MNUFC Falls to SKC on the Road
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Having taken a point off the Western Conference leaders two weeks ago at home, Minnesota United came into Kansas City looking to do even better and exact a measure of revenge for a poor showing last season at Children's Mercy Park. Although defender Brent Kallman impressed in his first start of the season and defender Tyrone Mears scored a screamer from way out to level the match early, the Loons saw bad go to worse when they went down a man in the second half. Unable to claw their way back in, the Loons ended up on the wrong side of a 4-1 road loss.
"We obviously never came to terms with their wide guy coming in field and the fullback going wide," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "We allowed them too much space to do that. They put too many balls in our box, and I don't think we defended it really well. We are not good enough on the road to defend like we've done tonight. It was too easy for them to get to dangerous areas."
Sporting Kansas City started off hot, getting an early chance off a cross from the right side by defender Graham Zusi to forward Daniel Salloi who put it wide right in the third minute. That was followed in the next minute by forward Gerso Fernandes firing a tight-angled shot that goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth saved.
The chances kept coming for SKC, who got another chance after putting together a pretty string of one-touch passing and getting the ball to Yohan Croizet on the left-hand side. Croizet's shot was again saved by Shuttleworth in the eighth minute, but Minnesota struggled to get any kind of possession going in the match's opening minute.
In the ninth minute, a cheap turnover in their own half led to the Loons giving up the match's first goal. Croizet cut off a pass and quickly got it to Salloi who buried a right-footed shot onto the far post to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
A galvanized MNUFC answered quickly, though, and in unexpected fashion when midfielder Rasmus Schuller got the ball over to defender Tyrone Mears, who measured the space in front of him and positively drilled a shot from 40 yards out to level the match at 1-1 in the 12th minute.
Over the next 20 minutes, the match settled into a rhythm with Minnesota finding space between SKC's lines on the counterattack but largely unable to build an attack through moving the ball around. In the 25th minute, a free kick opportunity near the edge of the box nearly turned into a lead for the visitors when midfielder Darwin Quintero's curling shot took a deflection and forced goalkeeper Tim Melia to go to ground to stop the ball.
Defensively, MNUFC held its own largely through the efforts of defender Brent Kallman, who stepped in for the departed Francisco Calvo. Kallman made several timely interceptions and blocks in the box, working well with partner Michael Boxall to frustrate Sporting Kansas City.
"I felt good about the way that I played in the box but some of my clearances weren't good enough," said Kallman. "Those are dangerous when you clear a ball and then the ball knocks down to the next level and they've got guys there waiting to shoot. The clearances have got to be better. I felt alright on the ball but we didn't have the ball enough as a team. We were a little bit shaky with it. We gave the ball away a lot. I think in possession we've got to do a little bit better."
Unfortunately, there was only so much the backline could do as SKC ramped up their attack and began to up the pressure. In the 35th minute, midfielder Wan Kuzain notched his first MLS goal when Zusi set him up at the top of the box with a pass from the right side. The ball took a minor deflection but was headed on frame to give the 19-year-old a moment to remember that also put the hosts on top 2-1.
A few minutes later, forward Cristian Lobato doubled the lead for SKC after he knifed through a bit of lackluster defending and into the right side of the box. His strike snuck past Shuttleworth in the 38thminute and it was clear that Kansas City were doing their best to target that side of the pitch and take advantage of it.
"Down that left hand side, whether it was a lack of communication I don't know, you can't allow Graham Zusi - who's played most of his life in the attacking third - the amount of time and space that we did. I just thought that if we got another body in the midfield, that would allow the wide guy to get a little bit closer to him."
Through a combination of staunch defending by Shuttleworth and a little help from the crossbar, MNUFC managed to get into the locker room without further damage but still down 3-1 and with just 35% of the possession and four shots to SKC's 18.
With midfielder Alexi Gomez replaced by Maximiano, the Loons hoped to change the tenor of the match and get back into it, but Maximiano picked up two yellow cards in less than 20 minutes of play and was ejected from the match in the 63rd minute.
"We made the change at halftime, which we had to do," said Heath. "I thought we actually started the second half quite well, and even though it's 3-1, you think if you get the next goal you can make a game of it. But the sending off of Maxi was really the killer blow for us. After that, it was: can we keep it down?"
Playing down a man on the road proved to be too much for MNUFC to handle, and they conceded again in the 81st minute after the Loons couldn't clear the ball all the way out of their end. Forward Gerso Fernandes found forward Diego Rubio on the left side of the box and he got around both Boxall and Mears to strike a low shot past Shuttleworth and onto the far post to make it 4-1.
"Because of the set up that we had, I didn't think that we ever got enough pressure on their three men in midfield," said Heath. "They have the two attacking guys and then they have Ilie Sanchez who comes in there. We never really got to grips with that like we did a couple weeks ago at home."
In the 88th minute, it almost looked like Minnesota might score a consolation goal when midfielder Miguel Ibarra came roaring in on a loosely played ball and got around Melia but he couldn't quite find the angle from the left side. He sent it back out to a streaking Abu Danladi - who came in for Christian Ramirez in the 68th minute - but Melia stood tall and got big to stop Danladi's shot. Despite the similar result, Heath felt this was a very different match than the last one MNUFC lost in Kansas City last season.
"I felt more confident with this group this evening than I did this time last year," he said. "I can think back to the game and I don't think we had any opportunities in the game. Even tonight, in the first half, I thought that we looked dangerous on the counterattack. Our final ball wasn't good enough at times. But there's no way of dressing it up: we're very brittle on the road. We're conceding too many goals to try and win games. The one thing it's proved again this evening is that we've got a long way to go. We're not good enough at this moment in time. We have to keep trying to chip away at the squad and bring in some people in the next window to try and make it better. That's what we'll try and do."
MNUFC next heads to Cincinnati to face FC Cincinnati in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. That match is on Wednesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m. CT at Nippert Stadium. The match will be streamed at ussoccer.com.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: Bobby Shuttleworth; D Tyrone Mears, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Eric Miller; M Ibson, Rasmus Schuller, Miguel Ibarra, Alexi Gomez (Maximiano 46'), Darwin Quintero (Frantz Pangop 75'); F Christian Ramirez (Abu Danladi 68')
MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Carter Manley, Wyatt Omsberg; M Collin Martin
Sporting Kansas City Starting XI: GK Tim Melia; D Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Jaylin Lindsey 60'); M Roger Espinoza, Ille Sanchez, Yohan Croizet (Wan Kuzian 18'); F Cristian Lobato (Diego Rubio 78'), Daniel Salloi, Gerso Fernandes
SKC Unused Subs: GK Eric Dick; D Emiliano Amor; F D Kharlton Belmar, Gianluca Busio
9' - Salloi (Croizet)- SKC
11' - Mears (Schuller) - MIN
35' - Kuzain - SKC
38' - Lobato (Espinoza) - SKC
81' - Rubio (Fernandes) - SKC
48' - Maximiano (YC) - MIN
63' - Maximiano (2YC) - MIN
77' - Ibarra (YC) - MIN
MNUFC QUOTE SHEET
MNUFC HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH
On the team's defensive performance...
We obviously never came to terms with their wide guy coming inside and the fullback going wide. We allowed them too much space to do that. They put too many balls in our box. We are not good enough on the road to defend like we've done tonight and I'm not using the back four as an excuse. I'm using the four or five in front of them, as well. I thought it was too easy for them to get into dangerous areas and then we didn't defend the box particularly well all evening. I thought we made the change at halftime, which we had to do, and I thought we started the second half quite well. Even though it's 3-1, you're thinking if you get the next goal you can make a game of it. Obviously, the sending off for Maximiniano was the killer blow for us. After that, it was a case of can we keep it down because I thought they were always lively on the break.
On the traveling support...
I'm disappointed for them. I certainly felt more confident with this group this evening than I did this time last year. I can think back at the game and I don't think we had any opportunities last year. At least tonight, even in the first half, I thought we looked dangerous on the counter attack. Our final ball wasn't good enough at times. But we're very brittle on the road. We're conceding too many goals to try and win games. I don't think mentally we're very tough on the road because wherever you are, you'll have stretches in the game where you're going to be under the cosh and invariably when we're under the cosh for any period of time, we look like we're going to concede goals. We have to address that. The one thing it's proved again this evening is that we've got a long way to go. We're not good enough at this moment in time. We have to keep trying to chip away at the squad and bring in some people in the next window to try and make it better. That's what we'll try and do.
On the ejection of Maximiano...
In his determination to want to impress, I don't think he gave the referee much alternative to send him off. It was so open and blatant. And he doesn't really need to go and try to win the ball. He's goal side. He could have let him come and run into him anyway. He doesn't need to make the foul. He doesn't need to make the challenge. And I don't think he gave the referee much alternative then to send him off.
On his halftime substitution...
Down that left hand side, whether it was a lack of communication I don't know, you can't allow Graham Zusi - whose played most of his life in the attacking third - the amount of time and space that we did. I just thought that if we got another body in the midfield, that would allow the wide guy to get a little bit closer to him. I thought the change helped us. We looked as though we had started the second half well. With the sending off after that and being down to 10 men, it affected everything after that.
On preparing for a mid-week match at FC Cincinnati...
We're going from here to Cincinnati tomorrow and then we have to get ourselves prepared for a game. It's an Open Cup game. We know what's coming away. It's not going to be a shock what's coming away. It's going to be a big crowd on the back of their announcement last week. They're going to be after it, as they were last year when they went all the way to the semifinals. It's going to be a tough night. We have to be ready for it.
On roster selection for Open Cup...
We'll find out how everybody is in the morning to see if anybody has any knocks. I don't really know where we are if everybody is fit and healthy. We'll see.
On the World Cup break...
It will give us time to assess where the season is and what we need to do to get back and move on. Obviously, as I said, it's quite apparent that we need to get better. Certainly at home, we're more than competitive. Away from home that's not been the case yet and we have to change that.
On solving defensive dilemmas...
At this moment in time, we need to sit down and go through it with the staff and look at the videos and look at the goals we've conceded and see if we can come up with a different shape or do something different to make it better. At the moment, every time we go a goal down - and we got back in it today - but as soon as they scored the second, now let's see if we can see it through to halftime and we don't look like we're capable of doing that. I've said it probably three or four times this year, if you keep conceding two or three goals on the road, you ain't going to win too many games. That was the case this evening.
On the play in midfield...
Because of the set up that we had, I didn't think that we ever got enough pressure on their three men in midfield. They have the two attacking guys and then they have Ilie Sanchez who comes in there. We never really go to grips with that like we did a couple weeks ago at home. I know it's away from home and they obviously are a lot more confident, but we didn't do a good job of that. The wide guys kept coming in and then they get it wide to Zusi and we never came to terms. That's why we put an extra body in there and I thought it sort of stemmed the flow a little bit. In hindsight, we might have started with that but hindsight is very easy.
On playing away at Sporting KC...
Certainly coming here, they make it really, really difficult for the opposition. They play nearly a five and a five. Their front five push and press. And if your quality is not good enough to break that initial press - and it's strange, because every time we did we were dangerous in the first half. We had two or three really good breakaways. The final ball wasn't particularly good but if you're going to come here and get a result, when you have your moments you have to make them. Because they just keep coming and they keep coming. Tonight, certainly after we had the guy sent off, we weren't able to stem the flow.
MNUFC DEFENDER BRENT KALLMAN
Thoughts on the match...
I think we were second best tonight. We didn't win enough first balls and we definitely didn't win enough second balls. We were a little too easy to play through tonight. In the first half, it seemed like every one of their possessions ended in our box. When they get down over and over again in our box, eventually bad things are going to happen. We've got to do a better job of standing them up and keeping them away from our box.
On his performance...
I felt good about the way that I played in the box but some of my clearances weren't good enough. Those are dangerous when you clear a ball and then the ball knocks down to the next level and they've got guys there waiting to shoot. The clearances have got to be better. I felt alright on the ball but we didn't have the ball enough as a team. We were a little bit shaky with it. We gave the ball away a lot. I think in possession we've got to do a little bit better.
On his partnerships on the backline...
They caused me and Eric (Miller) a lot of problems on the left side. They'd run one in between and then bring Graham Zusi high so we were trying to sort that out in the first half. He's somebody I'm obviously very familiar with so it's a good relationship. And then with (Michael Boxall), I thought it was good. He's a beast. He's easy to play with and easy to defend with.
On turning attention to Open Cup...
The game's done. We've just got to let it go. Everybody's got to recover because you don't know who he's going to choose for Wednesday so everyone just has to do their best to recover and be available for selection.
On going into the break with a positive performance on Wednesday...
I think it's huge. We've got a big break coming up. I know me personally, I'm looking forward to the break. I know a lot of the guys are so all the focus is on this next game. We know that we have days off afterward so there's no excuses. Everybody has got to be focused on Wednesday.
On addressing the goals conceded...
I think the physical battles, we weren't good enough in. Those are things you can control, winning 50/50 balls. I don't think we were good enough, especially on the first one and definitely on the second one. It seemed like everything got knocked down, they were first to. We've got to do a better job of that - challenging for the first one and everybody has got to be on their toes for when the next ball falls down. We've got to pick it up.
MNUFC DEFENDER MICHAEL BOXALL
On the match...
The performance was nowhere near good enough and I think this is a team we showed we could do it at home, it's easy when we've got the crowd behind us, but on the road it's just not good enough. There's a lot of tough places to play on the road, this being one of them, and if you don't show the balls here to do the defensive side of things and then be brave enough on the ball to keep it, then you don't stand a chance.
On wearing the captain's armband and trying to right the ship...
It's just nowhere near good enough. It's a lesson for me where there's some things I need to do more as a leader to get the team, when I know we're not performing, to the level that we have to be at to make our traveling fans proud of us and we were nowhere near that tonight.
On his centerback partnership with Brent Kallman...
I thought Brent was outstanding, first half particularly. He was just getting in the way of everything and did his job superbly, but when we were giving them as much of the ball as we did - if you give a team that much ball over the 45 minutes they're going to find a way and they certainly did.
On turning the page to the U.S. Open Cup match against FC Cincinnati...
That's probably a good thing that we have a quick turnaround where we can't dwell on tonight. Quick turnaround, travel day tomorrow, and obviously we need a massive response after tonight. I just feel so bad for our fans who traveled all this way and came and saw that.
On if the World Cup break is coming at a good time...
After tonight you'd think so, but then you want to head into those breaks on a good note, so we've got to win on Wednesday because it just feels disgusting right now - not exactly the result, but just the performance where we just sold ourselves way short of where we should be.
On if something felt different tonight compared to the rest of the season...
Not really. I think we started a little slow, again, but after that we settled and kept the ball a lot better and especially when Ty(rone Mears) scored that banger, I thought we were back in it - we were able to keep the ball better than we were but then we just kind of went back into our shells again and let them overrun us and they're a good side, they do the right things, and they did that.
On the mentality after the red card...?
The tactical changes that the gaffer made at halftime definitely suited us for this game and I think we matched up with Luis (Maximiano) in there, we matched up in midfield pretty well, and I didn't think our second goal was too far away, once we get that then we're really in the hunt to get some points from today but as soon as that happens it deflates you a little bit but you've just got to keep going.
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