All good things come to an end, including unbeaten streaks and perfect road records. After a lackluster first half at Soldier Field, Minnesota United’s second-half comeback attempt fell just short in their 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire. After the match, Head Coach Adrian Heath shared his thoughts on his team’s efforts.
“The first-half performance was the worst we played all season,” he said. “I thought we were second best in every department. Individually, they [Chicago Fire FC] bossed us all over the field, and collectively, they looked like they wanted it more than we did. Second half, we played a bit more like ourselves; we got into the game and played with a bit more intensity and purpose in our play; we started to have some possession in their half of the field, and we gave ourselves a chance. As I said to the guys at halftime, the game is either finished or you give yourself an opportunity to make something out of it, and that’s what we did. But the overriding feeling now is that we gave the game away in the first half.”
In the first 45, Chicago’s movement and pressure seemed to scramble the MNUFC back line, pulling defenders out of position and leaving gaps for the Fire to work with. The calm and composed game management of the home side ultimately saw them end the half with over 60% possession, over a hundred more passes completed and a significant advantage in chances created.
Former Loon Kei Kamara was everywhere on Saturday, moving wide to link play and making dangerous runs into pockets of space in the penalty area. Though his first goal was a bit fortunate, the Sierra Leone international’s persistence earned him a brace and the eventual game-winner. MNUFC captain Wil Trapp identified his movement as part of what caused the Loons so many problems.
“You have to look at the opponent and how they were playing,” Trapp said. “They’re really trying to isolate our two forwards with how they’re building up with three players, and then from that, they’re stretching the midfield. They have a target striker who's good at linking players into the game. Inevitably, I think we just got too stretched trying to affect the play in front of us and pick up second balls from behind us. Through that lack of unity and connection, they were able to find space and find joy.”
Though the result was less than satisfactory, there were positive takeaways in the second half for the Loons. Sang Bin Jeong made his debut as a 61st-minute substitute, giving his squad a needed energy boost after Kervin Arriaga’s free kick goal.
“It was good timing; we got the goal, and we started to put them under some pressure,” Heath said about Sang Bin’s debut. “He showed some nice touches, and I thought he put two or three great free kicks into the box. He will be better just for getting thirty minutes and getting on the field and settling down. We have a really good player, and now we have to integrate him into the group.”
Despite some close calls and high pressure at the end of the game, MNUFC were ultimately unable to pull themselves level. While no one was pleased with the loss, Trapp believes his squad can use this as a motivator.
“Guys are disappointed,” he said. “Disappointed in the sense of the performance, disappointed in the sense of not getting something out of the game—which is normal. We should use this; we should look at the game and see what didn’t work for us and things that were good from us, and learn to move forward. That’s all you can do. Again, it’s a long season, there are a lot of games, and this is a situation in which we have to learn from it.”
The Loons will be seeking to use the lessons they learned in Chicago when they come home to Allianz Field this weekend. They will be facing yet another Eastern Conference opponent, as Orlando City is on the schedule this Saturday, April 15. After earning two draws in their first two home matches, Coach Heath is ready to hear Wonderwall for the first time this season.
“We will treat the next game like we do every game,” he said. “We will prepare properly and work the players hard this week, and try to get them in a good frame of mind to try and get the first victory at home. It’s important we have the first win at home.”
Minnesota United FC v. Orlando City SC
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
04.15.2023 | MLS Game #7
7:30 pm CT (Exclusively on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)