MNUFC Rout LAFC 5-1

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- On Sunday night, MNUFC welcomed second-place LAFC in a Western Conference clash to close out its home stand. The Loons came in on a three-game home win streak and with the same starting XI for the third game in nine days, while LAFC were following up a mid-week U.S. Open Cup victory against Portland Timbers.

mncfu comIt would be tired legs versus fresh depth, but MNUFC came to play and handled the visitor to the tune of 5-1. “Every time that we attack, if we can get Darwin [Quintero] on the ball, we look like we’re going to create or score a goal, virtually every time we’re in their half of the field,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “I think he’s now enjoying playing with the rest of the group, and I think they [understand] that if we can get him the ball in the right spots, and put runs on ahead of him, then you’ve got a great chance of getting in on goal. I thought some of the goals were fantastic. And, you know, we had so many other opportunities. And big moments, and I’ve said it a lot, are really important that you score at the appropriate time. And I felt that we did today.”

LAFC opened the game with their signature high press and it nearly resulted in a very early goal when goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth nearly had a pass intercepted as he cleared it out to a defender in the third minute. By the sixth minute, LAFC had earned its first corner kick and by the next minute, midfielder Benny Feilhaber was testing Shuttleworth from deep with a shot that Shuttleworth had to push over the crossbar.

Despite LAFC’s pressure, Minnesota’s backline defended the box well, breaking up attacks with timely clearances and keeping LAFC from getting quality looks, even as they racked up four corner kicks in the first 10 minutes. The visitors’ first real chance came when midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye strolled into the box unmarked and fired a shot high that got Shuttleworth re-organizing the backline with vehemence.

Although LAFC eventually turned the possession battle its way, MNUFC found its identity on the counterattack. In the 25th minute, forward Darwin Quintero got the ball on the break and ran deep into the box on the right side before throwing on the brakes and breaking defender Dejan Jakovic’s ankles. He held the ball while the rest of the team caught up and then fed it across the box to midfielder Rasmus Schuller who buried it in the back of the net for his first MLS goal and a 1-0 lead.

“Darwin [Quintero] is a great player and he can keep the ball in the box,” said Schuller, “so I knew if I came in the second wave that he could find me and that’s what I did and I found the bottom corner. It was nice to see it go in.”

“We have to go into each game like it’s a playoff game,” said forward Christian Ramirez. “And that’s a mentality that’s being pushed throughout the locker room. And it definitely starts from the top, that precedent. Figuring out what they’re doing early, coming out. Especially LAFC was trying to play out of the back a lot through K [Aaron Kovar], through Benny [Feilhaber]. So once we figured that out, we took the game to them.”

Almost immediately, though, LAFC turned the tables on the home side and got the goal back in the 27th minute when midfielder Latif Blessing got the ball to Feilhaber, who struck a left-footed shot past Shuttleworth into the far corner of the net.

In the 30th minute, midfielder Alexi Gomez came off for defender Eric Miller. Gomez, Heath reported after the game, had picked up a knock and has also been battling a bit of sickness. After playing three games in nine days, there was little doubt that every Minnesota player was playing with at least some kind of twinge.

Toward the end of the first half, Minnesota poured on the pace and the pressure, putting up a flurry of shots from both sides of the pitch before winning a corner kick in the 44th minute. Quintero’s corner kick was cleared out to the top of the box where Miller headed it back in. The ball found its way through the LAFC defense and to the feet of Christian Ramirez, who turned and fired a seeing-eye shot from short range under goalkeeper Tyler Miller’s left arm and above his left leg to make it 2-1.

Moments later, in stoppage time, Quintero got the ball on a long outlet from Miller, drove it into the box and hit a right-footed shot past Miller that bounced once and spun hard into the goal to give the home side a 3-1 lead just before the break.

“As I’ve said when we took him, for me, he’s in that Robbie Keane — who was probably the best player in the league for two or three years — [Sebastian] Giovinco, [Miguel] Almiron,” said Heath. “He’s in that company. And no disrespect to them players, he’s played for as big of clubs as them. Great to coach. Great to work with. Has a great presence in the locker room. As long as we keep him fit and healthy, and work with him and put things on, ahead of him, we’ll cause teams problems.”

LAFC brought in forward Adama Diomande at the break, no doubt to try to spark the offense with some physicality and finishing. Early on, it seemed like the move might pay dividends as LAFC continued to ring up corner kicks. But timely deflections from Brent Kallman and some impressive stops by Shuttleworth kept LAFC from cutting into the Loons’ lead.

In the 56th minute, Quintero found himself facing several LAFC defenders near the top of the box on the right side. He flicked the ball forward toward Christian Ramirez who ran across it and let it go to Miguel Ibarra, who finished it with a right-footed shot. Two minutes later, it was Ramirez’s turn with Schuller finding Ibarra, who fed it to a waiting Ramirez who tapped it in to make it a 5-1 game.

For the next half-hour-plus, the Loons stood tall and showed a newfound ability to hold a lead despite giving up a majority of the possession. Although LAFC found opportunities in Minnesota’s half, the home team’s stalwart defense in the box was a revelation, including solid defensive performances by midfielders Maximiano (who came on for Schuller in the 66th minute) and Collen Warner. Romario Ibarra — signed by the Loons last week — got his first game action when he came on in the 78th minute for Ramirez in the 78th minute, but didn’t get much a chance to show what he could do.

“I got as much satisfaction seeing it out of 5-1 as I did for the result,” said Heath. “Because I thought we actually defended the goal really, really well at the end. And we conceded space. We let them have it at the back and let them have it in wide areas. But we did defend the box really, really well.” MNUFC returns to the road for the first time in four matches when it faces Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday, July 28. That match kicks off at 9:00 p.m. CT with pre-match coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+ and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.

Lineups Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Francisco Calvo; M Miguel Ibarra, Collen Warner, Rasmus Schuller (Maximiano 66’), Ibson, Alexi Gomez (Eric Miller 32’); F Darwin Quintero, Christian Ramirez (Romario Ibarra 78’) MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Wyatt Omsberg; M Collin Martin; F Mason Toye

Los Angeles Football Club Starting XI: GK Tyler Miller; D Tristian Blackmon, Dejan Jakovic, Laurent Ciman, Joao Moutino (Jordan Harvey 46’); M Benny Feilhaber, Aaron Kovar (Adama Diamande 46’), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Calum Mallace 67’); F Diego Rossi, Marco Urena, Latif Blessing LAFC Unused Subs: GK Charlie Lyon; D Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman; M Andre Horta

Match Events Goals 25’ – Schuller (Quintero, Ibson) – MIN 26’ – Feilhaber (Blessing) – LAFC 45’ – Ramirez – MIN 45+1’ – Quintero (Miller) – MIN 56’ – Ibarra (Quintero) – MIN 58’ – Ramirez (Ibarra, Schuller) – MIN Discipline 85’ – Harvey (YC) – LAFC Attendance: 22,739

MNUFC HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On how he would sum up the killer instinct that MNUFC is showing right now …

I’ve just said to the staff, that it’s a long time since I’ve been involved with a team that, at this moment in time, every time that we attack, if we can get Darwin [Quintero] on the ball, we look like we’re going to create or score a goal virtually every time we’re in their half of the field. And, you know, I think he’s now enjoying playing with the rest of the group, and I think they, it’s suddenly understanding that if we can get him the ball in the right spots and put runs on ahead of him, then you’ve got a great chance of getting in on goal. I thought some of the goals were fantastic. And, you know, we had so many other opportunities. The movement for the chance that Ibson had in the first half, the one where Christian [Ramirez] dummies it. So, it’s been a good performance. You know, I said it on the broadcast at half time, they had a few too many opportunities for my liking in the first half. And big moments, and I’ve said it a lot, are really important that you score at the appropriate time. And I felt that we did today. Every time that they just started to get a head of steam up in the game, we’d go down and put a really clinical finish in. And it was 3-1, and it was 4-1. And in the end, on the break, we conceivably could have had more.

On Darwin Quintero’s ceiling in Major League Soccer …

Well, as I’ve said when we took him, for me, he’s in that Robbie Keane — who was probably the best player in the league for two or three years — [Sebastian] Giovinco, [Miguel] Almirón. He’s in that company. And no disrespect to them players, he’s played for as big of clubs as them. You know, so, great to coach. Great to work with. Has a great presence in the locker room. But, he’s a tough ball player. And as I say, as long as we keep him fit and healthy and work with him and put things on ahead of him and we will continue to. We’ll cause teams problems.

On the response after Rasmus Schuller scores …

Well, as I said to the players, the second half, I got as much satisfaction seeing it out of 5-1 as I did, you know, for the result. Because, I thought we actually defended the goal really, really well at the end. And we conceded space. We let them have it at the back and let them have it in wide areas. But we did defend the box really, really well.

On a different level of focus in the game versus earlier in the month …

We can tell them as much as, you know, I’ll tell them every day if need be. Ultimately, they have to take that on board. And I think there’s a real determination between the group not to let that happen again. You know, we’ve had a lot of stick from you guys in the papers, in the media, about conceding goals in terms of set pieces. That’s been improved. Well, that’s a mentality as much as it is anything else. You know, whether that’s people zone marking, whether it’s man-for-man marking or a mixture of both. People are actually putting their body on the line a little bit more to make sure it’s not going to be my man. Sometimes that takes time.

On how to mimic the same winning streak on the road …

Well, let’s win one first on the road, before we get to three. Obviously, the next game, these guys are having two days off now. They’ve had nine games in 35 days, I think it is. And, you know, I think really every one of them is carrying some sort of little knock or twinge, slight pull. So, we’ll get them out of the way for a couple of days, hopefully they’ll come in a little bit refreshed. And we’ll start to look at Vancouver. Because as I’ve said on numerous occasions, if we want to take this towards the end of the season, keep the season alive as late as possible, we have to start to pick up some points away from home.

On what he liked from Romario Ibarra in his debut …

It’s never an easy time to come on when people are tired, and people are, we’re defending so deep. And he wants to come in and he’s chasing the ball. You know, he’ll be better for the 15, 20 minutes that he got and he’ll obviously get some work in in the next few days and we’ll see about where he is in terms of does he play next weekend in Vancouver.

On if Alexi Gómez came off because of a knock …

A little knock. He’s had a little bit of an illness as well. So, an accumulation of a couple of things. But it’s nothing too serious. He should be okay tomorrow or the day after.

MNUFC FORWARD CHRISTIAN RAMIREZ

On the team’s current form right now …

Pretty good. Nine points in a week. Can’t say anything about it. The way we finished out the first half and came out the second half. Pretty good.

On no sitting duck goal celebration when he scored …

Thought about it. I hadn’t really had a chance to celebrate. So that was nice.

On the fact that he didn’t do much with the celebrations and if that was intentional …

Yeah.

On how he would describe the team’s shift in mentality over the past couple of weeks …

We have to go into each game like it’s a playoff game. And that’s a mentality that’s being pushed throughout the locker room. And it definitely starts from the top, that precedent. Figuring out what they’re doing early, coming out. Especially LAFC was trying to play out of the back a lot through [Aaron Kovar], through Benny [Feilhaber]. So, once we figured that out, we took the game to them.

On getting nine of a possible nine points over the past eight days …

It’s good. It shows that we’re coming together and that’s going to be crucial coming up on this schedule that we have. I know we have one away and then we’re back at home and then I think it’s five on the road. So, it’s going to be a tough seven, six games coming up. And we just need to continue that mindset and taking it on the road.

On what has changed for him and his confidence over the past couple of weeks …

Nothing has really changed, just starting to try and find my spots. And guys are finding me. Earlier in the season, I was in those same spots, and those crosses that Miguel hit, didn’t come. Or, I was marked by someone. But now that Darwin is playing, he’s helping things out and Miguel is making runs, opening things up. Ibson is getting in the box. So, it’s freed me up. It’s been good.

On what he saw in the LAFC defense that he knew he could counterattack …

They were high pressing and almost leaving me and Darwin 2v2 up top. So, when teams do that, they’re playing with fire, really. So, when it’s 2v2 up top, I’m almost decoying to let Darwin be isolated 1v1 and let him beat his man, because nine out of 10 times, he’s going to. And it’s working. So, credit to the guys, and things are going pretty well.

On a change in the team’s focus when defending set pieces …

Yeah. We changed a couple things when defending it, free kicks and corners. More of a zonal, with a couple guys man-marking. And every guy is taking responsibility for their area, and that’s my area. If somebody scores on that, I have to be held accountable for that, so I don’t want to be that guy. We have to continue to be strong, because so many goals come on set pieces. And since we’ve cleaned that up, things have turned around.

MNUFC FORWARD DARWIN QUINTERO

On the groove he is in right now …

I’m happy for how things are going right now, what I’m experiencing. Whenever a player has confidence in consecutive games, his playing rhythm gets a lot better.

On being unstoppable right now …

I always try to do well, to help the team and to give my all. Now when things are going well, you have to enjoy it, but this continues. We have to leave today behind because Saturday we have another final if we aspire to make the playoffs.

On the goal he scored against LAFC …

I get past [my defender], Miguel [Ibarra] sends me a perfect pass. I keep going until the end to see what the goalkeeper does and I am able to get it past him to the back post.

On differences he’s noticed in opposing goalkeepers …

Yeah, I noticed the goalkeeper took a few steps back when I looked at goal, but that’s soccer. They get to know you, they know what you can do and then you have to try new things game by game.

On the mentality of the team and how it’s changed during his time with the club …

The mentality, we’ve talked about it and it’s great. I think [the club] is getting a winning mentality, that every game we need to go out and win wherever we play. In these three games at home we’ve shown that we want to be playing to fight for the finals.

MNUFC MIDFIELDER MIGUEL IBARRA

On the team’s improvement over the past couple of weeks …

It’s amazing! Everybody’s happy in the locker room. We’re all enjoying playing. You can just see it out there on the field. We scored, we conceded and we just didn’t put our heads down. We kept going and we kept playing our game. The second half, we came out hungry.

On knowing when the team started to show a killer instinct …

Definitely. After the game everybody came in [the locker room] and said, “We’re flying right now.” Now we’re going away and we know there has been talk about how we’re not the same team when we play away, so now we just have to show it.

On how to carry this win streak into road games …

Keep doing what we’re doing. Pretend like it’s a home game again. I mean, we want to go to the playoffs we’ve got to win away games.

On what changed after the first 15 minutes ...

Darwin does amazing when he gets the ball and goes at defenders. They were pushing on us a little bit and we got them on the counter with a little mistake and we were able to finish the opportunities. When we’re finishing like that it helps us out a lot.

On if he’s ever been a part of a game where every attack feels like it will lead to a chance …

No. We knew we have the offensive pieces to do that every game. So now we’re all clicking. Now we have Christian back scoring his goals. Darwin is scoring his goals. Everybody’s just firing right now, so I think the whole team is full of confidence.

On his having more goals this season …

I think a big thing for me was the offseason work and then coming in and getting the opportunities. Everybody gave me the confidence. Adrian [Heath] gave me the confidence, gave me the opportunities. My job was just to make sure I help the team out. Whatever I can do.

On seeing Ramirez on the scoresheet again …

I was just talking to Brent [Kallman] about it. We said Christian is scoring Christian goals again. He turns around. The ball is right there just for him to score on tap ins.

MNUFC MIDFIELDER ROMARIO IBARRA

On his debut …

I think it was a very good thing. The team won and won big. Thanks to God I was able to enter in the final minutes and I did well. Just hoping to be able to adapt in the best way possible in the upcoming games.

MNUFC MIDFIELDER RASMUS SCHULLER

On how it felt to score …

It had been almost two years since I have scored, so it felt good.

On making the run on his goal …

Darwin is a great player and he can keep the ball in the box, so I knew if I came in the second wave that he could find me and that’s what I did and I found the bottom corner. It was nice to see it go in.

On Quintero’s influence on the team …

He has had a huge influence. He has been vital in this home stretch of games. When you can find him in between their lines, just the way he can turn when there is no space, he creates the space. He is a special player and he has been huge for us.

On the shift to the 5-3-2 formation and its effect on his position …

It’s a lot of work, but every formation is a lot of work. It seems to be working for us. We have taken a lot of points with it. I am happy with it. And today it was the third game in a week and it took some time to get the lungs opened up. But after they opened it felt okay. I am enjoying it.

On this result against one of the newer team in the league …

I haven’t thought of it in that way, but the goal difference can be a crucial thing at the end of the year. You need to score more goals than you concede so it was great to take a big win.

MNUFC DEFENDER FRANCISCO CALVO

On how rewarding it is to come out with the “final” mentality they set earlier this week …

Yeah, we’ve been talking about, we have, I told you, right? We have 15 more finals and I think we show that. That’s how the finals play. You know? You should play the finals. I think that’s really important for us: getting the nine points in this week. And finish with 5-1, our mentality is going to get better and better. And we prove to ourselves that we can beat — I always say that — we can beat any team in this league. Just looking ahead for our next three in Vancouver.

On his previous mention of Atlanta United and LAFC getting more respect from the league and how it feels now that MNUFC beat LAFC …

First of all, I want to see what MLS is going to say about it and what the media is going to say about us now. I mean, for me, the similarity of it is Atlanta or LA. The only thing that I said before, is like, MLS give too much to that kind of teams. Just because we didn’t spend $20 million, that doesn’t mean that we had that bad team, you know? Because, we beat Atlanta over there, we beat these guys over here. I think we prove — we don’t have to prove nobody that we are a good team. We need to prove to ourselves that we are a good team. And I think, we are close in the locker room right now. We are getting more strong and together as a family. And our first goal is to get into the playoffs. And we’re getting close, we’re getting close. And that’s our first goal. And then when you get into playoffs, it’s a different term.

On if anything was said or done on the field to respond to LAFC’s equalizing goal …

To be honest, I mean, when Rasmus score and then they scored a goal, I never feel like we’re going to lose, to be honest. And I think the whole team has the same feeling. Because we were playing well, we just give that goal away. I should have cleared before, and then I think Collen [Warner] too, but it’s still a goal. And, I mean, that will happen. We will score five goals. We know that if we have the clean sheet, we’re gonna score goals. Darwin is on fire, Miguel is on fire, Christian is coming back and he’s on fire. This team have a lot of goals in front of them.

On if winning these three games will give them confidence for Vancouver on the road …

That’s our goal. That’s our goal. We talk about it before. If we get the nine points this week, our confidence is gonna get high. And the teams are gonna be careful now to play against us because, I’ve said before, I don’t think we have to change anything. Anything. Because, if we play — I mean, I never play in Vancouver, but I think that the field is the same, or awful than this one, you know. So, I mean, we have to feel like we’re playing at home. Try to do the same thing.

MNUFC DEFENDER BRENT KALLMAN

On earning nine points this week …

It was a goal we set out for ourselves this week. It was a huge week for us and we knew it was a possibility to get a nine point week and to finish it off in this fashion feels really good. I think everyone is really proud right now.

On adapting to LAFC’s pressure in the first 15 minutes …

They were moving the ball well and they were locking us deep so we just had to absorb the pressure. We were trying to pass runners on and make sure we were defending the box really well and kind of bend but don’t break. We were able to do it and we looked dangerous on almost every break. We have these guys that are really good in transition and you give them time on the ball and they are really dangerous. It’s going to make teams think twice about pressing us like that because we are so dangerous going forward once we win the ball; especially deep. So it worked in our favor in the end.

On what Quintero’s peak level is in MLS …

He’s… I don’t have a good answer to that question. He has been really good. Part of the way we have been playing right now really play to his strengths. When we get him out in space on the counter to work and we get him isolated on these centerbacks, they have a hard time dealing with him.

On how he feels after three games …

I was really sore going in to this one, but I knew once we got warmed up in and the crowd behind me the adrenaline would kick in and I would be fine. Everyone is getting a couple days off so we will get some good recovery in the next few days and we will be fine.

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