Following a bye week for the international break, Minnesota United traveled to the East Coast to face the New England Revolution. The Revolution had a disappointing start to the season, but they came out energetic and forced the issue, jumping out to a 1-0 lead early. Although MNUFC would strike back to level the score, New England took control in the second half and put themselves on top for good, taking the game 2-1 and banishing some of the demons of their poor start.
"We spoke about it before the game," said Adrian Heath. "We showed the group Brad’s interviews from this week and his comments, so we knew what was going to come. After we got the equalizer, I thought we’d weathered the storm and the pressure that they were going to put onto us. And after that, I thought we were too passive. I don’t think we wanted to go and win the game enough. I didn’t think that we were going to lose it, I have to be honest. But we didn’t do enough to take the game to them, put them on the back foot enough. Our quality in their half wasn’t good enough in the second half. Too many nearly good balls, nearly good passes, but not enough."
With questions swirling about how New England would respond to a poor showing against visiting FC Cincinnati last week and a closed-door team meeting, the Revolution started the game with energy, pressing high on the Loons. Against the Galaxy two weeks ago, heavy pressure disrupted the MNUFC attack, but in the early going, Minnesota did well to stick to its plan on offense, holding possession and looking for seams to play the ball ahead.
For their part, the Revolution forced the Loons to defend in the box and forced several early corner kicks. It would be the home side opening the scoring in the 10th minute when Carles Gil squared up with Osvaldo Alonso at the edge of the final third and delivered an arcing ball from right to left to defender Jalil Anibaba who headed the ball authoritatively. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone got a hand on it but couldn’t punch it out of danger and the ball bounced over him and in to give New England a 1-0 lead.
The goal seemed to galvanize rather than dispirit the visitors, though, with midfielder Darwin Quintero nearly making everything out of almost nothing after getting the ball from Miguel Ibarra in the box in the 11th minute. Minnesota’s drive paid off in the 24th minute after a loose ball in New England’s box led to a VAR review that ended with a handball called on the home side and a penalty for the Loons. Quintero stepped calmly to the spot and drilled the ball into the left side of the net as goalkeeper Cody Cropper guessed right, leveling the game at 1-1.
From there, the game opened up with each team racking up opportunities and sending the ball back and forth. Minnesota’s Angelo Rodriguez, getting his first start since last season, provided a different look up top for the Loons, with his hold-up play providing a different dimension to the offense and creating opportunities in the final third. In the 29th minute, defender Francisco Calvo nearly put the Loons in front off of a header from a corner kick delivered by Jan Gregus, but the ball ricocheted up off of Cropper, striking the crossbar and bouncing out.
Back from the halftime break, New England grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck. Minnesota United came out flat and struggled to string together passes that would get them out of their own half. The Revolution seemed content to let the Loons move the ball around between their backline and their defensive midfielders, eventually baiting them into sending a long ball forward that often led to a turnover.
"The start of the second half is when it kind of started to fall apart," said Ike Opara. "We came into the half and wanted to make adjustments … and I’m not sure what happened. We defended way too many counters, we lost too many second balls, too many first balls, and you can only defend so many counters before you allow a goal."
In the 62nd minute, New England’s patience and drive paid off as Teal Bunbury lost defender Ike Opara as he peeled off on a long lobbed pass forward. Bunbury put the ball on the ground toward the far post and missed wide, but the ball stayed in and Brandon Bye snuck in on the back post and buried the goal to put the home side on top 2-1.
Trying to get a shot of energy into the team, Heath put in forward Abu Danladi for Angelo Rodriguez in the 66th minute. He then shifted the formation entirely in the 77th minute when he put in midfielder Brent Kallman for Finlay. This moved the team into a 3-4-3 in an attempt to get fullbacks Romain Metanire and Francisco Calvo farther up the field, but New England stayed home and pushing back whenever possible. This left Minnesota’s defense disconnected from the attack, stymieing every attempt the Loons made to start building momentum.
"Our final ball wasn’t good enough," said Heath. "The ball was either overhit or underpassed. It was a ‘nearly’ day. We were nearly good at a lot of things but unfortunately on the road, ‘nearly’ doesn’t win you many games. The first two games of the season we scored when we needed to. I thought the two goals we conceded were very poor from our point of view. I don’t think the Revolution had to work hard enough for either goal."
New England nearly doubled up Minnesota in total shots, 19 to 10, and despite some decent looks from Danladi in the dying minutes, MNUFC fell to the Revolution 2-1. The Loons are now 2-2-0 after starting with two wins in San Jose and Vancouver and now two losses to Los Angeles and New England.
"The season has peaks and valleys," said Opara. "We started off really well. Had a blip in LA. Today we had a good opportunity to rectify the situation and I thought we were better in this game, the effort was there, we just weren’t intelligent with how we played from minute one through minute 90. I think some of that is trying to gel as a new team, but I think we’ve got enough experience to know what these games call for."
Minnesota United’s next game is against New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, April 6 at 6:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo; M Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso, Ethan Finlay (Brent Kallman 75’), Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero; F Angelo Rodriguez (Abu Danladi 66’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Eric Miller; M Hassani Dotson, Collin Martin, Lawrence Olum
New England Revolution Starting XI: GK Cody Cropper; D Brandon Bye, Jalil Anibaba, Michael Mancienne, Edgar Castillo; M Andrew Farrell, Carles Gil, Scott Caldwell (Wilfred Zahibo 90’); F Teal Bunbury (Luis Caicedo 78’), Juan Agudelo (Juan Fernando Caicedo 88’), DeJuan Jones
NE Unused Subs: G Matt Turner; D Antonio Milnar Delamea; M Diego Fagundez; F Tajon Buchanan
10’ – Anibaba (Gil) – NE
26’ – Quintero (Penalty Kick) – MIN
62’ – Bye (Bunbury, Jones) – NE
12’ – Opara (YC) – MIN
45+2’ – Gil (YC) – NE
54’ – Metanire (YC) – MIN
70’ – Alonso (YC) – MIN
72’ – Anibaba (YC) – NE
74’ – Castillo (YC) – NE