropped," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "If you don't think that we didn't deserve something out of this game, you don't know anything about football. My God, I don't know how many chances we've had, how many final third entries, how many opportunities we've had to pick a pass. Two dropped."
Despite missing one of its key midfield players in Osvaldo Alonso, Minnesota United grabbed hold of the game early on and barely let up. In the fifth minute, midfielder Darwin Quintero cut a nifty run up the left but forward Angelo Rodriguez was called offside, as he would be again four minutes later following a shot from midfielder Ethan Finlay from the right side that popped up off an Orlando defender.
The home side's chances came from multiple angles and distances on the pitch, from crosses to long through balls to cannons from distance. They consistently worked the ball through midfielder Jan Gregus and Hassani Dotson in the middle third in order to cut through seams in the final third and create chances. This also led to set pieces, including one in the 13th minute from Gregus that flew all the way across the box before finding defender Ike Opara on the far side. Opara's header, though, was just wide left.
"I thought Jan [Gregus] and Hassani [Dotson] were excellent," said Heath. "I thought Chase Gasper was maybe the best player on the field. Absolutely amazing, the two kids, absolutely fantastic."
In the 20th minute, a handball was called on the visitors after a cross from Romain Metanire hit a defender's arm. On the ensuing free kick, Gregus delivered another pinpoint pass, this time onto Rodriguez's head, but the forward's header went over the crossbar.
Rodriguez's evening would end early, though, after he came up lame in the 26th minute after picking the ball off an Orlando defender. Clutching his right leg, he immediately called for trainer Stacey Hardin. With Mason Toye unavailable due to suspension, Heath called Abu Danladi's number in the 28th minute.
"They [Angelo Rodriguez and Abu Danladi] are two different types of players. Abu [Danladi] is more about pace and all about running in behind, trying to stretch the field. Angelo [Rodriguez] is more about [ball] into feet, posting up, trying to bring [other] people into the game. I thought we started the first 35, 40 minutes really, really well and it was only a matter of time before we got a goal. Days like this, like we said last week against Colorado, if you don't take your chances when they're coming along then eventually it's going to punish you."
Orlando's best chance came in the 34th minute when midfielder Benji Michel shook loose from Minnesota's staunch defending and launched a cross from the left wing onto midfielder Robinho's feet. The Brazilian, though, skied it harmlessly over the goal.
Throughout the final 10 minutes of the first half, Minnesota would mount attack after attack, including a nasty knuckling shot from outside the box by Hassani Dotson that just missed the goal wide right and a picture perfect pass from defender Chase Gasper on the left wing that sailed through the penalty box, narrowly missing the sliding feet of both Danladi and Finlay before trickling out over the opposite sideline.
In all, the Loons rang up 15 shots to Orlando's three, but failed to convert on any of the numerous chances, with only three shots being on target. The teams headed into the locker room deadlocked at 0-0 and with the Loons no doubt feeling they should have done better with their finishing to put them up by two, three or even four goals.
"[We've] got to do better, I just told the players," said Heath. "[We] can't keep getting our football between both boxes. Tonight at times, [our football] has been absolutely outstanding. [There] was just not enough quality in the final third. We can hide behind it if we want, no we can't. We've got to do better, individually and collectively."
When the teams took the field for the second half, Orlando City had a bit of spring in its step, looking marginally more energetic and committed than in the first half. Minnesota, however, continued its dominance of the ball in all areas of the field save for the final third. With the final ball still lacking, Heath went to his bench in the 59th minute, bringing in Robin Lod for Kevin Molino. In the 65th minute, Lod justified the move with a great look directly in front of goal. As the ball rolled from right to left just outside of Orlando's six-yard box, Lod wheeled and fired it on the left post but Brian Rowe was equal to the task and stretched out to deny him.
The texture of the game changed dramatically in the 68th minute. Orlando pressed up hard on center backs Michael Boxall and Ike Opara, forcing a turnover that popped ahead for a streaking Nani. Opara turned and gave chase, tracking the attacker into the box where he stumbled and fell before being awarded a penalty. Minnesota's appeals fell on deaf ears and Nani confidently struck the penalty kick left and past the outstretched fingers of Vito Mannone to give the visitors a 1-0 lead despite being on the back foot the entire evening.
Orlando's response to going up was to bunker up in the back, often putting nine players in and around the box to stymie the Loons. It largely worked, with Minnesota being forced to go out wide to find opportunities to cross that too often fell to the heads of Orlando City defenders.
But then, in stoppage time, an unlikely hero emerged to save a point for the home side. Metanire took a long throw deep on the right side that found Opara waiting in the box. Opara knocked it on and an Orlando defender tried to clear it but sent it directly to Abu Danladi. The forward - badly in need of a goal after a lackluster 2019 so far - rounded on it and buried it to pull the Loons level at 1-1.
The celebration was almost cut short when Gasper was whistled for a handball at the other end as Orlando tried to get two points back at the last moment. The play, though, was sent to video review and it was determined that the correct call was offside on Orlando before the handball in question, saving Minnesota from having to defend a second penalty kick on the night.
Despite an evening of overall dominance that saw Minnesota rack up 22 shots to Orlando's five and possess the ball 54.1% of the time, the Loons were fortunate to come out with a point that will feel meager, no matter how needed it might end up being for playoff hopes in a Western Conference that's still up in the air.
"Well, unlucky, [a] good save, bad finishing, a mixture of everything, I think," said Heath about the lack of finishing. "If the final ball was a better choice, at times. It's a disappointment. I'm disappointed that we haven't got the three points. I know people might think, well he scored late, it's a point. I always say to you guys, never underestimate getting a point at any stage of the season. It might prove [to be] really valuable to us moving forward. My overriding thought is the disappointment at this moment."
Minnesota United's next game is Thursday, August 22 on the road against Sporting Kansas City. That game kicks off at 8:30 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN and MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Chase Gasper; M Jan Gregus, Hassani Dotson, Ethan Finlay (Miguel Ibarra 77'), Darwin Quintero, Kevin Molino (Robin Lod 59'); F Angelo Rodriguez (Abu Danladi 28')
MIN Unused Subs: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Brent Kallman; M Lawrence Olum, Rasmus Schuller
Orlando City SC Starting XI: GK Brian Rowe; D Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Kyle Smith; M Will Johnson (Carlos Ascues 77'), Nani, Jhegson Sebastián Méndez; F Benji Michel, Dom Dwyer (Tesho Akindele 63'), Robinho (Mauricio Pereyra 46')
ORL Unused Subs: GK Greg Ranjitsingh; D Shane O'Neill, Alex De John; M Sacha Kljestan
70' - Nani (PK) - ORL
90+2' - Danladi - MIN
32' - Gregus (YC) - MIN
57' - Dwyer (YC) - ORL
63' - Gasper (YC) - MIN
70' - Opara (YC) - MIN
MINNESOTA UNITED QUOTE SHEET
MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH
On if it was two points dropped or one point gained ...
"Well, it's two dropped. If you don't think that we didn't deserve something out of this game, you don't know anything about football. My God, I don't know how many chances we've had, how many final third entries, how many opportunities we've had to pick a pass. Two dropped."
On having a large advantage in shots tonight and on Wednesday ...
"Final third. [We've] got to do better, I just told the players. [We] can't keep getting our football between both boxes. Tonight at times, [our football] has been absolutely outstanding. [There] was just not enough quality in the final third. We can hide behind it if we want, no we can't. We've got to do better, individually and collectively."
On sending in a lot of crosses late in the game ...
"When you get desperate, you put it in the box, don't you? The thought of maybe coming out of the game with nothing was unthinkable really, but hey, it is what it is."
On Angelo Rodriguez coming off in the first half ...
"He'll probably be better tomorrow and then it will settle down a bit."
On how Angelo Rodriguez's absence changed the game ...
"Well, obviously, they [Angelo Rodriguez and Abu Danladi] are two different types of players. Abu [Danladi] is more about pace and all about running in behind, trying to stretch the field. Angelo [Rodriguez] is more about [ball] into feet, posting up, trying to bring [other] people into the game. I thought we started the first 35, 40 minutes really, really well and it was only a matter of time before we got a goal. Days like this, like we said last week against Colorado, if you don't take your chances when they're coming along then eventually it's going to punish you. I'd like to see the penalty [on Nani] again and really see the close up. So, we'll see."
On the 31 crosses coming tonight ...
"You've got to work the final third, always, no matter who you are. Manchester City, who everybody thinks plays the best football in Europe, score more goals with crosses than anybody. We haven't had enough quality in the final third today."
On how Hassani Dotson did in the absence of Osvaldo Alonso ...
"I thought he was excellent. I thought Jan [Gregus] and Hassani [Dotson] were excellent. I thought Chase Gasper was maybe the best player on the field. Absolutely amazing, the two kids, absolutely fantastic."
On Abu Danladi's goal ...
"Well, I think the goal will give him a bit of confidence. That's one thing [that] he's been lacking a little bit of [confidence] as of late so that will help."
On scoring more goals in the attacking third ...
"Well, unlucky, [a] good save, bad finishing, a mixture of everything, I think. If the final ball was a better choice, at times. It's a disappointment. I'm disappointed that we haven't got the three points. I know people might think, well he scored late, it's a point. I always say to you guys, never underestimate getting a point at any stage of the season. It might prove [to be] really valuable to us moving forward. My overriding thought is the disappointment at this moment."
On the emotions running through him at the end of the game ...
"It [the second penalty call] was offside. It's the same when you're in that situation when you keep teams hanging around for as long as they did, you always leave yourself susceptible to conceding late."
On what the coaching staff does moving forward to improve finishing ...
"We'll work at it. Work about where we put the ball, where we make the runs, a little bit of everything. We'll work on it because it's part of our game that's letting us down at this moment in time. We continually are getting the ball in the final third, in good spots and not getting enough out of it."
On Mason Toye ...
"Well, he's obviously going to be very important now. That's what I'm saying. The goal will probably do Abu [Danladi] good moving forward. Mason [Toye] will be available on Thursday night but we are going to need him now because if Angelo Rodriguez's [injury] is a bad hamstring then you don't know. It could be four, five, six weeks, we don't know. It could be two, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see until probably Monday. [That] would be the best guide at it."
On if Angelo Rodriguez's injury pushed up Mason Toye's return to the team ...
"Mason [Toye] has been excellent the last few weeks. [He's] put himself in a good spot. He got the two-match ban, could've been worse. He'll have an opportunity."
On what it will take to secure a playoff position ...
"I think it's going to be a lot more than people think. The way that a lot of teams [are playing]. A lot of teams are going to play each other. I think anything over 47, 48 might get you in. Over 50 might get you in the top four, I don't know."
MINNESOTA UNITED MIDFIELDER HASSANI DOTSON
On taking Osvaldo Alonso's midfield spot tonight...
"I wouldn't say I took his spot, I filled in. I thought I did well defensively, I won the ball, I connected on passes. I think one thing I need to work on, or one thing I would've liked to see more of today was my range of passing and maybe breaking lines. Going from me maybe straight to Abu [Danladi], Angelo [Rodriguez], or Darwin [Quintero]. But overall I thought I did good, or at least better than Real Salt Lake. Now I just keep trying to get better from there."
On if he sees tonight as one point won, two points lost, or something else...
"I think we all see it as two points lost. I mean, they're a good team, we all know that, but I think we're a good team and being at home we expected the three points. It's a little disappointing, but it's time to bounce back and take care of business on Thursday."
On his thoughts on the 60th minute penalty awarded to Orlando...
"I thought it was kind of harsh. I mean I haven't quite seen the replay back, but I thought maybe he was falling over before and maybe that should be the challenge you make when someone's shooting. From in the game, I thought it was kind of harsh."
On what emotions he went through in the 90+ minute when Orlando was awarded another penalty but this one was taken back...
"I had all the confidence in Vito [Mannone], you've seen him do it against Dallas at home, but I was kind of confused. He went back and ended up calling it offside, which was a relief, but as you can see we were trying to score and after that we weren't playing for the tie."
On if the high number of crosses was a testament to Orlando's defense and taking what Orlando gave them...
"I thought that once we were in their final third, they were content to just sit back. They have big guys in there so they were just like, go ahead and whip it in, if you guys score you score. But if you look at some of the chances we had, we were just unlucky that the goalie made a couple nice saves."
On what Jan [Gregus] told him as they were paired in the midfield and he was playing in a different role...
"He was just really supportive. He knows my strengths, and I know his strengths, and all the guys even are like, okay if you get the ball shoot the ball. It's nice when you don't have to second guess yourself when you have teammates, older teammates, more experienced teammates lifting you up and telling you to be yourself. You know, me and him both can get out of tight spaces, and it was nice. You can see how we've improved from Real Salt Lake, so I thought that was good."
MINNESOTA UNITED DEFENDER IKE OPARA
On the yellow card...
"I still want to see it again. I think live, the ref was in a tough position. If he lets it go, he can review it. I'm not really sure. I'm frustrated with myself because I thought I got to a pretty good angle and I actually wanted him to shoot the ball because I liked our chances there and he was pretty clever with what he did and he went down really soft. So even if it was a penalty, he sold it and he earned it in a very soft way. I would like to see it again."
On what he said to the referee at that point...
"Nothing he just gave me the yellow for the foul."
So you're saying he's a joker...
"You can put that in your story from video. I still wanna see it but he was actually at least wanting to hear my plea but he didn't check it so it is what it is."
On the difference between striker's Tesho [Akindele] and Dom Dwyer...
"Yeah they're both physical. Tesho is in good form right now at the moment so it's not easy to defend him. Dom is unfortunately going through a little bit of a rut so Tesho brought in a nice change of pace that made it a little difficult for us. They both have qualities and tonight I think that they showed a little bit of them. I think I liked what we did defensively for the most part in this game."
On what's been going on in the locker room...
"Frustration in the sense of we wanted these 3 points. I haven't seen all the results yet but it looks like some of them have gone away. An opportunity for us to push our gap and push for the playoffs. I think in retrospect, being able to go into the 90th the way we did and the heart that we showed, maybe this point comes to be very valuable moving forward. I think we've had a couple points, you know, that Philly game, we look back and wish we would've at least gotten the point there even though we were at home. I think they're all going to add up even though we did drop two but we'll move forward on Thursday.
On the emotions at the end of the game...
"Yeah I guess that's the MLS. As a player you try to keep your head into it but sometimes you get lost. It's entertaining I guess if you're neutral."
On [Chase] Gasper defensively...
"He's very intelligent and Chase that's one thing you see right off the bat. His soccer IQ is high and he competes and his tactical abilities and his knowledge are very high for his age and he's willing to learn and listen and take communication from his staff and guys on the field. He's just improving every week and hopefully that rookie wall is a myth but he's been very good for us."
On the end of the game...
"Yeah, he just started putting numbers in the box. Just caused a little chaos because you know as a defender when you start getting numbers from an attacking team in the box it makes things difficult. Just look at the goal that we scored, just shooting number in the box, after the rebound and being in a good spot. Numbers in the box cause chaos and that's ultimately what we were trying to do at the end and it worked out."
On Hassani [Dotson]...
"Hassani is a player and he's been playing several positions and he's grasped all of them at a high level. I don't know what position he'll end of playing but when he's on the field I've got the upmost confidence in him."
MINNESOTA UNITED FORWARD ABU DANLADI
On scoring and what that moment felt like for him ...
"I mean, it was great. A great, great feeling. Also, it was tied. Which, I wanted to get back and score again. I really wanted to get three points. I mean, at the same time, you're just happy you scored. But at the same time, you just want to get a win and your team wants you to get back and reset and go again. It was a good feeling. And also, first goal in the new stadium, so that was very, very exciting."
On if he heard the crowd chant his name after his goal, or if he was too focused in on the game ...
"Very, very too focused in. I mean, I knew it was loud, because I could tell. But, just more focused on - because Adrian [Heath] was on the bench, gotta get back, gotta get back, let's go back, let's go back. So that's mostly what I was focused on."
On what his thoughts are on Orlando's penalty that was awarded ...
"Very, very questionable. I'll say that some of these decisions are made in games. That's why you have the referee to make the decision, there's nothing the play can do about it. It's not the right call. If it's the right call, there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to look forward to coming back and trying to assist the team."
On what went through his mind when Angelo Rodriguez went down and Adrian Heath called upon him ...
"As a soccer player, you train to pray in your mind, anything can happen. I just wanted to, the only thing was, like, make sure you don't forget your shin pads. So, that was kind of going through my head. But, it was good. Very unfortunate he got hurt. And players, anyone can go down at any moment. You gotta be ready, so, I was ready."
On the amount of attempts on goal the team had between tonight and Wednesday night's game against Colorado, and what needs to be done to help convert those attempts ...
"We gotta do a better job of just finishing. Do a better job in the final third, for sure. And, with me included, just try and get on the end of the ball and just try and at least hit the target. That is very, very important with games going forward. It's very, very important to make playoffs. And those are very, very important opportunities, we have to grab them and make sure we do better at them. At the end of the day, that's going to determine if we win and get more points, or you lose points. So, that's very important."
On his first goal since April and what the stretch without scoring was like ...
"I mean, it's been a long, with injuries and stuff, things have kind of been hard. Just focusing and getting my head up and keep working hard. Just doing the extra little things. The coaches have always believed in me and given me the opportunity to play, so that's really, really good. I really appreciate that and I have to prove to them that I'm going to make the best out of this opportunity they gave me, and hopefully, this game, and all the games coming up, that I'm able to help the team. Because, at the end of the day, helping the team and doing what the team needs is the most important part."
On how he has been feeling this year ...
"I mean, it's just there and there with the injuries, but it's one of those things, I've done through this before. Every year, I learn how to deal with it. And this year, I feel like I'm dealing with it much, much better. I'm taking care of my body on and off the field, and I'm eating right and going all of the extra steps at training. So, that's very, very important. So, just making sure that I'm doing all the stuff that's going to keep me on the field and ready to go every weekend."
On all of the emotions he went through during a game like this ...
"It was a very, very crazy emotion because that last PK that he called, I was like, wow, I can't believe that this just happened after we worked really hard to come back and tie the game. So, I'm glad that the ref was able to reconsider and know that it wasn't intentional. A tie - that tie was - I'd rather take a win, but one point is better than losing a point or two."
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