MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota United FC’s first season took another twist for the worse on Tuesday.
Minnesota were stymied at home in a 1-0 loss to Columbus Crew SC, which prevailed at TCF Bank Stadium courtesy of a second-half strike through Kekuta Manneh. While Columbus left with the three points, Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath thought it was a generous scoreline for the visitors.
“I don’t think there was anything in the game,” Heath told the media after the match. “I think they had a few chances when Justin Meram came on and the game was stretched. I don’t think we deserved to lose it, but I certainly didn’t think we did enough to win the game.”
After a defeat to New York City FC last Thursday at Yankee Stadium, Minnesota were aiming to tap into their homefield advantage. Heath figured he needed to make some tactical changes in order to do so, and one of the moves he made was dropping left winger Miguel Ibarra to the bench.
“[Miguel] brought energy [off the bench], but he didn’t last week,” said Heath, visibly upset. “You can’t pick and choose when you have that energy. … Not just Miguel. That could’ve been three or four others. Can’t pick and choose when you want to play full of energy. That’s non-negotiable. That goes for three or four players.”
With a shift to a 5-4-1 look and regular center backs Francisco Calvo, Brent Kallman, and Jermaine Taylor all absent for the day, fullbacks Jerome Thiesson and Justin Davis were thrust into central roles. It was Davis' first start since April 1, and the Loons’ all-time minutes leader from the NASL days put in a solid shift out of position.
“I just tried to focus on keeping Ethan Finlay in check – his movement was pretty good,” Davis told MLSsoccer.com. “But I think we figured it out finally, because he was dropping so far back to hit the ball, so I ended up kind of playing more in the midfield. It was new. It took [those first 10 minutes] to figure out the system and then also get my game sharpness back.”
The extra body on the backline limited Minnesota’s attacking options. While the Loons held 56 percent of possession and completed 82 percent of their 552 passes, Columbus were able to hold Minnesota to just one shot on target. Ibarra added some vigor at the end of the match, but it wasn’t enough to score an equalizer.
“We got a lot of chances in the box late on, but our final ball wasn’t good enough,” Heath said. “It’s disappointing, but the little break has come at a good time. We’re running on fumes at the moment, and give one or two players a chance to get fully fit again and recharge their batteries.”
Midfielder Sam Cronin agreed that the break comes at a perfect time.
“We need it,” said the captain. “We maybe don’t deserve it, but we’ve had a busy stretch. Losing just messes with you a bit. It’ll be best for us all to step away, get away from each other a bit, and reenergize.
"We have to make sure we get our minds right. When we do that, we’re a good team. When we don’t, we’re bang-average. There’s still a lot of reason to be optimistic, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now.”