Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

Image: Minnesota United

Chaos was the order of the evening inside Vancouver’s BC Place Saturday night. Unfortunately, that chaos taketh away more than it giveth, as midfield giveaways and missed scoring chances doomed Minnesota United in their 3-2 road loss to the Whitecaps.

After not suffering a defeat over their first five matches of the season, Minnesota has now lost four of their last five in league play, and haven’t come away with three points in a match since April 1st.

“It’s always difficult when you go on the road and gift the opposition three goals,” said manager Adrian Heath. “All three goals were our fault. It was comical, school-boy error stuff.”

Heath mixed up his 4-2-3-1 formation, dropping recent winger Robin Lod back to central midfield alongside Wil Trapp, and inserting Franco Fragapane back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in recent matches. Bongokuhle Hlongwane moved back to the right wing with Sang Bin Jeong in the middle and Luis Amarilla up top.

The tone for the match was set early on. In the 17th minute, Trapp mishandled a pass from Lod, allowing Vancouver’s Andres Cubas to get possession and spring White in all alone on St. Clair. The striker finished his chance and the hosts were in front early.

Just before the half-hour mark, Adrian Heath made an unexpected switch, as Joseph Rosales replaced Amarilla. Heath would reveal postgame that the Paraguayan pulled his groin, causing the switch to be made. With the change came a tactical adjustment as well, moving Sang Bin up top, Fragapane to the CAM, and Rosales entering at left wing.

“Obviously, we don’t want to make [the injury] any worse,” said Heath of the switch.

The Loons found an equalizer in an…unpretty fashion in the 33rd minute. Sang Bin sent a beauty of a corner kick into the six-yard box, the ball rattled around and, eventually, Michael Boxall was able to poke it over the line for the goal. It’s the center back’s first goal in nearly four years.

After not having much to do over the season’s first nine matches, Dayne St. Clair was called upon more than a few times in this one. Just before halftime, the Canadian denied a golden opportunity for White to double his total, making a kick save to keep things level at the break.

More errors would put Minnesota well behind the 8-ball early in the 2nd half, with a lack of marking and inability to clear leading to White’s second goal of the night in the 52nd minute, after which the striker would have to leave the match with an apparent leg injury. Just four minutes later, Simon Becher (White’s replacement) continued his Loon-killing ways, as an errant back pass from Lod started a sequence that led to Ryan Gauld finding Becher for the insurance goal.

“It’s borderline comical,” said Heath. “That we would give professional players the opportunity to score goals that easily is scary.”

Getting his first minutes at the No. 9 for the Loons, Sang Bin would take advantage of the opportunity and open his MLS account in the 65th, with Lod taking advantage of the Whitecaps giveaway and assisting the South Korean to get the visitors back in the match.

Following the goal, Mender Garcia and Brent Kallman replaced Fragpane and Hlongwane, switching the formation to a 3-5-2. With the change, MNUFC would get opportunities to equalize down the stretch.

Unfortunately, once again, the finishing touch just wasn’t there.

A perfect DJ Taylor low-cross found Garcia at the doorstep in the 71st, but the Colombian overran the ball and couldn’t get a shot off. Another opportunity for Garcia and a chance for Kemar Lawrence arose in the dying minutes, but the equalizer never came, and the Loons return home without a point.

“You have to compete,” said Heath. “The opposition are not just going to let you play 90 minutes the way you want to. They’re going to ask questions of you, and tonight we didn’t have any answers.”

With Emanuel Reynoso’s return to Minnesota likely dominating the headlines for the foreseeable future, Minnesota has just two days to prepare for a home U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 matchup with Philadelphia Union on Tuesday, before turning their attention to an always tough road rivalry matchup against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

Needless to say, there’s a lot on the team’s plate right now, and not much time to focus on how they’ll welcome the Argentine back to the training ground this week.

“I haven’t really thought about [Reynoso’s return],” said Heath. “We’ll have a chat over the weekend and see what it’s like.”

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