It was a sweltering summer afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium, with temperatures reaching near 100 degrees on the turf as a depleted Minnesota United met the New York Red Bulls in a cross-conference matchup. A few notable absences for the Loons meant the introduction of recent signings Michael Boxall and Sam Nicholson after less than a week of training with the team. MNUFC struggled to connect in the final third and ultimately dropped three points at home with Daniel Royer, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Alex Muyl all finding the back of the net for the visitors.
“This was always going to be a game for us that we had to score when we created opportunities – I said to the players before, I don’t think we’re going to get a lot today, but I think it’s going to be crucial,” said MNUFC Head Coach Adrian Heath. “I thought we showed a lot of character today, and goals change games – it’s one of the oldest sayings in football. Every chance, every time we had a bit of momentum in the game, we created chances, we didn’t take them, and [NYRB] did.”
Red Bulls’ midfielder Daniel Royer put on a show early, creating plenty of space to work with in the middle of the pitch. He earned the first shot of the match, knocking it toward goal from distance in the 4th minute, but turning the ball wide left. Dialing in, Royer got his second chance of the afternoon from inside the penalty area, deflecting off a Minnesota United defender and out for a New York corner. Those two shots were all the warm up he needed, and he made no mistake with his third attempt of the day, hitting it hard and low past MNUFC goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and into the back of the net for his fourth goal in three matches with the Red Bulls.
Minnesota United pressed forward with gumption after conceding, with Christian Ramirez quickly finding his feet and knocking a shot on from a similar position on the other end of the pitch. However, he was unable get his full leg behind the ball and it flew comfortably into the arms of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. His second chance came just a minute later on the end of a beautiful lofted pass from MNUFC midfielder Ibson. Ramirez let it bounce at the top of the box then hit a hard half-volley that almost certainly would have beat Robles except that it met side netting at the near bar.
Working the ball wide, then delivering into the box, Minnesota began putting pressure on the Red Bulls’ backline and drawing ever closer to an equalizer. Jerome Thiesson provided plenty of attack from an outside defensive position and nearly caught Felipe in an awkward position in the 23rd minute, knocking a hard ball across the box chest-high toward his teammates crashing the net. Felipe lowered his head and deflected the ball toward his own goal, but was saved by ‘keeper Luis Robles who was stretched as he made the save.
Miguel Ibarra followed up that opportunity with three crosses of his own, each cleared back toward him and then again delivered into the box. On his final attempt, Ibarra lifted the ball over the Red Bulls defenders toward newcomer Nicholson, who attempted to volley it home, but let it fly just high of the net as the Loons continued to put on pressure for the equalizer.
“I saw it really late – I can’t remember too much of it – I just remember the ball coming and it was on the left side of me and I found it quite hard to get there,” said Nicholson. “I got there and obviously it went over. I was disappointed. I would hope next time on it I’ll score, but like I said it’s soccer, things will happen too quick. It’s hard to think on the spot.”
After holding off a relentless MNUFC attack for much of the first half, New York pushed forward with five minutes remaining in the first half. The resulting effort proved dangerous for Minnesota, who were broken but saved by Shuttleworth between the pipes. The MNUFC goalkeeper stood strong against two solid 1v1 efforts – first denying Sean Davis in a 3v2 breakaway at the top of the box, and then keeping Royer from tallying his second goal of the match, meeting him alongside the ball as he was played through into the six-yard-area.
The first half came to a close with the two teams relatively even in possession and shots – NYRB holding a slight edge with eight shots to the Loon’s seven and Minnesota holding an edge with 52 percent possession.
The Red Bulls continued to press forward in search of a second goal earning five unanswered shots to start the second half. The first came from Bradley Wright-Phillips in just the 48th minute, as he found space at the top of the box and let fly high of the net. Kljestan followed it with a left-footed attempt of his own after receiving a pass from Sean Davis, but his shot was high and wide left. He continued to press forward and earned another attempt, taking advantage of a deep MNUFC turnover, but couldn’t get enough behind it to trouble Shuttleworth.
In the 63rd minute Abu Danladi checked into the match for Nicholson, providing an interjection of energy into the squad. Danladi made an immediate impact in the match, rushing up the field and taking a chance that skidded across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
“I thought [Abu Danladi] was really sharp when he came on,” said Heath. “He gave us a real threat running in-behind. We’ve changed one or two things around with his routine, hopefully we can get some more work into him, because if we can, the kid has got a lot of tools to work with. We just haven’t had enough time to work with him. I thought he looked really sharp today, and he felt good as new, so hopefully onwards and upwards for him.”
However, Minnesota’s offensive surge was short-lived as the Red Bulls found the back of the net just a few minutes later. The Loon’s staunch defense continued to hold off the Red Bulls into the 66th minute when Christian Ramirez connected with Miguel Ibarra in the New York penalty area. Ibarra looked to have a chance on net, but a defender dispossessed him with a hard tackle near the penalty spot. As MNUFC argued their case with the center official, the Red Bulls pushed forward and Wright-Phillips found himself in on net, slotting it past Shuttleworth for their second goal of the night.
Danladi and the Minnesota attack continued forward in search of a goal, with the UCLA rookie making darting runs beyond the Red Bulls defensive line and serving balls into the box toward Christian Ramirez and Kevin Molino. In the 84th minute, a great interchange between Danladi and Ibarra saw Ibarra spring forward into the Red Bulls penalty area. Ibarra took two touches then played a ball back toward the top of the box where Molino met it with a first-time shot that skidded just wide of net.
“Miguel [Ibarra] had a great chance, and then he got himself in a great position, great ball to Kevin [Molino],” said Heath. “We were just then getting some real momentum in the game. Corners, opportunities, balls across the face of the box. You need to take those opportunities when they rise, but I can’t fault the guys today. We played against a really good team, and not a lot has gone our way, but we’ve been competitive today, and I’m more proud of the players today than I was when we took something from the game on Wednesday night.”
New York closed the match strong, as Kljestan continued to find space at the top of the box. With MNUFC defenders standing off, Kljestan hit a hard shot and forced Shuttleworth to palm it over the net. In the 90th minute, the Red Bulls put the final nail in the coffin as Alex Muyl received the ball and danced around his defender, hitting a hard shot into the top shelf, putting the match to bed 3-0.
“Next week is going to be a big game for us, we know that,” said Heath. “Obviously, we are where we are in the league, but if we can take three points or something next week, it’ll make everything a little bit better. There’s a lot more positives tonight, then there were on Wednesday. I think it’s onwards and upwards with this group, I do.”
Amid a summer stretch at home, Minnesota is back at TCF Bank Stadium next Saturday, July 29th looking for three points. The match kicks off at 7 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on MY29 and on MNUFC radio on 1500 ESPN with pre-match coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. Find tickets today at MNUFC.COM.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Jerome Thiesson, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman (Justin Davis 61’), Ismaila Jome; M Ibson (Collen Warner 86’), Collin Martin, Miguel Ibarra, Sam Nicholson (Abu Danladi 60’), Kevin Molino; F Christian Ramirez
MIN Unused Subs: GK Patrick McLain; M Johan Venegas, Bashkim Kadrii
New York Red Bulls Starting XI: GK Luis Robles; D Tyler Adams, Damien Perrinelle (Michael Murillo 61’), Aaron Long, Sal Zizzo (Hassan Ndam 90+‘); M Sean Davis, Sacha Kjlestan, Alex Muyl, Felipe, Daniel Royer (Gonzalo Veron 68’); F Bradley Wright-Phillips
NY Unused Subs: GK Ryan Meara; M Dan Metzger, Derrick Etienne, Arun Basuljevic
16’ – Royer (Felipe) – NY
67’ – Wright-Phillips (Royer) – NY
90’ – Muyl (Kljestan, Davis) – NY
37’ – Adams (YC) – NY
53’ – Kallman (YC) – MIN
67 – Ibson (YC) –MIN