Adrian

MNUFC HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On how he thought his players bounced back in Kevin Molino’s absence…
I thought they responded magnificent. I thought it would have been a tragedy if we hadn’t won the game. I thought we created the better chances. They’re a really experienced team. They don’t beat themselves, so we had to work for everything that we got. And I thought we were worthy when it was in the end. I don’t really remember Matt Lampson having any big saves to come up with other than a few headers that you would expect him to save. Even the goal was probably a mistake by us. You know, Ibson has gone back in there to try and help out, and then it was a case of too many bodies in there. But, you know, I’ve been so pleased with the players this season. And it’s another step forward for us I think.


On how Miguel Ibarra performed replacing Molino at No. 10…
I thought he did well. He did really well. I thought there was a lot of really good performances. Ibson and [Rasmus] Schuller were magnificent at midfield, the amount of ground they covered. I thought our back four looked solid. And I thought we always looked dangerous. In talking to Sam Nicholson about getting in on the back post, that’s where you score goals. Fantastic ball from Ethan [Finlay] and a great finish. It’s been a good day. I’m really pleased with the players. Great atmosphere in the stadium. Supporters, we said before, let’s hope we can give them a better opening day than we did this time last year. I think we did that.


On the pressure in the second half and if anything changed tactically for MNUFC…
We tried to get the ball forward a little bit more and maybe play in their half. You know, obviously in the beginning, it’s like a boxing match, you’re sort of sparring with each other. And we were working each other out. But second half, I thought tactically we tried to move the team up the field a little bit more. Get our wide guys closer to their fullbacks so they’re under a bit more pressure. And I think that worked. I thought we played better. Better combination play and moved the ball quicker in the second half, which opened the game up a little bit for us.


On the team’s improved composure compared to last year and what he credits it to…
Great coaching. No, I think that we obviously all are a lot better. Everybody knows each other that much better. I think that we’re all a lot more comfortable with each other than we were at this time last year. People thought it was an excuse. I’ve been through this. Twice. People don’t realize how difficult the first year of an expansion team is. You know, it takes you six months to know the group that you got. And we’re just so much further down the road. We’ve got a core group that we trust and believe in. We know we’re nowhere near the finish line. We’re going to add to this group. And if we do, this team is capable of competing against most of the teams in this league.


On Ibson finally getting on the score sheet and his quality as a player…
No, he shouldn’t have even been in there for his goal. But part and parcel of what you have with Ibson is his desire to get on the ball and play. At times other people have to fill in and work around him. It’s something that we’ve spoke about. But the way the game was going, we asked one or two of the midfield players to get in the box and it was a good save from the keeper on the first one, but he followed it up. I thought the goal was justifiable for him because it was outstanding. Him and Rasmus. I thought they did really, really well today in the midfield.


On the biggest difference in the defense from 2017 to 2018…
Well they know each other a bit more. I think Michael Boxall has been an outstanding addition to the group. Tyrone Mears will be another one. They’re experienced players. They know the game. They think like defenders should think at times, rather than thinking like football players… I don’t think it’s a coincidence that since Boxy has been here, and his relationship with Francisco Calvo, regardless of who the fullbacks have been, our form has been a lot better.


On Tyrone Mears’ injury…
We don’t know. We’ll have a better idea tomorrow. It doesn’t look good at the minute. It looks like maybe a calf pulled. If that’s the case, it could be anything from three, five, six weeks. I don’t know. So, we’ll have a better idea tomorrow.


On the sellout…
I thought our support was magnificent again. At the end, nobody has left. The Wonderwall thing is getting bigger and better. More and more people joining in. And as I’ve said, to generate the atmosphere that we do in this stadium, with it only half full, wait until the stadium is full next year. People know it’s going to be good. I don’t think they realize how good it’s going to be. So book early, get your tickets.


On Schuller’s performance…
I thought he was outstanding. I really do. Since he’s come back, he’s come back with it seems like more of a steely determination to force his way into the team. We knew he had ability, but we’re starting to see the ability that we thought we were getting last year. It was a difficult first year for him. But he’s come back really determined. He’s in great physical condition. I thought he was magnificent today. He’s been terrific for us, and that’s the standard now. He has to keep moving on from that.


On losing Calvo and Boxall to international duty…
No, I’m not worried about next week at all. It’s, you know, we say we knew this was coming. Brent Kallman is available. [Bertrand Owundi Eko’o] will be available. Wyatt Omsberg is available. Carter Manley is available. Huge opportunity for whichever way we go next week for these young guys to come in and stake a claim and show us that they can play at this level. I think they can. And it’s going to be a huge test for them, the Red Bulls away next week.


On getting six points in three games, and if he’s sleeping easier as a result…
Yes. And my wife is a lot happier. Trust me.


On if Ibarra has earned another chance at a starting position in Molino’s absence…
Yes, I do. I thought his effort was incredible today. Covered every, if it would have been a grass pitch, he would have covered every blade of it. He’s terrific. His energy levels are good. I thought his combination play at times was good. And he’s waiting patiently for his chance. I thought he did really well. Because the biggest problem for people who have had to wait and wait is they don’t feel match sharp. And only games give you that. So, he’s done really well today.


On Christian Ramirez’s lows and highs on the pitch and what is causing that inconsistency…
I think the biggest thing at this moment is that Christian is getting match fit. Going back to where he’s been. He had a lot of time away with the (U.S.) national team at the end of the season. Came back, hadn’t done the same amount of work that the others. He’ll be better for another 80 minutes under his belt. We feel as though he’s getting fitter by the week. His contribution will be over the next seven or eight months, rather than the next week or so. But we know what we’ve got with Christian. We’ll work with him and he’s going to be fine.


On how important it was to make a statement in the home opener…
Well, it is different. And we have to prove that to the supporters week in and week out. You know, it’s alright me saying that, but the only thing that can convince is the performances on the field. And I think the players showed that today. I think the great thing for me is seeing the relationship grow between the supporters and the players. I just sense that the players are starting to understand what it means to play for Minnesota and actually want to be here. And want to help grow this club. And that’s quite exciting for me to watch that. I sense it in the dressing room and before the game.

Notes & Quotes: MNUFC vs. Chicago Fire - Sam Nicholson celebrates a goal.

MNUFC MIDFIELDER SAM NICHOLSON

On the team’s chances in the second half...
I just thought we were a bit more patient and trying to make chances and we moved the ball side-to-side a lot better. [In the] second half we were definitely a lot better and like you said created a lot more chances and gave ourselves a better chance to win the game.


On Finlay’s service to assist his game-winning goal…
I knew as soon as the ball was on Ethan’s feet he could pick me out. He’s got that ability. It was just a matter of fact if I could actually do something with it. Luckily, I could. Usually I miss them in training so I’m a bit happy with that.


On the importance of that performance after Molino’s injury…
The performance is good for us. We can only go up in confidence from it. We can’t get too complacent with what we’ve done –– we’ve got to keep going from now on. Obviously, Kevin Molino is a massive miss for us and Miguel’s gone in and done really well for us. We just got to build on that.


On Ibarra’s performance…
He was brilliant. We always get 100 percent from him and he’s got the ability to go and create stuff for the team. It obviously helps having him in the team.


On winning at home…
It was massive. The fans were brilliant in pushing us through the final whistle. I think that’s what you need at home games, the fans pushing you through it, and it obviously helped us.

Notes & Quotes: MNUFC vs. Chicago Fire - Miguel Ibarra stands over the ball with a full crowd behind him.

MNUFC MIDFIELDER MIGUEL IBARRA

On if it felt like the old NASL days playing the No. 10 role…
Oh yeah, definitely. It brought back memories of me and Christian when we first started playing. So, really happy and excited I was able to get the opportunity to play there.


On what it means to him to get this opportunity and seize it…
It was just waiting for the opportunity. I was waiting for it and it was here. Everybody gave me the confidence. Adrian gave me the confidence to play me there. Before the game started, the whole team said, “We know you’re ready, we know you’re going to help take over that spot.” Because we lost a big player. Molino. Somebody had to step up. I took a responsibility to do it.


On if more people are taking notice of MNUFC with back-to-back wins and if this is a different team than last year…
Definitely. I think a lot of other teams are going to look at it now. I think defensively, we’re hard to break down now. That’s kind of our focus now. If they don’t score on us, we know the goals are going to come up in front. We just gotta keep doing it and keep working hard.


On if this win was good for the confidence of the team, especially after losing Molino…
Yeah. I mean, losing Kevin was a big part of our offense, so we had to step up. Just getting the win feels good. Like I said, we just have to keep working and not get complacent. Keep working hard every day. That’s going to be our goal this season.


On if there was anything he had to get used to playing the No. 10 again…
No. It was kind of natural for me. Me and Christian have worked there before, so we already knew. He checks in, I go behind the back. Or I make the runs outside. So, nothing different, it was just about adjustment. So, happy.


On what he feels he brings to the No. 10 role…
I think I’m always going to bring energy. I’m always going to bring a lot of pressure –– try to help the team out as much as I can. Assist the goals. Me and Christian link up up top. I think that, they said bring back the NASL, when we used to assist and goal for each other. So that’s going to come for me and Christian and we’re getting used to it again. And it’s just the beginning for us.


On if he was surprised to line up in the center…
I mean, it was always a possibility, me going in there. So, I was kind of ready for it. Once my name got called up, I was ready. Everybody was asking for me to play that position, so I came out to the game today and just made sure my touch was on –– made sure I played forward and tried to help the team out as much as I can to find something offensively.


On two wins in three games and how it feels…
Oh, we know we didn’t have the start that we wanted to last year. And now coming in this year and getting two wins, it’s big for us. It’s just going to keep our morale and our confidence up. We just gotta keep working hard. In practice. Defensive. If they don’t score on us, the goals will come offensively for us.

Notes & Quotes: MNUFC vs. Chicago Fire - Ethan Finlay delivers a cross past a Chicago Fire defender.

MNUFC MIDFIELDER ETHAN FINLAY

On his assist for Nicholson’s goal…
Yeah, we talked about it at the end of the first half –– about getting the ball in the box. We felt like they were a little bit undersized with a different lineup tonight and so that’s what we were looking to do. It was kind of a quick counterattack play, Miguel plays a quick ball out and Sam is just there right in his spot on the back post and a great finish by him.


On the team’s commitment to playing for Minnesota…
Well, you know, I came here to be a part of something special. And today is a special day. Today was a special crowd, I think a little bit unprecedented in a way. To have the support that we have behind us, by this city and by the folks that were here and hundreds of thousands of people hopefully were watching from home, right? That means a lot to us. For them to all buy in on us, we’re just trying to give back to them. It was a collective effort today and I think we sort of pride ourselves on just the attitude and the work ethic and everything else will take care of itself. And that’s what we talked about today: If we do those things we can hold our head high and more often than not it’s going to turn into a good result for yourself.


On the pressure on the midfield three in Molino’s absence…
Not necessarily. I thought actually Miguel did a really nice job early in the first half to find some good pockets, to get in some good places. He was combining with Christian, you know, they offer us a little bit of something different. I think obviously Kev is a more creative guy in the final third, but on the other side of the ball I think Miguel does a really good job positionally, which I think helped us out tonight. We were really balanced and then we were great on the counterattack for most of the evening. So, we’re obviously going to bring a different player in Miguel –– you miss Kevin obviously in some of those special moments –– but I thought Miguel filled in really well tonight. You saw a little bit, guys having to come inside, I’ll have to do it more often. Didn’t as much tonight because we wanted to use the width, but you saw Sam Nicholson a lot of times coming in on his right foot and trying to combine with either Miguel or the forward. Ibson is kind of your X-factor, right? He can always find himself higher up on the field and play-make –– we had a chance early in that first half where he tried to slip me in. So, if we continue to get guys like that running out of the midfield we’ll make up for the absence of Kevin.


On if there was a conscience effort to erase the memory of last year’s home opener…
I mean, it’s a different year. So, I kinda want to leave last year where it is now. We’re a new team, we’re a different team, our standard is different. We’re not going to say, “Okay, we’ve made it because we’ve won two out of three games here in the first month of the season.” It’s a long way to go. We have different goals maybe this year than we had last year. There’s no excuse of we’re an expansion team, we’re new. We’re not going to use that anymore. Nobody is going to feel bad for us. So, for me, it’s just a mentality change. I think it’s taken an offseason, it’s taken a disappointed –– I think –– 2017, but a good strong end to it, that we’ve been able to take in to start a good 2018. We have high expectations here from the top, starting with Dr. [Bill] McGuire and the ownership group. We didn’t get into this business just to be a part of it. We want to be in the playoffs and make runs.


On the team’s resilience…
We’ve managed these last two games brilliantly. Everyone, from the guys on the field to the coaches on the bench. I thought the substitutions even tonight –– the idea of going to five in the back, bringing Brent Kallman in –– those are the kind of things that you’re gonna have to do. And again, those guys have to be able to step in and be ready for game pace right away. I mean, Alan Gordon is the kind of scoring goals in the last 10 minutes and into stoppage, so it’s always going to be a test for us. But, just continuing to manage games and learn how to win games. For a young team like ourselves, I guess new to each other still, we didn’t do that too well I think last year –– even when I was here and before. So, managing the game. I thought we did another good job of it tonight. Obviously next week we go on the road to New York and not an easy place to play –– Eastern Conference team, road game –– you gotta learn how to manage those games. Tonight, just gritty effort, gritty effort. So really proud of the guys.

Notes & Quotes: MNUFC vs. Chicago Fire - Matt Lampson punts the ball.

MNUFC GOALKEEPER MATT LAMPSON

On what it was like to play his first game in front of the supporters…
The Minnesota United Supporters? It was awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever played for a team that has this type of support from the city, and a fan base. It happened every now and then in Columbus. Very rarely happened in Chicago. And it’s something I’m really grateful for, because that’s not something that you take for granted. These guys love us, they support us to the end, and it feels really good to get wins for them on the road. I came in here as soon as the game was over, and I told the team, this is the feeling that we need to have every single weekend. This is the feeling that we need to miss if we don’t get it. And I think we’re doing our best to change the culture from last year, and we should be expecting to win games. And expecting to win at home. And that’s what these fans should expect, too. This is a great start to the season, we just have to continue it. And put in more team efforts like that, because that’s the type of shift that’s going to help us win games and get points on the road.


On if there is something special about this first home win, against the team that traded him on draft day…
Do you want the truth? Or do you want something to put in print? No, I’ll probably get in trouble. I definitely had this day circled on Draft Day, when I found out. It feels good, I will not lie. But at the same time, I’m just doing everything that I can to help Minnesota United win games now. It doesn’t matter who it’s against, it doesn’t matter who the team is. As long as we get three points, I’m happy. As long as I do my job for the rest of the team, I’m happy. And that’s what we did today. That’s all there is to it, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.


On Adrian Heath noting that he hasn’t had to make any miraculous saves, and if he feels that the defense has been doing well…
You know, Adrian [Heath], you can tell he likes goalkeepers. What we say in goalkeeping is, if you do not have to make a save, you did your job perfectly. And it’s a credit to the coaching staff, because we’ve been harping on it ever since San Jose. Is defensive organization and a defensive shape. I’m doing my best to keep these guys organized in front of me. And the past two games, it has been flawless. I came in at half-time actually, this game, and I said, listen, this team isn’t going to get anything off of us the way that we’re playing defensively, unless we give it to them. And sure enough, we gave it to them in the second half. But that was really the only opportunity in the second half that they had on goal. So, he’s right. I mean, Adrian is right. We really didn’t give up too many opportunities, except half chances. And those are things that I need to deal with. And a consistent, solid, starting goalkeeper in this league is going to have no problem with them. And he’s right. Like I said, I want to come in every week and do my job as consistently as possible, and do my job. And not let the coaching staff have to think, man, what are we going to get out of Matt this week? So, that’s how you last in this league, and that’s what I’m hoping to do. That’s what I’ve done with this team. And it’s really easy to do with the guys in front of me. I think these past two games — I don’t know how you guys feel with this past season — but these past two games have been some of the best defensive team efforts that I’ve seen in the league, in the teams that I’ve been on.


On walking through the equalizer…
I mean, it seemed like a simple clearance to me. It was like, a miscommunication between team United Nations in there. And it just. I don’t know. I couldn’t see the ball, because [Nemanja] Nikolić was standing right in front of it. All of a sudden, the ball pops out, to Nikolić, and I just come out and I stay big, and I have to make the first save. In hindsight, I’d like to do something more with the ball. But in a reaction type save, you’re just trying to make a save. And, I mean, it’s unlucky, but at the same time, soccer is about making your opponents pay for their mistakes. That’s what they did. Or it’s brilliant play. And honestly, that’s what I think we had, especially in the second goal. A perfect ball in from Ethan [Finlay], and a little turtle header from Sam Nicholson. Honestly, I think we deserved to win today. That was a great team performance.


On if he is worried at all that Francisco Calvo and Michael Boxall are leaving for international duty, or if he has seen enough in training from the depth…
Honestly, I’ve been really happy with all the depth that we’ve had. The defensive shape, the defensive organization in every single player in the team. So, one of the things to be successful in this league is depth. We see it with Toronto, we see it with Seattle, when they went deep. And it’s the biggest thing to have. If you’re going to lose guys, whether it be to injury, or international duty, to have another guy step in and it does not change the level whatsoever. And that’s what we’re going to have going into Red Bulls. So, they’re at this level for a reason, and we have to trust in every player next to us to do their job. And that’s what a team is.