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 Minnesota United FC

MNUFC Earns Three Points in 2024 Season Opener

February 25, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Minnesota United FC News Release


AUSTIN, Texas -- Minnesota United started the 2024 MLS Regular Season with a hard-earned victory on the road against Austin FC at Q2 Stadium thanks to goals from midfielders Robin Lod and Alejandro Bran.

12': MNUFC earned a corner kick, which was pushed outside the 18-yard box before outside back Joseph Rosales chips the ball towards goal. Franco Fragapane connected on Rosales' chip, and his header from inside the six-yard box was barely saved by Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver.

12': Less than 30 seconds later, the Minnesota offense pressed again, where Teemu Pukki struck a shot that just missed above the crossbar.

15': Pukki held possession and quickly turned inside the Austin box, laying-up a short cross to midfielder Sang Bin Jeong. Sang Bin's header towards the far post was yet again saved by Stuver.

21': Austin FC see's its first scoring chance of the night fall short when forward Gyasi Zardes connected a corner kick, but his shot went wide of the net.

23': A result of a high press, Minnesota veteran midfielder Robin Lod stole the ball on the right side of Austin's six-yard box. Lod then quickly weaved past one defender and fired off a shot that hit the far post, nearly giving the Loons the opening goal.

29': Off a corner kick, Minnesota sees a close-range header by centerback Miguel Tapias saved by Brad Stuver. This was the ninth shot of the night for the Loons, notably the fifth shot on target.

34': Robin Lod scored the first goal of the 2024 MLS season for Minnesota United. Starting from MNUFC's defensive third, Rosales drove the ball up the pitch, passing it off to Pukki. Pukki's run finished just above the keeper's box, with the ball handed off to Sang Bin. The Korean attacker then quickly crossed the ball towards the net, and the ball landed at Lod's feet following a deflection by Stuver. Lod capitalized on the close-rage shot, giving the Loons the 1-0 lead.

45'+1': Duluth, Minnesota native Ethan Finlay gave the Texas side its first shot on goal of the night from a cross. But MNUFC goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair makes the save to keep the score at 1-0 ahead of halftime.

56': Austin attacker Ethan Finlay drove towards the Minnesota goal when Rosales - on the defensive response - fouled Finlay just 20 yards from the endline. A free kick was awarded to the Texas side, but the cross-in was eventually cleared by the Loons.

63': The Verde and Black crowded Minnesota's defensive third and created several dangerous scoring chances when the ball was deflected off of midfielder Hassani Dotson before being cleared by the Loons' backline.

72': Brad Stuver saves a long-range Minnesota shot and immediately connects a long throw-in to Emiliano Rigoni. The Argentine quickly drove the ball up the pitch and Austin created a dangerous counterattack. But DJ Taylor and the Loons' backline retreated in time and stifled the attack.

90'+2': Costa Rican international midfielder Alejandro Bran scored the second goal of the night for the Loons, which notably became his very first MLS and MNUFC goal. Fellow midfielder Caden Clark sent a through-ball that connected perfectly with forward Tani Oluwaseyi. Just barely onside, Oluwaseyi passed it on to Bran who finished the tap-in shot. A quick VAR check confirmed the onside ruling and the goal stood.

90'+4': Austin found the back of the net when Owen Wolff connected a pass to Guilherme Biro, with the ball tapped-in in past St. Clair.

With the win, Minnesota United begins the 2024 MLS regular season with 3 points and a 1-0-0 (W-L-D) record.

GOAL SUMMARY

1-0 MIN - Robin Lod, assisted by Sang Bin Jeong (34')

2-0 MIN - Alejandro Bran, assisted by Tani Oluwaseyi (90'+1')

2-1 ATX - Guilherme Biro, assisted by Owen Wolff (90'+5')

DISCIPLINARY SUMMARY

Caution, MIN - Joseph Rosales (56')

Caution, ATX - Jhojan Valencia (70')

Caution, MIN - Caden Clark (82')

NOTABLE STATS

23 - Robin Lod is Minnesota United's all-time MLS leading scorer with 23 regular season goals.

11 - Minnesota United earned 11 corner kicks during the first half, breaking the club's previous record of nine (9) in a single half.

16 - At full time, the Loons earned 16 total corners, setting the club record for a single game. The previous mark was 15.

3 - Three players made their MNUFC debuts: Alejandro Bran, Caden Clark and Loïc Mesanvi

NOTE TWIN CITIES MEDIA: Single-game credential requests for MNUFC's Home Opener, presented by SeatGeek, on Saturday, March 2 against the Columbus Crew at Allianz Field are due no later than Thursday, Feb. 29 at 1:00 p.m. CT.

BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Robin Lod

LINEUPS:

Minnesota United XI: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Joseph Rosales, Miguel Tapias, Michael Boxall ©, DJ Taylor; M Hassani Dotson, Wil Trapp, Robin Lod, Franco Fragapane, Sang Bin Jeong; F Teemu Pukki

Bench: GK Clint Irwin; D Victor Eriksson, Devin Padelford, Zarek Valentin; M Alejandro Bran, Caden Clark, Moses Nyeman, Loïc Mesanvi; F Tani Oluwaseyi

Austin FC XI: GK Brad Stuver; D Matt Hedges, Leo Vaisanen, Jon Gallagher, Zan Kolmanic; M Dani Pereira, Alex Ring ©, Owen Wolff; F Emiliano Rigoni, Gyasi Zardes, Ethan Finlay

Bench: GK Stefan Cleveland; D Guilherme Biro, Julio Cascante, Brendan Hines-Ike, Hector Jiménez; M Jhojan Valencia; F CJ Fodrey, Jáder Obrian, Diego Rubio

UP NEXT:

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. COLUMBUS CREW

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota

03.02.2024 | MLS 2024 Regular Season | Match 2

1:00 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass/1500 ESPN)

MINNESOTA UNITED POST GAME QUOTE SHEET

INTERIM HEAD COACH CAMERON KNOWLES

On his impression of the team's desire to press and win second balls...

"I thought it was fantastic. I mean, that first half was outstanding. Right from the start, the guys showed trust in each other and a lot of belief. They were able to put Austin [FC] under a lot of pressure and create some really good chances, and just kept building on it. The number of chances created in that first half were outstanding."

On Robin Lod's performance after missing most of last season due to injury...

"I thought he [Robin Lod] was outstanding. You see the relationship with him and [Teemu] Pukki both on the defending side of the game and the way they put pressure on and also in possession. But yeah, he was very, very good on both sides of the ball tonight."

On his responsibility as an interim coach to get the team ready for season and having it rewarded with a win...

"We were charged with a tremendous responsibility of getting the players ready and it's not just me; there's an entire staff behind that and there's a number of staff members that are in this role as well for the first time working with MLS players and working at this level. From day one, everyone sort of cracked on with it and the players that we have, they did the same thing. They trusted us and they did the work. I'm just really happy that the players get the reward for that in the form of three points."

On what the players did to celebrate his achievement for the win...

"We got three points just like them and we started to focus on the next one. No, nothing, nothing as of yet. Listen, it was a tremendous privilege to have that responsibility and I don't take it for granted for a moment. I'm just really pleased that we were able to come out here and perform, and we get the season off on the right foot and we get to now build into next week and it will be an incredible home opener."

On what the young players were able to show in the preseason to lead them to perform well during the game and score a goal...

"We talked about it with the guys a little bit last night on how important substitutions coming into the game were going to be. It's still early in the season. Very few people are going to be really 90 minutes match fit and the substitutions are going to be really important. We started to be stuck a little bit deeper, and we weren't getting to the ball as much, and the guys on the field are putting in a lot of work. So to bring some fresh energy to the game, I thought all the guys that came into the game were outstanding. We started to get that pressure going again. We had some opportunities on the counterattack, we had the threat of pace through the front three and it really changed the game for us. Obviously, we got the second goal and shame we can't hold on for the clean sheet, but that shouldn't tarnish what those guys did."

On if Minnesota United is underestimated...

"When we started 40 days ago that first day, first meeting we had with the players, it was about, 'let's focus on what we can control'. We know there's going to be a lot of noise. There was a lot of noise about the new interim coming in, then we have noise surrounding what's going to happen, and what's the appointment going to be, and we just have to get on with it. We said from day one, the rest of the league won't wait for us. We have to just continue one day at a time, one week at a time putting that together. So yes there has been noise, but within the confines of the training group, we have, and the broader staff, have done an outstanding job of just keeping the guys on task, and the guys have done an outstanding job of just working every day."

On the confidence of having the young players play an important role in the team...

"We've got to trust them. They've earned a lot of trust tonight over the way they came into the game. We added Loïc [Mesanvi] to the roster, and he comes into the game, and obviously there are nerves, then you've got Alejandro Bran, first time playing in the league game. These guys, to come into a game that are young but fearless in the way they played. It's really exciting and sort of bodes well for the future."

On what key points the new coach will need to know regarding the team's strengths...

"There is going to be a lot of discussions about the groups and we still have players to add and that's probably the most exciting thing as well. Bongi [Bongokuhle Hlongwane] still needs to come back into the team, [Emanuel] Reynoso still needs to come into the team, Kervin Arriaga needs to still come back into the team. So there are a number of pieces that we still need to add. We've got to figure out when to integrate those players, how fit we get them in a short period of time, and what the squad looks like for next week and just take it one game at a time."

On what the team needed after Austin FC came alive in the second half...

"They [Austin FC] had a little bit more joy, especially the way they opened up the central midfield and pulling a little bit wider and gave us a little bit of problems when we weren't all coordinated on that press. They were able to find a couple times where they linked up into [Gyasi] Zardes a little bit more directly, but fair play to our guys. They dug deep and weathered the storm and needed to have some moments. The crowd got into it and they brought their atmosphere back to the stadium. But the guys held on at points in the game and then were able to sort of claw our way back into it as the second half went on.

MIDFIELDER HASSANI DOTSON

On his view of what was working well with the team's pressing and winning second balls in the first half...

"The big point of emphasis for us to start the game was to take it to them [Austin FC]. Not letting them get too comfortable and not letting them get the crowd involved, and know that they could be prone to mistakes. We tried to play a bit more aggressively than we used to away from home. We wanted to play a little bit more direct, you could tell they couldn't get into the game as they would have liked to."

On how the victory soaked in for you guys on the pitch once the game ended...

"It feels great. We've got a lot of new pieces, and like you said, there were some big changes from before. It has made the locker room closer, we are all figuring out a way to go through this together. We know what our responsibility is regardless of what's going on. We know that we need to perform and get as many points as we can. We are thrilled we got the win today and a lot of people made their MLS debuts, I couldn't be happier for them."

On what the young substitutes showed to be in a spot to contribute in a high leverage situation...

"I think when you are young and you get subbed in and you try and close out the game, It's a big opportunity. It shows that the coach trusts you. It's your job to follow instructions and do the best that you can and hold onto the lead. We have a young team this year and they all had a good preseason. I couldn't be happier, especially having had that opportunity my first year myself."

On what the team did right tonight to keep their lead and get the win, compared to giving up leads last season...

"We continued to try and bring the intensity and not let off the throttle. If you look at the game, like Andy [Andy Greder, Pioneer Press reporter] said, we had a lot of chances in the first half. We knew that we couldn't let this one slip away, and we knew that we had them where we wanted to. It does help that we have a lot of people that were here last year, and we didn't want to experience that again."

On how Cameron Knowles prepared the team for tonight and what it means to Cameron following his first MLS win...

"We did a lot of video throughout the week, and I think he [Cameron Knowles] tried to instill a lot of confidence in the group. Believe in yourself. And they're [coaching staff] open to any changes or any questions that we had, for us to feel like we were a part of it, we have a voice, and that we're all going through this together. I think he had a good game plan and once you see the game plan start to work, everyone gets a little more encouraged, a little more energy, a little more bite. We came out with the win today - couldn't be more pleased."

On his thoughts on the changes from this offseason & preseason, and if they have now changed...

"No. I honestly have no control over that. My responsibility is to work hard and be a good teammate and give the fans some inspiration, and most importantly get three points. That's what my job is, and whoever comes in and whoever stays, I'm ready to work with whoever comes. I'm just focused on what I can control and my next obstacle."


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