Minnesota United FC came into its second match of four against Sporting Kansas City this season having beaten them soundly the first time around. But MNUFC would also have to cope with several key absences from their starting XI. Captain and defender Francsico Calvo was away with midfielder Johan Venegas on international duty with Costa Rica, plus midfielder Sam Cronin was serving a one-match suspension for a dangerous challenge in last week’s match against Orlando City. In the end, it was too tall a mountain for MNUFC to climb and they left the Blue Hell with a 3-0 loss.
It was almost immediately apparent that MNUFC was going to have its hands full dealing with a Sporting KC side that was unbeaten in its last 15 matches at Children’s Mercy Park. Forward Gerso Fernandes got a shot off in the 2nd minute, followed by a shot by forward Latif Blessing in the 4th minute.
And then an already depleted MNUFC side had more to cope with as midfielder Miguel Ibarra came up lame with a right calf strain in the 5th minute. Head Coach Adrian Heath had to go to his bench early, putting in Rasmus Schuller and shifting the team’s shape to a more defensive one with three holding midfielders in Schuller, Collen Warner and Ibson.
Through the first half hour, the shots kept coming as SKC poured on the pressure. In the 20th minute, a shot from midfielder Jimmy Medranda was cleared off the line, but Gerso followed it up with a shot that went just high. Forward Soony Saad whiffed on a wide open header off a corner in the 26th minute. And several SKC shots were turned away by MNUFC defenders like Warner and center back Jermaine Taylor. Minnesota bent without breaking for a big chunk of the first half, but were rarely able to get out on the counterattack to generate any offense. At one point, SKC’s possession percentage snuck well above 70%.
In the final ten minutes of the first half, MNUFC began to creep out of their shell a bit and string together possession, and it looked for all the world like the Loons would get to the half level at 0-0 and be fortunate for it. But then in stoppage time, center back Ike Opara took a screamer of a shot from about 30 yards out that sliced right and caught Bobby Shuttleworth flatfooted to put Sporting KC up 1-0 headed into the break.
MNUFC showed more drive coming out of halftime, with forward Christian Ramirez getting his first touch and first shot in the 53rd minute when Schuller served him up a good ball on the left side of the box. But hardly two minutes later, SKC doubled its lead. A strong shot from Saad appeared to get denied by the crossbar, with Medranda following it up with a header to seal it. Later replays clearly showed Saad’s shot bouncing off the crossbar and landing just inside the goal before bouncing out, although Medranda ended up getting credited with the score.
Whatever wind Minnesota had collected in its sails to start the second seemed to go out following the goal. The match slowed down and while Shuttleworth stood strong with five saves, the Loons simply couldn’t get anything going, especially after Heath was forced to use his last sub to put in defender Justin Davis when Marc Burch went down with an injury in the 63rd minute. In the 87th minute, SKC put the icing on the cake with a late goal by Saad Abdul-Salaam to make it 3-0 and Ramirez narrowly missed a late consolation goal in the 92nd minute.
“We were second-best from the very first minute until the 90th minute,” said Heath. “Outfought, outplayed, outrun, no desire, no enthusiasm. It's just as bad as we've been since the second or third week of the season. Forget the scoreline, I was more disappointed with the amount of determination that the guys showed. Poor. Feel sorry for the two or three hundred people who've made the journey down from Minnesota. I apologize to them. They deserved an awful lot more than they got today.”
All in all, a match the shorthanded Loons will look to put behind them as they move into a week off from MLS play before heading back to Kansas City to face SKC once again in U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday, June 14.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Jerome Thiesson, Brent Kallman, Jermaine Taylor, Marc Burch (Justin Davis 63’); M Ibson, Collen Warner, Ismaila Jome (Bashkim Kadrii 55’), Miguel Ibarra (Rasmus Schuller 8’), Kevin Molino; F Christian Ramirez
MIN Unused Subs: GK John Alvbage; D Joe Greenspan, Kevin Venegas; M Collin Martin
Sporting Kansas City Starting XI: GK Tim Melia; D Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Saad Abdul-Salaam; M Benny Feilhaber, Ille Sanchez, Jimmy Medranda (Soni Mustivar 67’); F Latif Blessing (Daniel Salloi 75’), Soony Saad (Dom Dwyer 62’), Gerso Fernandes
SKC Unused Subs: GK Andrew Dryska; D Igor Juliao, Amer Didic; M F Cameron Porter
45+’ – Opara (Besler) – SKC
54’ – Medranda – SKC
87’ – Abdul-Salaam – SKC
7’ – Jome (YC) – MIN
12’ – Feilhaber (YC) – SKC
23’ – Warner (YC) – MIN
43’ – Shuttleworth (YC) – MIN
44’ – Melia (YC) – SKC