After a confidence building win at home just three days ago, Minnesota United was frustrated, offensively, and done in by a pair of set pieces as its road woes continued with a dispiriting 3-0 loss to Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
With the Loons unable to mount a threatening attack, a brace for Houston defender Phillippe Senderos — both of which came from corner kicks — was more than enough to see the Loons off on a sweltering night at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“I don’t think we were sharp enough all evening,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “Overall it is just another indication that we have issues on the road. I am disappointed with the level of commitment considering where we were on Wednesday.”
With Francisco Calvo sidelined by yellow card accumulation, defender Tyrone Mears slotted in at center back on a Minnesota back line that was pressed into duty early and often. The Loons ceded 60 percent of the first half possession to their hosts, but did well in the opening half hour to limit the potency of the Dynamo’s opportunities.
Though MNUFC struggled to get players forward and connect in the final third, it had the best scoring chance of the first 30 minutes but failed to take advantage. In the ninth minute, midfielder Rasmus Schuller’s well placed through ball put forward Christian Ramirez — who did well to beat the offside trap — in alone on goal. But with a chance to claim an all-important early lead on the road Ramirez was unable to get around the goalkeeper.
Ramirez’s chance ended as the Loons’ only shot on target in the match and not capitalizing on it soon proved costly.
With possession firmly in its favor, Houston won three first half corner kicks and utilized those openings to turn up the heat. Conceding from set pieces has been an issue for Minnesota recently and that trend continued on Saturday. In the 32nd minute, Dynamo forward Alberth Elis’s header from a corner was warded off by the best of Loons goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth’s six saves and shortly after defender Philippe Senderos opened the scoring in the 36th minute with a short-range strike again from a corner.
“Maybe we look at (set pieces) and we assess,” Heath said. “Do we change the way we mark? Do we go zonal? We have to do something because we’re killing ourselves virtually every week.”
Senderos repeated the feat early in the second half, getting around defender Michael Boxall on a corner kick in the 52nd minute for a successful headed effort and the Dynamo’s second cashed in set piece of the night. The goal left MNUFC with a 2-0 deficit, which proved to be far too deep for it to dig out of on a night the attack failed to generate much danger.
“It worries me that this is a mental thing now because there is nothing in the game and then the first two goals are set pieces again,” Heath said. “It is not like these are clever goals where you have to hold your hand up as a coach and you go ‘that is a really good play and a great finish.’ It is a cross into the box. It cost us again twice this evening.”
Houston’s pressure kept Minnesota wingbacks Miguel Ibarra and Alexi Gomez pinned back and unable to exert the same influence in the attacking third that they did in the win over Toronto FC. After defender Eric Miller replaced midfielder Rasmus Schuller in the 72nd minute, the Loons moved from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 look, which pushed Ibarra and Gomez higher up the field. The move did not pay dividends, though.
After falling behind, Minnesota mustered just a single shot in the second half and none on target. For the match, MNUFC was out-shot, 22-5, including 9-1 in chances on target.
“The bottom line is we weren’t good enough,” Heath said. “I just don’t think we managed all evening to get enough quality in their half of the field. The final ball at times wasn’t good enough and the decisions weren’t good enough. Most of the decisions tonight were poor I thought.”
Elis added a third for Houston in the 92nd minute to salt away a comfortable win for the home side.
Minnesota United returns to action on Wednesday, July 11 for a friendly match against Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa at 7:00 p.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium. Following the friendly, the Loons return to MLS play on Saturday, July 14 at 7:00 p.m. at home against Real Salt Lake. Pre-match coverage for the RSL clash will begin at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Tyrone Mears, Brent Kallman, Michael Boxall; M Miguel Ibarra, Ibson, Collen Warner (Harrison Heath 86’), Rasmus Schuller (Eric Miller 72’), Alexi Gomez; F Darwin Quintero, Christian Ramirez (Mason Toye 66’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Wyatt Omsberg; M Collin Martin, Maximiano
Houston Dynamo Starting XI: GK Joe Willis; D Adolfo Machado, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Philippe Senderos, DaMarcus Beasley (Adam Lundqvist 46’); M Eric Alexander (Oscar Boniek Garcia 72’), Darwin Ceren, Tomas Martinez; F Romell Quioto (Memo Rodriguez 80’), Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis
HOU Unused Subs: GK Chris Seitz, D Leonardo, Kevin Garcia; M Luis Gil
36’ – Senderos (Elis, Quioto) – HOU
52’ – Senderos (Quioto) – HOU
90+2’ – Elis – HOU
5’ – Mears (YC) – MIN
41’ – Senderos (YC) – HOU
62’ – Gomez (YC) – MIN
72’ – Lundqvist (YC) – HOU
75’ – Ibson (YC) – MIN
77’ – Miller (YC) – MIN
88’ – Heath (YC) – MIN