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MNUFC Falls 1-0 at Sporting KC

September 14, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Minnesota United FC News Release

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Minnesota United came into their final game of Phase I of the resumed MLS season replete with bodies both tired and injured. On the road against Sporting Kansas City, Head Coach Adrian Heath was left with little choice but to rest the trio of attacking midfielders who had caused headaches for both Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas at Allianz Field. In rotating the squad, Heath opted for a defensive look with a 3-5-2 that weathered the early storm of SKC chances well, holding a scoreless draw through the first half. Sensing that there might be something in the game, Heath shifted the look to a more traditional 4-3-3 in the second half with a bevy of subs, and while the Loons looked much more dangerous for it, they ultimately could not hold serve against an SKC side that outshot them 21-6. Johnny Russell's breakaway goal in the 80th minute would stand for the winner in a rugged 1-0 game.

Minnesota's starting XI saw defender Bakaye Dibassy making his MLS debut in a three-man backline that also featured Michael Boxall and Jose Aja. Flanked by Marlon Hairston and Raheem Edwards as wingbacks, the defense thwarted Sporting KC's initial assaults. While often forced to defend deep, the Loons nevertheless stood firm in the box with the contributions of James Musa in at defensive mid. This left all the offense in the hands of midfielders Hassani Dotson and Jan Gregus and forwards Mason Toye and Jacori Hayes, who operated in a second striker position.

The result of this formation was an MNUFC side who could bend but refused to break in the first half. With Boxall as captain in Osvaldo Alonso's stead, the defense put their bodies on the line repeatedly in the box as Sporting Kansas City was forced to go around the glut of midfielders the Loons were throwing at them and look for opportunities down the wings.

Still, the home side managed to set up shop in Minnesota's defensive final third and rarely let Minnesota get out of their own end. When the Loons did get a chance to push the ball up the field, there were often too few outlet options to allow the attack to develop. Throughout the evening, goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair - making just his third MLS start - looked the part, often stepping aggressively to attackers and making several clutch saves early on good chances from SKC to keep it level.

At the half, perhaps sensing that SKC had thrown its heaviest punches already, Head Coach Adrian Heath came out with a new, more balanced look that aimed to take some of the home side's momentum and push it back at them. Kevin Molino and Robin Lod came in as wingers and Chase Gasper came in at left back, with Jose Aja, Raheem Edwards and James Musa retiring to the bench.

Immediately, the change paid dividends as Molino and Lod got straight to work. In the 54th minute, Lod evaded a tackle on the right wing and got the ball deep down that side, but his ball into the box couldn't find a target and the attack stalled. Just four minutes later, Molino got in on the action, sending in a cross that Mason Toye found and sent towards goal, only to be rebuffed by Roberto Puncec.

Sporting Kansas City kept up their attack, though, sending beautiful ball after beautiful ball forward in a vain attempt to open the scoring through the middle of the second half. Long passes down the wing from Felipe Martins and swift counterattacks went begging as the final product could not stand up to the build up for the home side.

Ultimately, it was one of the most direct plays that broke it open for SKC. Defender Graham Zusi spied an opportunity in the 80th minute and sent a long pass to Johnny Russell, who split the fullback and center back on the left side before finding himself wide open with the ball. The Scotsman slotted it past St. Clair as the Loons raised their hands for an offside call that would not come.

Down the stretch, Minnesota added Thomas Chacon to the mix, but despite some set piece opportunities, the Loons could not muster a solid challenge in the game's dying minutes. With the 1-0 win, SKC leaped to the top of the Western Conference standings with Minnesota heading home to get in a much-needed rest and full week of practice before beginning Phase II with a game on the road against Houston.

BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair

GOAL BREAKDOWN

80' | Long ball over the top by Graham Zusi finds Johnny Russell splitting Chase Gasper and Bakaye Dibassy before slotting it past Dayne St. Clair to finally break open the scoring. 1-0

LINEUPS:

Minnesota United: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Jose Aja, Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy; M Raheem Edwards, Jacori Hayes, James Musa, Hassani Dotson, Jan Gregus, Marlon Hairston; F Mason Toye

Sporting Kansas City: GK Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Roberto Puncec, Matt Besler, Luis Martins; M Felipe Hernandez, Gianluca Busio, Gadi Kinda; F Johnny Russell, Gerso, Khiry Shelton

UP NEXT

Minnesota United @ Houston Dynamo

BBVA Stadium | Houston, TX

09.19.20 | MLS Week No. 10 | MLS Game 12

7:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

MINNESOTA UNITED QUOTE SHEET

MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On his general thoughts on the team's performance in both the first and second half ...

They were obviously the better team first half. We tried to change the shape to see if we could stifle them in the middle of the park, but that didn't work. I thought the shape in the second half was better. Obviously, when we got the likes of [Robin] Lod and [Kevin] Molino and [Emanuel] Reynoso in, we looked like we got the quality that we know we got. But, apart from that, you know it would have been a very, probably unjust, result had they not won the game when you consider the opportunities they've had.

On Thomas Chacon and Emanuel Reynoso's performances tonight ...

With the way that it's been, what is it, six days, 23 days? We've got more games coming up after. We've got a weeks rest now, which, there's a few of them players need. [Emanuel] Reynoso had a little bit of a sore groin, which he's had since the last game, and we didn't want to risk it. When it got to 1-nil, I thought that actually putting them on, it gave us a little bit of a spark and got a little bit of combination going. So, I'm obviously delighted with Rey. He's come in and done really well. [Thomas] Chacon, he wasn't on long enough. He wasn't on that long to make a big impression. But, overall, as I've said, we can't come here, as bare as we were, with the players that we were, and give as good a performance as I would like.

On if he was able to see the potential offside call and his view on that call ...

I can't see from where I was, to be honest. Even in the stadium, the views that they put up, you couldn't work out if it was offside or onside, to be honest. So, I can't really comment on that.

On what in the lineup maneuvering was injury related and what in the lineup maneuvering was rest related ...

The ones that were on the bench who played so well in the last two games, obviously, the three attacking players, Kevin [Molino], Robin [Lod] and [Emanuel] Reynoso, have played a lot of minutes. And we have to protect them. If you look around the league, I think it was Salt Lake, made eight or nine changes the other day. We can't keep playing the same group every four days until the end of the season. It's impossible. But, you know, this week will be good. Hopefully we can get some recuperation in the guys. And, can get them a little bit healthier. And then, another away game. It won't be easy next week down in Houston.

On if we'll see any of the injured players return to play soon ...

Probably, maybe, maybe the only one would be Aaron [Schoenfeld] at this moment in time. It'd probably be too early for Ozzie [Alonso] I would think. Obviously, Romain [Metanire], his suspension will be up. Luis [Amarilla] probably not. So, hopefully we can get Aaron Schoenfeld back and that will give us another option up front.

On his yellow card in the last few minutes of the game and what happened ...

I don't know where these rules come from, but the ball came to me and I kicked it back. The ball had gone out, so, obviously that's a yellow card these days.

On seeing Bakaye Dibassy play a full 90 minutes and what he thought on his performance ...

I thought he did fine. Obviously, it's never easy coming in when you've hardly trained with the group because of the situation that we've been in. It's been game, regeneration, preparation, game, travel. So, it's not been easy for us to work with him and with the rest of the group. But, trust me, he's going to be fine. I saw enough of him tonight that knows that he's going to be athletic enough for the league. Obviously, being left-footed will help us. So, he'll be fine.

On a report of Thomas Chacon going on loan to Danubio ...

I'll have a better idea tonight when I get back. Obviously, Mark Watson has been dealing with some of the stuff, what we've been trying to do over the last few days. I'll get a clearer picture of that later this evening.

On Mason Toye's performance tonight, what he's seeing from him, what he isn't seeing from him and what he wants to see more of from him ...

As I've said before, you've got a lot of physical to us, but we need to see better hold up play. We need to see a better understanding of movement. It's not easy when you're playing in a team that what you would class is not at full strength. Certainly, I think that if he plays consistently ahead of [Emanuel] Reynoso and [Robin] Lod, he will get more opportunities than he's getting it at this moment in time. But, you know, it's a work in progress and he's got to keep working hard and let's see where he goes.

On who his backup striker is right now behind Mason Toye ...

Well, we haven't really got one. It would be Aaron Schoenfeld and Mason and Luis Amarilla. Even tonight, we finished the game with Rey [Reynoso] playing up there. You know, I actually thought he did okay. He got in some good spots. But, that's not ideal. We prefer him to be a bit deeper, linking the play up. It's something that we've spoke about. It's something that we might have to look and do we bring somebody else in, because we can't go until the end of the season with the thought of maybe one guy being fit at any given time. We can't go on if Luis [Amarilla] doesn't get fit in the next few weeks and Aaron breaks down. So, it's something that we've looked at. It's something that we are looking at. And, if we can do something, maybe we'd have a look at it.

On if there was a VAR check on the offside call, and if not, how can there not be a review ...

I don't know. It's something that I will ask. We haven't seen it. I haven't seen a re-run of the incident to see whether he was offside or not. There was certainly nothing in the stadium. I don't know who the fourth official is or who the VAR was. But, I don't know. I can ask the question, but, you normally get in trouble if you ask any type of question these days, so, I'm probably better keeping shut.

On if he has a better idea of what he's going to do for a backup goalkeeper ...

No, we'll address that. Now we've got a week to decide what we're going to do. There's one or two options out there. As I say, I'll probably get a clearer picture tonight and tomorrow when I get home to decide what's available, if there is anybody available, can we get the pool goalkeeper sub. Hopefully it will be addressed in the next couple of days.

On his plan with Emanuel Reynoso and if he's going to play him at the 10 and his role on the squad ...

Yeah, we bought him as a number 10. We know he can play. He's played attacking in a three-man midfield. He's played wide left, he's played wide right. I think he's shown in the two games that we've seen him at home, his best position is linking play up and making things happen in and around the box. So, you know, that's where we eventually see him playing and hopefully this week we can get some time on the training field working with him and Kevin [Molino] and Robin [Lod] and the front men and trying to come up with some little combination plays that we think will help everybody.

On any update on Ike Opara's status ...

No, not at this moment. It's pretty much as it were. Obviously it's a little bit frustrating, but, at the end of the day we have to let time take its course.

MINNESOTA UNITED DEFENDER MICHAEL BOXALL

On the first half and the challenges the formation presented...

The challenges, especially coming to Kansas City is trying to get on the ball and play in advanced positions to be dangerous and create chances. There were quite a few times when we just got caught with six, seven, eight players behind the ball. We play these guys so many times and they are so well drilled on what they do, and keeping the ball and making us move and spend we spent quite a bit of energy doing that in the first half.

On Bakaye Dibassy's performance...

It's kind of the first bit of action we've had with him since he's been available post-quarantine. We've had too many games to actually have a full training with him. To come in and put in the shift that he did with two different formations. He seems so comfortable, he's pretty composed and sure on the ball. He makes the right decisions and obviously with defending you guys saw for yourself, he steps and loves a challenge - not much really got by him tonight. I think that's his first game since February or March so to hold up in these conditions, with the travel and all that, its outstanding really. So once he finds his legs he's going to be a very important player for us.

On your physical fitness after a long stretch of games...

You look at our injured list and you see what has happened - not only what's happened to our team but - to quite a few teams around the league. It's the games, it's the travel, it has taken its toll. Personally, I'm tired but battling through. I'm looking forward to getting home these next few days and having a full week to prepare for the next few games coming up. Us and a lot of other teams need the rest and to get some of our legs back.

On the pressure applied and near misses throughout the game...

When Adrian [Heath] made the changes at halftime and we switched into a more comfortable position for us, we were able to get on the ball and higher positions and I thought [Kevin] Molino and Robin [Lod] were looking quite dangerous. I thought we definitely had a chance to snatch all three [points]. We defended desperately for the whole and to lose the way that we did... it hurts a bit but we go again.

On how often the team trains in the three back defensive shape...

I've played quite a bit [in that formation] with my national team and we have done it a couple years ago here in Minnesota so I'm quite comfortable playing with a back three. Jose [Aja] and [Bakaye] Dibassy did well. We prepare for each game as it comes and when Romain [Metanire] gets suspended it kind of throws a spanner in the works and we have to come up with a plan on short notice with the best players available. Everyone is pretty comfortable and flexible at changing at a moment's notice, whether its in the game or before the game. For the most part everyone knew their roles pretty well.

On Dayne's St. Clair's performance....

Ever since he has been with the club he has been a great shot stopper. He's not short of confidence. He's been patient and gone out on loan and brought back again with Tyler Miller getting injured. He has deserved his chance and there's not too much where we've seen where we'd expect more out of him. He's very vocal for someone who has only made his debut a few games ago.

On the SKC goal and potential offside...

As it happened I thought there's no way he can be onside. I saw a still image where he looks offside.

MINNESOTA UNITED GOALKEEPER DAYNE ST. CLAIR

On general thoughts of tonight's performance...

I think we did well keeping our shape and trying to make it hard for them for 85 minutes of the game. I think we were a bit unlucky with the goal...and I think that we just wanted come in and make it hard for them and I think we did that.

On getting more action each game and getting into a rhythm...

I think with each game I'm trying to grow and excel and (kind of) raise my level each game. Whether I'm called upon or not, I think just going into the game to try and prove upon the previous game has been my mindset.

On coming off his line for the Khiry Shelton save...

Boxy did a great job closing him down, and then I saw him take a big touch, and I went out to meet him because I know I have a big frame and could try to make it hard for him to beat me and force me into a decision where I suppose he could have time and pick out a spot.

On the questionable offsides of the goal...

I mean, the linesman said that the left back kept him on, but after looking at it, Chase is ahead of our center back...but that's just how the game goes sometimes.

On the position of the right back during the goal...

It's tough. The play kind-of happened so quickly and I'm trying to focus-in and try to make a big save if it comes my way. So, it's tough for me to be looking right across the line and seeing who's on and off sides. It's just dealing with the ball when it comes my way.

On the offensive pressure and hoping to get a point with all the saves...

I think you go into every game with thinking that you get points from the game. And I think we knew that if we kept a good shape defensively that we'd also have a chance, and wanted to not give up anything easy, and I think we did a good job doing that.

On the challenges on the way the team the setup against KC in the first half...

Of course, playing a new formation there is always going to be challenges, but I think that we just have to communicate and decide when to switch on players and things like that. And I think that we good job with that.


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