Image: Minnesota United
Sporting Kansas City thrashed Minnesota United 3-0 at Children’s Mercy Park Saturday evening.
The match was part of Major League Soccer’s “Rivalry Week” and the two teams — that are separated by the famous I35 W highway — clashed in their first meeting of the campaign.
MNUFC manager Adrian Heath described the loss as “disappointing” postgame, as it marked the Loons fifth loss in their past six league matches.
“I thought first half we started really, really sloppily. We’ve conceded three goals again, don’t think they’ve had to work hard enough for any of their goals this evening. A free header, first one. Cheap turnover, second one. Third one, we were stretched, and we were too open but overall, second half was better. Shape looked better,” Heath said. “When you come to a place where they haven’t won a game at home all season and then you give them something like we did for the free header- nearly every opportunity that they got this evening was with us giving the ball away to bad areas and making poor decisions with the ball.”
The Loons rolled out a starting XI that included five defenders, with a third centerback in Minnesota native Brent Kallman starting. They played in the 3-5-2 shape that saw them win their most recent 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Philadelphia Union. However, that shape only made it through halftime, as it saw the Loons concede two goals in the first 45 minutes.
“We weren’t playing out the back. Their three front men were pressing and at that time, we couldn’t work our way out. Poor decisions on the ball. I felt like we were a man short elsewhere, so we went back to our formula that we’ve had in the past, and I thought it was better. People were in their better spots. As I say, second half was a lot better, but we gave ourselves too much to do.”
The Loons themselves were given an opportunity to come back into the match shortly after SKC doubled their lead in the 22nd minute through the penalty spot, but Sang Bing Jeong’s attempt down the middle of the net was easily saved by Sporting veteran Tim Melia. The poor attempt summed up the Loons night in Kansas City, as no real threat arrived the rest of the evening.
Minnesota failed to control the tempo of the match, and per Opta Data analysis issued from the league, the Loons didn’t control possession more than Sporting ONCE during the entire match. The statistics are evaluated through five-minute intervals across the 90 minutes played. However, the telltale statistic is that the Loons XG was higher than that of Sporting’s at the final whistle: 1.3XG in comparison to 0.9XG.
MNUFC defender and Captain Michael Boxall said the result that their current run of form is due to errors “from our own team” and that it is one of the key reasons as to why frustration is building in the squad at the moment.
“We have slipped away from how we started the season, the back four, back five, it starts with us setting the tone. We can help going forward where possible, but I think we need to set the tone and it’s been leaking due to our own lapses and not necessarily from amazing play from the other guys,” Boxall said. “That’s where it’s frustrating. If a team plays through you and has great movement and outplays you, then you applaud them and move on, but when its coming from errors from our own team, that’s where the frustration comes from because it’s so preventable.”
Minnesota United is now 0-8 at Sporting Kansas City in regular season play since joining the league in 2017, with their only win at Children’s Mercy Park coming in the 2020 Audi MLS Playoffs. They have been outscored 22-5 during that process (22-2 outside of the playoff win).
“I don’t know exactly what it is here, but on the road in any stadium away in this league it is difficult to win. Sometimes when we come here we are a step off of it. They are very well drilled in what they do but it hasn’t changed in all the years we have been here so we should have been able to figure it out by now,” Boxall said.
Up next: The Loons host the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, May 17 in a midweek clash. The two Western Conference sides will look to earn three points and further their climb up the table.