Christian Ramirez scores first MNUFC goal in MLS

Minnesota United FC vs. Atlanta United FC | 2017 MLS Match Preview

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. ATLANTA UNITED FC
TCF Bank Stadium | Minneapolis, Minnesota
03.12.17 | MLS Week #2 | MLS Game #2
4:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2, MLS LIVE in Canada, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)

2017 Records:
MIN: 0-0-1; 0-0-0 at home
ATL: 0-0-1; 0-0-0 on the road

After opening its inaugural season on the road against the Portland Timbers, Minnesota United FC gets its chance to play in front of a home crowd for the first time in MLS history this Sunday, March 12. The team will face fellow expansion side Atlanta United FC, who played its home opener last weekend, a 1-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls. Kickoff is at 4:00 p.m. CT with TV coverage on ESPN2 and radio coverage on 1500 ESPN.

MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN begins its pre-match coverage with longtime soccer commentator Chris Lidholm at 3:30 p.m. CT before play-by-play and commentary is taken over by Callum Williams and Kyndra de St. Aubin for the match itself.

In their season opener, Minnesota United fell 5-1 to the Portland Timbers despite winning the possession battle and putting together good stretches of offensive play, particularly in the second half.

“We defended very poorly, gave away two or three really poor goals late on in the game,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “When you consider it was 2-1 in the 82nd minute and we were having most of the play then, to give the penalty away and then the last two goals was really poor from our point of view. One thing it did show me, and the quotes from their manager and their players after the game, it certainly wasn't a ‘5-1’ in terms of a game. The scoreline really flattered them.”

Minnesota United’s first goal in MLS history was scored in the 79th minute after Johan Venegas got the ball to Christian Ramirez at the edge of the box. Ramirez turned on defender Lawrence Olum and fired it into the right side of the net. Ramirez had come on in the 69th minute, and his goal made the score 2-1. Instead of tilting the game in Minnesota’s direction, though, it led to a penalty kick goal by Diego Valeri in the 82nd minute and two goals from Fenando Adi in stoppage time for Portland.

“It opened the game up a little bit,” said Heath. “But at that particular time, we were having probably our best spell of the game. We were certainly controlling the game and most of the game was in their half of the field. But the penalty was a poor decision from Vadim [Demidov], and then after that, we were trying to push forward again and very naively gave away the last two goals. As disappointed as I was, if we'd have somehow come out with a result in that game, I wouldn't have been too high and I'm certainly not going to get too low.”

This will be the first meeting for soccer teams from Minnesota and Atlanta in the top division since June 20, 1981 when the North American Soccer League’s Minnesota Kicks and Atlanta Chiefs played a match at Metropolitan Stadium. The Kicks beat the Chiefs 3-2. Minnesota would no doubt be happy with a similar result this weekend.

“We know how important this is for us, for our supporters, to get off on a good foot at home and I'm looking forward to the game,” said Heath. “It will be good for everybody if we can get three points on the board, make everybody calm down and realize what I said before the game last Friday: This is a work in progress. It's early days, but I've been encouraged with a lot of the stuff with this group.”

Heath was the head coach for Orlando City SC when that team joined MLS in 2015 and played their first home match against that season’s other expansion side, New York City FC, so he knows what the home opener for an expansion club can mean, especially for the supporters.

“This is going to be their team,” said Heath. “I know that some people will be there on Sunday for the first time. I guarantee you: there are so many people that will come to the game on Sunday and this will turn their life around forever in terms of being a sports fan. Because there's not another sport like soccer in terms of having a part and being part of the game. That's what I want our supporters to be this weekend. Everything that we do as an organization, we have to think about them. They're the people who pay hard-earned money to come and actually support us. We have to give them a performance this weekend and that will be as important for me as anything.”

After their home opener, Minnesota heads out on the road again to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, March 18 at 8:00 p.m. CT. That match will be broadcast on my29 and 1500 ESPN in the Twin Cities.

INJURY REPORT

Atlanta United
OUT: D - Zach Loyd (groin injury) 

Minnesota United
OUT: M - Bernardo Anor (hamstring injury)

DISCIPLINARY REPORT

Atlanta United
SUSPENDED: Carlos Carmona (red card)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • Atlanta is the only Eastern Conference team that Minnesota plays against twice during the 2017 season. They will meet again on August 13 in Atlanta. It will be the second match at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • The Loons last met an Atlanta team in 2015, playing against the Silverbacks in the NASL. The last match between the clubs was on October 24, 2015 and ended in a 1-0 victory for Minnesota.
  • Christian Ramirez has now scored Minnesota’s first goal of the season in three of his four seasons with the club.
  • Molino scored the highest on the Audi Player Index for Minnesota players, earning 491 points during the match. Leonardo Gonzalez Perez scored highest for Atlanta last week, getting 409 points.
  • Expansion teams have an all-time record of 8-4-2 in their home opener.
  • This will be the first competitive, professional soccer match played at TCF Bank Stadium since August 2, 2014 when Minnesota United defeated the Ottawa Fury 2-1 in NASL play.