More than just a badge: Loons demand respect after breakthrough performance

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Loons keep flying over the hurdles in front of them. Now, they just want a little more respect.

With positive momentum building, Minnesota United knocked off Western Conference leader Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, on Sunday. For a team that let in 11 goals in their first two nationally televised games, the commanding performance was even sweeter.

“I’m pleased for everybody in the club,” head coach Adrian Heath said. “On national TV, we’ve had some horror shows. It’s nice to see that we are improving and we’re more than just having a nice badge, if Alexi’s listening.”

Heath was referring to Fox Sports’ Alexi Lalas, who was the color commentator for this match. For much of the season, Lalas had said the best thing about the Loons was their crest, showing little respect for the on-field product. It’s clear those words were on the players’ minds Sunday.

“There’s some analyst, was a defender like 30 years ago, don’t really remember his name,” center back Brent Kallman told with a grin. “He was calling us out in the beginning of the season. Hopefully, we’re starting to gain a little respect. We can play, and we can grind out tough results like today.”

The win today brings Minnesota up to seventh place in the West, just below the red line. With nearly a third of the season complete, the Loons have started to take the steps necessary to be a playoff contender.

“I think we showed a few people that we are getting better,” Heath affirmed. “You have to take us seriously. If you don’t, we have too much talent not to hurt you.”

Both Minnesota goals were assisted by Miguel Ibarra. Lining up on the left wing, Ibarra was marked by Igor Juliao, making his season debut. Heath told Ibarra that this would be a matchup to exploit — which is exactly what happened.

“He told me to go at him all day, so I tried to do that,” Ibarra said. “My mentality was to get into that space behind him. I’m glad that I got the two assists and the three points, more importantly.”

On the end of his second assist was Christian Ramirez, the Superman to Ibarra’s Batman. Ramirez was going up against Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer, giving the national audience two strikers battling to make the US national team.

“I’d be dreaming to put on the US colors,” Ramirez declared, having scored six goals in his first ten MLS matches. “If I keep scoring goals, I put myself in a good situation to do that. I told Dom after the game that it was about time that I won against a side he was playing for.”

Having lost twice to SKC in previous US Open Cup games, Minnesota is indeed finally on the winning end of the matchup. And complete with a second-half scuffle, Minnesota looks like it could have a new rival in Sporting Kansas City — and maybe even a shot to one day battle them in the postseason.

“If we’re gonna build a rivalry, we have to win some games against them,” Ramirez said. “To start that is a good stepping stone. Hopefully this puts us in a good position to get above the red line.”