Saint Paul, MN - A day after the first team collected an impressive 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United’s reserve team did them one better — or, actually, two better by goal differential — putting on an absolute clinic on both ends of the pitch en route to a 4-0 drubbing of Colorado Rapids 2.
The convenience of hosting the game at Allianz Field a day after the MLS game allowed the Loons to get some valuable minutes for first-team players looking to stay sharp. The starting XI featured a total of nine players from the first-team roster: Danladi, Hansen, Hunou, McMaster, Hayes, Kibunguchy, Fisher, Taylor and Dick — with CC Uche and Jason Ramos rounding out the final two spots.
The Loons applied the pressure early and often throughout this contest, beginning in the 6th minute when Jason Ramos received a lovely corner from Justin McMaster and put a strong header on goal that required a sprawling save from Rapids keeper Abe Rodriguez. That sequence was the perfect summary of a great much of the first 35 minutes, as MNUFC2 continually created great opportunities and Abe Rodriguez continually found a way to make yet another superhuman save to deny the chance.
Rodriguez’s heroics could only hold up for so long, however, and the 38th minute saw the Loons finally break through. Abu Danladi used some fancy footwork to press into the left side of the penalty box, then tried a crosser that was deflected back to Nabi Kibunguchy, who one-timed a blast from roughly 25 yards out into upper right-hand corner of the goal, giving Rodriguez absolutely no shot at the save.
Not content to simply head into intermission with a one-goal lead, Danladi would help create another score in the waning moments before halftime. The Minnesota striker, who netted a pivotal goal in the MLS match the night before, pushed forward up the right side of the pitch and lofted a perfect pass to the top of the goal area, where Adrien Hunou was waiting to redirect it into the net, giving the Loons a commanding 2-0 lead at the break.
With a comfortable lead in hand, the Loons opened the second half with a trio of substitutions, bringing on Aziel Jackson, Diogo Pacheco and Nick Mendonca for Hunou, Fisher and Danladi. The newcomers showed no signs of slowing down the Minnesota attack, and in fact, appeared to extend the lead to 3-0 when Jackson put the ball in the net in the 60th minute. The Minnesota forward was whistled for offside, however, and the goal was negated.
The Loons were able to maintain control throughout the duration of the final 45 behind a stifling defensive effort that saw the Rapids finish the match with exactly zero shots on goal. A frustrated and tired Colorado squad would concede two late goals on counter-attacks: one in the 87th minute on a perfectly-placed shot by Justin McMaster that was set up by Aziel Jackson; and another in stoppage time, when Aziel Jackson blew by the backline to create an easy one-on-one opportunity against the keeper.
It was easily the most impressive performance of the young season for Cameron Knowles’s squad — and perhaps the perfect example of how an MLS NEXT Pro team is designed to function. First-teamers who weren’t called upon much the night before got a chance to log some minutes. Reserve-team players were able to show the coaching staff what they have to offer against MLS-caliber competition. And the young up-and-comers had an opportunity to shine in the second half.
Loons fans couldn't ask for much more in their Easter basket. Except maybe some Peeps.