MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
TCF Bank Stadium | Minneapolis, Minnesota
04.29.17 | MLS Week #9 | MLS Game #9
7:00 p.m. CT (My29, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)
MIN: 2-4-2; 2-1-0 at home
SJ: 2-3-3; 0-3-1 on the road
Minnesota United comes into the second match of its three-match homestand riding a wave of positive results. The Loons’ 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids last week was their second home win in a row and the team’s first clean sheet in MLS. After going 0-3-1 in their first four matches and allowing 18 goals, they’ve gone 2-1-1 in their last four as their backline and overall defensive form has caught up to the consistent quality of their offense.
That defense will be tested as they face the San Jose Earthquakes and their star forward, Chris Wondolowski — MLS’ top active goal scorer with 121 in his career. The teams kick off at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 at TCF Bank Stadium. You can catch pre-match coverage on My29 and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN beginning at 6:30 p.m.
As with any new team, the first quarter of the season has been devoted to growth, both in the sense of the players growing together into a unit and the team as a whole growing as the coaches and front office have come to understand and address the team’s needs. Certain elements of the side have begun to settle in while others continue to shift, but the familiarity the players are building with each other has improved the results, as well as their ability to hold each other accountable.
“When you start to feel comfortable, you start to get after one another,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “If somebody feels as though somebody is not training hard enough or somebody's not doing what's been asked of him, you feel more comfortable to maybe bring that up. After forty years of doing this, I've seen some very heated discussions — shall we say — that have been a little bit more than words. I think it's a sign of how comfortable everybody's feeling with each other. I've never been against people airing their opinions to each other, but there has to be a constructive reason for doing it.”
“We are a new team,” said defender and captain Francisco Calvo. “In the past, we didn't know each other. Now we know each other and we are getting to be a family. I know that's what coach wants and that's what I want. If we keep in that role, I'm pretty sure that we're going to be up top soon.”
With the team’s decision to retain several of their NASL players as they moved to MLS, many were concerned at those players’ ability to keep up, but the early season play of defender Brent Kallman, forward Christian Ramirez and midfielder Ibson has shown them to be some of the steadiest and most reliable players on the roster. Ramirez appeared on the MLS Team of the Week following the club’s win over Real Salt Lake and Kallman found his way to the Team of the Week bench after the Loons forced a draw in Colorado.
“For Ibson, it's a different kettle of fish,” said Heath of the veteran of European clubs like Porto and Spartak Moscow. “This guy has played 30-odd games in the Champions League. What I didn't realize is that he's still got so much in the tank. I think his energy levels have been terrific. The question mark was always the other ones. Brent — could he make the step up? Same with Christian. 60-odd goals, can you score goals in MLS? So the good thing is they're getting minutes at this moment in time, but as I said to them, one swallow doesn't make a summer. They've got to keep working hard week in, week out to maintain their place.”
This last match also had NASL veteran Miguel Ibarra flashing signs of a resurgence as he snuck into the box to score the match-winning header in the 72nd minute — his first MLS goal. The player known as “Batman” (and whose friends call him simply “Migué”) spent last season in Liga MX with Club León, and it’s taken him the early part of this season to work himself back into full-match shape.
“It was a great move for him, but the bottom line is he hardly played for 18 months,” said Heath about Ibarra’s time in Mexico. “I think he played nine games. It's a long, long time not to be playing and he's got to get into a rhythm. I thought he started slowly but gradually worked into the game and I think the goal will do him no end of good. He'll be better for that and confidence is a huge part in football.”
That confidence looks to be on the rise team-wide, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Heath has stressed since the season began that the defense is much more than just the goalkeeper and the back four. The midfield has stepped up and MNUFC has conceded two or fewer goals in all its matches since conceding five to the Revolution in Week 4. They’re currently sitting on 137 scoreless minutes for their opponents, but Heath is only concerned about the next minute. And the next one.
“Can we keep improving?” he said. “Can we keep working on what we think’s getting better? I think the most important thing for us is after three halves without conceding a goal, can we make that four? Let's take each half as it comes. It's going to be a really difficult game at the weekend. Wondolowski is one of the top goal scorers in the league, probably the top active goal scorer in the league. We know that if we fall asleep like we did early on this season or make errors, he will punish us. We need to keep it going now.”
Following the match against the Quakes, MNUFC will stay home for one more week to keep it going against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, May 7 at TCF Bank Stadium. It’s an early one, with the match kicking off at 12:30 p.m. The match will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and 1500 ESPN, with radio coverage beginning at 12:00 p.m.
OUT: M – Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury)
OUT: M – de Villardi (left Achilles)
QUESTIONABLE: D – Marc Burch (left hip)
QUESTIONABLE: M – Kevin Molino (left thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: M – Rasmus Schuller (left thigh)
San Jose Earthquakes
OUT: F – Quincy Amarikwa (knee surgery 9/29, out 9 months)
OUT: D – Marvell Wynne (heart abnormality)
OUT: M – Marc Pelosi (left knee injury)
OUT: D – Harold Cummings (leg surgery, 3/30, out 4-6 months)
OUT: M – Simon Dawkins (knee injury)
- Jackson Yueill is a native of Bloomington, Minn. He was a teammate of Abu Danladi’s at UCLA from 2015 to 2016.
- Minnesota Assistant Coach Mark Watson has held multiple coaching positions with San Jose. He was an assistant from 2010 to 2013, then took over as interim head coach for the latter part of 2013. He was named Head Coach for the 2014 season.
- Sam Cronin played five seasons with the Quakes from 2010 to 2014.
- Cordell Cato and Kevin Molino are both members of the Trinidad and Tobago national team and natives of Carenage, Trinidad and Tobago. Cato was also a teammate of Burch’s on the Seattle Sounders in 2012.
- Andres Imperiale and Francisco Calvo played for Saprissa in 2016.
- Shaun Francis and Christian Ramirez helped lead the Charlotte Eagles to a USL Championship appearance in 2013.
- Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth earned the Loons’ first clean sheet in MLS history. He has made at least three saves in three of his last four appearances.
- Fatai Alashe is tied for most yellow cards in MLS with four.
- The Quakes have not scored in 180 minutes.
- In its first four MLS matches, Minnesota was outscored 6-18 with a 0-3-1 record. In its last four, Minnesota has outscored opponents 7-6 with a 2-1-1 record.
- The Quakes have not won on the road this season.
- San Jose last met Minnesota in the 2012 U.S. Open Cup. The Earthquakes defeated the Stars 1-0 in the fourth round of the tournament with a late-match goal.
- Minnesota Sporting Director Manny Lagos helped the Earthquakes win both of their MLS Cup titles.
- On average, Minnesota has conceded 9.9 fouls per match, the third lowest in MLS.
- The Quakes 102 shots is the third-highest tally in MLS.