It was almost immediately apparent that MNUFC was going to have its hands full dealing with a Sporting KC side that was unbeaten in its last 15 matches at Children’s Mercy Park. Forward Gerso Fernandes got a shot off in the 2nd minute, followed by a shot by forward Latif Blessing in the 4th minute.
And then an already depleted MNUFC side had more to cope with as midfielder Miguel Ibarra came up lame with a right calf strain in the 5th minute. Head Coach Adrian Heath had to go to his bench early, putting in Rasmus Schuller and shifting the team’s shape to a more defensive one with three holding midfielders in Schuller, Collen Warner and Ibson.
Through the first half hour, the shots kept coming as SKC poured on the pressure. In the 20th minute, a shot from midfielder Jimmy Medranda was cleared off the line, but Gerso followed it up with a shot that went just high. Forward Soony Saad whiffed on a wide open header off a corner in the 26th minute. And several SKC shots were turned away by MNUFC defenders like Warner and center back Jermaine Taylor. Minnesota bent without breaking for a big chunk of the first half, but were rarely able to get out on the counterattack to generate any offense. At one point, SKC’s possession percentage snuck well above 70%.
In the final ten minutes of the first half, MNUFC began to creep out of their shell a bit and string together possession, and it looked for all the world like the Loons would get to the half level at 0-0 and be fortunate for it. But then in stoppage time, center back Ike Opara took a screamer of a shot from about 30 yards out that sliced right and caught Bobby Shuttleworth flatfooted to put Sporting KC up 1-0 headed into the break.
MNUFC showed more drive coming out of halftime, with forward Christian Ramirez getting his first touch and first shot in the 53rd minute when Schuller served him up a good ball on the left side of the box. But hardly two minutes later, SKC doubled its lead. A strong shot from Saad appeared to get denied by the crossbar, with Medranda following it up with a header to seal it. Later replays clearly showed Saad’s shot bouncing off the crossbar and landing just inside the goal before bouncing out, although Medranda ended up getting credited with the score.
Whatever wind Minnesota had collected in its sails to start the second seemed to go out following the goal. The match slowed down and while Shuttleworth stood strong with five saves, the Loons simply couldn’t get anything going, especially after Heath was forced to use his last sub to put in defender Justin Davis when Marc Burch went down with an injury in the 63rd minute. In the 87th minute, SKC put the icing on the cake with a late goal by Saad Abdul-Salaam to make it 3-0 and Ramirez narrowly missed a late consolation goal in the 92nd minute.
“We were second-best from the very first minute until the 90th minute,” said Heath. “Outfought, outplayed, outrun, no desire, no enthusiasm. It's just as bad as we've been since the second or third week of the season. Forget the scoreline, I was more disappointed with the amount of determination that the guys showed. Poor. Feel sorry for the two or three hundred people who've made the journey down from Minnesota. I apologize to them. They deserved an awful lot more than they got today.”
All in all, a match the shorthanded Loons will look to put behind them as they move into a week off from MLS play before heading back to Kansas City to face SKC once again in U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday, June 14.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Jerome Thiesson, Brent Kallman, Jermaine Taylor, Marc Burch (Justin Davis 63’); M Ibson, Collen Warner, Ismaila Jome (Bashkim Kadrii 55’), Miguel Ibarra (Rasmus Schuller 8’), Kevin Molino; F Christian Ramirez
MIN Unused Subs: GK John Alvbage; D Joe Greenspan, Kevin Venegas; M Collin Martin
Sporting Kansas City Starting XI: GK Tim Melia; D Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Saad Abdul-Salaam; M Benny Feilhaber, Ille Sanchez, Jimmy Medranda (Soni Mustivar 67’); F Latif Blessing (Daniel Salloi 75’), Soony Saad (Dom Dwyer 62’), Gerso Fernandes
SKC Unused Subs: GK Andrew Dryska; D Igor Juliao, Amer Didic; M F Cameron Porter
45+’ – Opara (Besler) – SKC
54’ – Medranda – SKC
87’ – Abdul-Salaam – SKC
7’ – Jome (YC) – MIN
12’ – Feilhaber (YC) – SKC
23’ – Warner (YC) – MIN
43’ – Shuttleworth (YC) – MIN
44’ – Melia (YC) – SKC
MNUFC QUOTE SHEET
MNUFC Head Coach Adrian Heath
On the Miguel Ibarra injury impacting the match...
"I don't think it affected one iota. We were second best from the very first minute to the 90th minute. We were out-fought, out-played and out-run. There was no desire and no enthusiasm. This was as bad as we have been since the second or third week of the season. Forget the scoreline, I was more disappointed with the amount of determination that the guys showed. I feel sorry for the 200 or 300 fans that made the journey from Minnesota. They deserved a lot more than they got today."
On the reason for the team's performance today...
"I don't know. We will find out and I am not putting up with that. I guarantee it."
On the team's performance after having a run of strong results...
"Well today we were never at the races from the very first whistle. I don't know how many shots they got. We were poor in all departments. We take responsibility for that because that is our job but I'm not putting up with that performance."
On the reason he named Brent Kallman captain today...
"I just think he deserves it. It means a lot to him to play for the club and he deserved it today."
MNUFC Forward Christian Ramirez
On how the Miguel Ibarra injury impacted the match...
"I think we had to change the system and it took us a little while to get used to that when we weren't playing with a natural 10 anymore. It was more like a 6 and two 8s. That was difficult because there was space behind their line of midfield that we couldn't get the ball into because we didn't have somebody there. So that was frustrating. That was the majority of the reason, but at the same time, we didn't perform the way we are accustomed to."
On how the team puts together stronger performances on the road...
"Watch tape and put forth the effort that is needed. I think that was the biggest thing needed today. The effort wasn't there and that is the first thing that should be there on the road. We, in the locker room, have to figure out how to get up for a road game the same way we do at home."
On the team making changes to the lineup...
"Anyone who steps into the lineup knows their role and knows what they have to do so we can't use that as an excuse. There will be plenty of international call-ups. Guys need to step up and fill those voids. Those guys need to be ready and hopefully that will change moving forward."
MNUFC Defender Brent Kallman
On if there was a lack of energy...
"It felt flat. We definitely started the game flat. I just kept thinking we were going to snap out of it and that we were going to get ourselves going a little bit. We didn't come out of that, so yeah, I would agree lack of energy. We did not win our individual battles all over the field and I think that cost us today. I'm thinking we get back and we start training, we have to go really hard at each other because that can decide a game. It felt like we lost every single one today."
On the late first half goal...
"It's probably the third or fourth time this year where we defended a lot in the first half of the game and we're trying to get to half time nil-nil and then we give up one in the last couple of minutes in the half. It takes a little bit of wind out of your sails because you're so close to getting into halftime to make adjustments. We were bending, but we didn't break and then he hits that amazing shot so that definitely hurt a little bit."
On being named captain...
"I was excited for the challenge. I was happy to be named captain but I wish we would have preformed a little better."
MNUFC Midfielder Rasmus Schuller
On having to replace Miguel Ibarra due to injury in the 8th minute...
"It was hard. My body didn't feel physically ready to play 80 plus minutes. But Kansas was much better than we were today."
On what the coaches said to you when you were entering the match...
"That we will play a 4-3-3 with Ibson underneath Collen [Warner] and me and then three at the top."
On if that switch affected the team...
"We were chasing the ball the whole game and didn't chase fast enough. They could move it around like they wanted and they were having much more energy than we did. You could see that and then the goals they scored were pretty logical because we were tiring out and they kept on speeding up."
On why the side was lacking energy...
"I don't know, we have to figure that out because it didn't feel like we were ready to come in and it shouldn't feel like that."