ANGELO BREAKS OUT
When forward Angelo Rodriguez signed on earlier this summer, game-changing performances like Saturday’s breakout two-goal outing were surely what Minnesota United had in mind for its Colombian Designated Player and it is certainly what Rodriguez expects of himself.
Rodriguez’s star shone bright in the win over NYCFC, as he provided all the offense MNUFC needed to polish off its second-straight win. By Rodriguez’s own admission, it has been a slow start, offensively, to his time in Minnesota, but he is confident Saturday’s standout effort is more indicative of what is to come.
“You always prepare for that — to work hard, to score and to win, fortunately I was able to do that,” Rodriguez said. “I just came to really show what I have been able to do throughout my career. This is really just the beginning. It is about working and having confidence.”
Rodriguez’s second goal, which proved to be the game-winner, exemplified his work rate in the attacking half and ability to press defenders and create chances for himself. Head Coach Adrian Heath wants his strikers to be the first line of defense and Rodriguez was that and more on the play. He read the defender’s eyes, saw he was staring down the goalkeeper, pressed high and jumped the pass to send himself in on goal all alone.
After going without a goal in his first four appearances for the Loons, Rodriguez now has three goals in his last three. Midfielder Miguel Ibarra noted that once strikers get hot, it becomes hard to cool them off. It took time to acclimate to his new team, but now that he is settling in, Ibarra’s words are ringing true for Rodriguez.
“I came here with a lot of hope and I found a great group of guys and a technical staff that is very good to me,” Rodriguez said. “That has allowed me to get used to how things are here a little bit easier. In terms of production on the field, it has come a little bit late, but we are just looking to get as many points as possible.”
BACKLINE BEARS DOWN
Minnesota has seen a number of halftime leads suddenly shrink this season but, with a two-goal lead at the break against NYCFC, the MNUFC backline was determined not to let that happen again and put in one of its most stout shifts of the campaign.
“The whole group, especially when we went down to 10, everyone dug in and got the job done,” defender Michael Boxall said. “Disappointing not to get the clean sheet, because everyone did their jobs so well tonight.”
Though the Loons will be frustrated that they were just minutes away from a clean sheet, a fluky last minute goal does not take away from their superb overall defensive effort. Minnesota held its shape at the back well and made it a relatively stress free night for goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, limiting New York City to just three shots on target.
Boxall said MNUFC has gotten too comfortable with halftime leads in the past and have let teams back into games as a result. That was not the case on Saturday as they stood resolute see the three-point effort through.
“At two-nil it is never safe,” Boxall said. “Because it was still so tight, everyone still knows one goal will change the complexion of the game. Other games where we have let them back in, maybe it we have been a little bit at ease when we are up by three. With what happened last week with our lead, everyone knew how focused we had to be going into that second half and I think we dealt with their threats a lot better.”
NYCFC boasted a 68-32 percent possession advantage, so those threats were ever-present, especially after going down to 10 men in the 76th minute. After that, Boxall and fellow defenders Brent Kallman and Francisco Calvo stayed narrow, forced their opponents to the outside and were more than happy to let NYCFC just whip balls into the box — chances Boxall and Kallman dealt with aptly and cleared without harm.
“That is what Brent and I get paid to do — just clear the box — and we did that quite well,” Boxall said. “Building the partnership and getting more familiar with each other is going to help us be a stronger team moving forward. In recent weeks we have shown that we can compete with some of the best teams in this league.”