ADAPTING TO THE THREAT OF DAVIES
Fans of Minnesota United have no doubt grown accustomed to seeing midfielder Miguel Ibarra in his new role as wingback on the right side of the field. From that position, Ibarra has worked well with Darwin Quintero in the middle to produce a lot of goals and assists during Minnesota’s recent success at home.
But facing the game-breaking threat of young Alphonso Davies on the road in Vancouver, Adrian Heath opted for Eric Miller on that side of the pitch, pushing Ibarra to the left side.
“We had talked before the game about me trying to stay on Davies’ side as much as possible,” said Miller. “Obviously, Miguel’s a little bit more attack-minded as a wingback, I’m a little more defensive-minded. So we thought to try to get the matchup with me and Davies as much as possible and try to let Miguel go forward a little more was probably the best way to go.”
This also had the benefit of letting Ibarra go at the comparatively inexperienced Jake Nerwinski early in the game, rather than having to tussle with the likes of the veteran Marcel de Jong. But as Davies shifted his own position from one side to the other, astute fans likely noticed the two wingbacks switching fields in kind. It seemed to keep Davies in check through the first half, but the 17-year-old found his spots in the second half, scoring a pair of goals.
“There’s obviously a reason Bayern Munich and all these big clubs came calling and that he got to sold for Bayern for the MLS record,” said Miller. “He’s a super-quality player and he causes a lot of problems and they play a system that allows him to do his best. He’s good out in space, he’s good on the counter and unfortunately for us, he got out in space and on the counter a couple times tonight and did a lot of damage.”
COPING WITH VANCOUVER’S DEFENSE EARLY AND OPENING IT UP LATE
Early on in this one, the Loons found themselves stymied as they sought to work the seams between the lines as they had in their recent run of success at home. Often, the backline or the midfielders seemed to be able to catch defenders pushed up at TCF Bank Stadium, springing Quintero or Ibarra for runs down the flanks, but no such room seemed available at BC Place.
“I think they were just pinned back,” said Ibarra. “The outside backs wouldn’t come out as much at me, they were just kind of waiting, kind of knew how to play our game. Right when Darwin would get the ball they would be right on him. That’s what made it difficult. When that happens, we just have to adjust to it.”
Although it came with too little time for the visitors to mount a comeback, they did eventually find some cracks in Vancouver’s defense in the second half, spurred by the energy of substitutes Romario Ibarra and Abu Danladi, the latter of whom saw his first action in months and netted his first goal of the season late on. The team overall appeared to find a bit of pace across the field, hitting diagonal balls with a bit more intent and doing more to play off each other. For Ibarra, it was more a mental change of finding that gear to push harder.
“For me, I thought I should get forward more,” he said. “I tried to get up on the field and combine with Darwin more. Rasmus making those runs and me getting those crosses in, so that was my mentality in the second half.”