Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Image: Minnesota United

Minnesota United went into Nashville’s GEODIS Park Friday evening with aspirations of a Leagues Cup semifinal berth and a step toward an automatic 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup spot. 

Unfortunately, an early red card to D.J. Taylor and five Nashville SC goals, all in a 30-minute span, were more than enough to send the Loons out of the tournament in dominant fashion.

“Our defending was so poor at times,” said MNUFC manager Adrian Heath. “I don’t think they [Nashville SC] had to work hard enough for their goals and that wasn’t down to 10 men. That was just poor defending, poor marking, poor desire to stop the ball going in the back of the net. As I’ve just said to the players, I can’t excuse that.”

Match Recap

The complexion of the match shifted in a major way just past the half-hour mark, as Jacob Shaffelburg was streaking toward goal. Taylor just caught Shaffelburg’s heel just outside the 18-yard box, and the official wasted no time blowing the whistle for a foul and showing the Minnesota defender a straight red card for Denial of a Goalscoring Opportunity.

Taylor was sent off, much to the chagrin of Minnesota and their fans.

“I’ve not seen [the incident] back,” said Heath. “I’ve been told it looked a little bit soft. So I’ll have to have a look at it. I haven’t seen it all, so it’s a bit early for me to give an opinion.”

Just a handful of minutes later, the hosts would capitalize on their man advantage. Shaffelburg centered the ball in front of the net, allowing Hany Mukhtar to get his heel on it and flick the ball behind him. Shaq Moore, making a back-post run, put away the pass for the 1-0 lead.

Before halftime, Nashville extended their lead following a hectic scramble for possession in the penalty area by both teams. Minnesota’s own Teal Bunbury got his foot on the loose ball, firing a shot at the net and converting to put the home side up 2-0. 

After the break, the home side would start their runaway, as Mukhtar, with space down the touchline, played a ball into the center of the box for Alex Muyl to redirect with a header into the back of the net to make it 3-0.

Sam Surridge and Mukhtar would bury the final two goals, respectively, before the hour mark to put the match completely out of reach and punch Nashville’s ticket to the semifinals.

Minnesota, on the other hand, now turns their attention back to MLS play, where they sit just one point below the Western Conference playoff line with 12 matches remaining.

“Well, we need to make the playoffs,” said Heath. “We’ve done it the last four years; I believe we’re the only team that’s made it in the last four years in the Western Conference. So, it’ll be nice to keep that going and make it five. I know that with this group, if we’re to make the playoffs, then we have opportunities to win games.”

On Tap

The Loons now have a full week to rest and recover before traveling to the Big Apple to take on NYCFC Sunday, August 20th.

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