Newton’s first law tells us an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. This past Saturday, the Loons acted as the unbalanced force – altering their shape, direction and speed of play throughout the game to break down a ragged FC Cincinnati side through generating their own momentum.
“As a coach, all you are trying to do is give players confidence and keep believing in what they are doing,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “The one thing I do know is there’s nothing like winning games for everybody. For the group, [for] the mood in the dressing room and [for] the mood in the camp. It’s far easier to motivate people when you’re winning then it is when you’re losing games.”
Although the home side was made to wait 18 minutes for their first goal, when the first goal came from Ike Opara, the floodgates opened. Scoring three goals in a 20-minute spurt in the first half and three in a 17-minute period in the second half, Minnesota intuitively picked their way through the FC Cincinnati defense. Scoring two goals in the rout, defender Ike Opera mentioned the importance of an early Vito Mannone save that kept the game level and propelled the Loons into the latter stages of the first half.
“I think that we had the momentum at home,” said Opara. “They actually could’ve gone up 1-0. Vito did a great job of keeping us at zeroes. I liked our chances if we were able to get one. I didn’t foresee seven but I thought that if we got one, one could be two, [two could be] three and it ended up being what it was today.”
While an average viewer would look at a final score of 7-1 as a textbook attacking display, the Loons poised offense was fundamentally rooted in their exceptional team shape. Oftentimes, the starting shape of a team can completely dictate their style of play. Some teams like to sit deep in their own halves and build play slowly, waiting for the perfect moment to spring forward and launch a lethal counter attack. Others like to get high up the field and press the opponent to try to win the ball early, leading to quick scoring chances. Defender Chase Gasper thought that Minnesota’s defense did an exceptional job holding their shape, which gave the attack plenty of impetus and momentum going forward.
“You hear the words ‘team shape’ a lot in film and although it sounds like a basic term, it makes a huge impact,” said Gasper. “I think guys were in the right spots defensively which led to generating more offense. I thought we pressed the ball well at times, sat back when we needed to, didn’t waste energy in that heat. I think when our team shape is exactly how we want it to be and we rehearse it and go over it, then that’s what generates our offense because we have a lot of speed up top, a lot of creativity.”