On a real scorcher of an evening, MNUFC welcomed Atlas FC from Liga MX for an international friendly at TCF Bank Stadium. It was the Loons first friendly as an MLS squad, but it was their third consecutive friendly against a Liga MX squad after facing Club Leon the last two seasons. It provided a chance for some of Minnesota United’s bench to get some badly needed run and it also served as a tune up to the start of the regular season for Atlas FC. In the end, there wasn’t much between the teams, with each side scoring a goal and finishing the night with a 1-1 draw.
The match began with the two sides feeling each other out and MNUFC getting the jump early with a corner kick in the second minute. Forward Brandon Allen — who arrived in town just yesterday on a loan from New York Red Bulls — nearly converted the corner, too, but his shot went just wide left.
“It was a quick turnaround for me,” said Allen. “I flew in [Friday] and got in around like seven o’clock. And [Heath] actually just told me as I got here that I was starting. I came out, I felt good. But hopefully next game I can find the back of the net and really contribute to this team.”
In the 11th minute, midfielder Bashkim Kadrii challenged goalkeeper Oscar Ustari, and Kadrii would keep up the pressure the whole match with several shots on goal. Ustari deflected his strong left foot shot, though, and kept him off the scoresheet — for the time being.
That’s what we call foreshadowing. After defender Joe Greenspan had a header go off the crossbar, then off his back and then off the post, the Loons broke through in the 25th minute when Kadrii knocked the ball past Ustari as he came way out of goal, then deftly karate kicked it into the open goal.
“I just tried to hit it over the goalkeeper,” said Kadrii, “but he chested it and came over him, and yeah: I just tried to do something and it went in the goal. It’s good for the confidence. I’m trying to do all of the best every day. I got my chance today and I did OK today so hopefully it can continue.”
“Bash always looks like he’s got a goal in him,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “He scored a goal and he had a couple that hit the post, and then late on he had one that just went wide of the post. He’s got a great left foot, and if we can get him in those areas, invariably he’s a finisher. I think there was one or two of us that did okay. I thought Joe [Greenspan] had another good game. I thought he defended the box very well.”
Almost immediately, the team had to mount a strong defensive stand off the restart, spearheaded by Greenspan, who notched several impressive defensive plays including last-minute sliding tackles and blocks in the box.
The match through the first half got progressively chippier, with each team ending up with 10 fouls total and a good deal of jawing at the referees. Atlas FC was the more consistently incisive team, despite receiving a pair of yellow cards in the early going. Their forward players found good opening and pockets of space in the final third, and their work paid off in the 40th minute.
Forward Mattias Alustiza settled the ball on the left wing after a cross from the right side found no one in the box. He served up a cross that made it over both Bobby Shuttleworth and defender Justin Davis on the far post to find forward Milton Caraglio’s noggin for a header that found the back of the net.
The second half began with Patrick McLain taking over for Shuttleworth in goal. Through the first twenty minutes, Atlas FC applied a lot of pressure to the goal with multiple shots, but McLain was up to the task, as were his defenders, who tallied several impressive blocks against a wily Atlas frontline.
“I thought we defended the goal well at times when we had to,” said Heath. “And they’ve got really good forward players. They’ve got movement and the timing of their runs in the box was very good. I thought we had three or four really good last ditch tackles.”
The match got a shot of energy with 20 minutes remaining when Heath brought on Christian Ramirez and Ibson, then Kevin Molino five minutes later, but in the end neither team could find the finishing that would put them ahead for good. The sides settled for a 1-1 draw.
MNUFC starts up its MLS schedule again on Wednesday, July 19 as they face Houston Dynamo at TCF Bank Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. with pre-match coverage getting underway at 6:30 p.m. on My29 and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN. Tickets are available at MNUFC.COM.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth (Patrick McLain 46’); D Jerome Thiesson, Joe Greenspan, Justin Davis, Ismaila Jome; M Collen Warner (Ibson 71’), Rasmus Schuller (Sam Cronin 14’), Bashkim Kadrii, Miguel Ibarra, Collin Martin (Kevin Molino 76’); F Brandon Allen (Christian Ramirez 71’)
Atlas FC Starting XI: GK Oscar Ustari; D Osvaldo Gonzalez, Luis Robles, Steven Barreiro (Facundo Erpen 85’), Jose Maduena; M Juan Pablo Vigon (Cristian Calderon 73’), Brayan Garnica (Fidel Martinez 72’), Javier Salas (Gaddi Aguirre 88’), Clifford Aboagye; F Matias Alustiza (Joel Perez 88’), Milton Caraglio
25’ – Kadrii – MIN
40’ – Caraglio – ATS
10’ – Caraglio (YC) – ATS
17’ – Aboagye (YC) – ATS
18’ – Allen (YC) – MIN
29’ – Cronin (YC) – MIN
41’ – Warner (YC) – MIN
43’ – Martin (YC) – MIN