- GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (March 9, 2018) -- After falling 3-2 to the San Jose Earthquakes last week in spite of a comeback spearheaded by midfielder Kevin Molino and his two goals in the final 10 minutes of the match, Minnesota United travels to the Sunshine State to face Orlando City SC this week. This will be Head Coach Adrian Heath’s first time back to face his former team at home and his first chance to play at Orlando City Stadium, which opened last season. The match kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 10, with pre-match coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m. on FOX Sports North PLUS and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
“It’ll obviously be probably quite emotional on the day, because it will be the first time that I’ve been back when the stadium will be full,” said Heath. “You can’t work at a club for six-and-a-half years and put the hours of work that we did, and even have a hand in building the stadium, not to be looking forward to it. I want to go there and win and that’s the be-all and end-all. And everybody down there will expect that of me. We all get fired, I know that. But I think I deserved a little better exit than I got. But that’s in the past now.”
The Loons will be looking to build on the positives that helped them build their way back into the match late and find ways to improve focus and concentration throughout the match to prevent the slips that allowed San Jose to score twice in as many minutes just after the half-hour mark. Last season, the team struggled with giving up cheap goals early and giving themselves a mountain to climb, but Heath sees the result of last week’s narrow defeat differently than he saw some of those outwardly similar losses last year.
“They were individual areas,” he said of the breakdowns. “It was not like we were being pulled all over the place and bad shape. It was individual areas. And obviously, if them areas keep occurring, then you have to do something about it. And the problems that we had last year, I don’t think were the same that we started with this year.”
Midfielder Rasmus Schuller — who began last year with MNUFC, but was loaned out to Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi midway through the season — impressed in his first shift back with the club. He picked off several passes through the middle of the pitch and notched his first MLS assist on Molino’s second goal, but he acknowledges that the work for him and the team as a whole is far from over.
“It’s daily,” he said. “You have to work on it all the time, every time. Every hour of the day. You have to keep it fresh all the time. It’s nothing that comes automatically. You have to work for it.
“I think most of the game we had a good shape,” he added. “And we had a good, positive way of defending and going forward, being in the pockets you want to be. But then we had some moments — lack of concentration. And it got really costly for us. They scored in bad moments for us and after that it was hard to get into the game again. We did it, and we almost got something from the game, but that’s not enough.”
The Loons will have to do more with a little less this week as well, with last week’s starting forward Abu Danladi sidelined with a left-hamstring strain he picked up against the Quakes. Fortunately, MNUFC can slot Christian Ramirez right in and not miss a beat given his success as the team’s leading goalscorer last season, with rookie Mason Toye backing him up off the bench. But depth is a constant for concern for any team, including Orlando, who will be missing midfielders Sacha Klejstan and Pierre Da Silva for the second week due to suspension, defender PC to a red card and other key players like forward Dom Dwyer due to injury. Nevertheless, the Lions were aggressive in the offseason and Heath is not underestimating them.
“I think they brought 13 new players in,” Heath said. “As I’ve said on more than one occasion, I think they’ve probably had the best offseason of any team in MLS. Maybe because they’ve bought five or six pieces that actually makes the first team better. So, you know, they’re going to be tough whoever they put out. Because what’s happened to players that played last year, maybe are getting an opportunity to stake a claim, which they didn’t think they were going to do. I saw enough in their game at the weekend against D.C., it’s going to be a really tough game for us. And I wouldn’t expect anything less going into that stadium.”
Following the match against Orlando City, MNUFC returns to the Twin Cities for its home opener at TCF Bank Stadium against the Chicago Fire on Saturday, March 17, with kickoff at 1:00 p.m. CT. Pre-match coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
M – Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction)
F – Abu Danladi (left-hamstring strain)
GK – Mason Stajduhar (Localized Ewing Sarcoma, out for season)
F – Dom Dwyer (quad strain)
M – Josue Colman (thigh bruise)
M – Oriol Rosell (fitness)
M – Dillon Powers (ankle injury)
M – Sacha Klejstan (suspension, red card)
M – Pierre Da Silva (suspension, Commissioner's decision)
D – PC (suspension, red card)
- Adrian Heath coached Orlando City SC from 2011 to 2016, leading the club to two USL titles and three Commissioner’s Cups. Minnesota Assistant Coach Ian Fuller was on Heath’s Orlando staff from 2011 to 2015 before joining the Loons.
- Kevin Molino played for Orlando from 2011 to 2016. He won two USL MVP awards (2012, 2014) with the Lions.
- Stefano Pinho played for MNUFC in 2016, where he made 25 appearances. He scored five goals and added one assist for the Loons.
- Pinho was a part of Fluminense from 2012 to 2015, where new MNUFC defensive midfielder Luiz Fernando featured for the academy and senior side.
- Jonathan Spector and Tyrone Mears were teammates at West Ham United during the 2006–07 season.
- Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay were teammates with Columbus Crew SC, where they played together from 2012 through part of 2017.
- Molino scored two goals in Minnesota’s 2018 opener, a 3-2 loss at San Jose Earthquakes. It was the fourth time in club history that a player has scored multiple goals in a match. The last player to do so was Abu Danladi on August 26 in the 2-1 win at Chicago Fire.
- Molino scored 11 goals and served up nine assists during his MLS tenure with Orlando.
- Matt Lampson made six saves against the Quakes last match. He is tied for second-most in MLS behind Tyler Miller of LAFC, who made seven.
- Orlando’s PC was one of five players ejected from matches last week.
- Ibson (1A), Ethan Finlay (1A/4G), Mears (1A), Christian Ramirez (1G), Collen Warner (1G) all have career points against Orlando.
- Lampson has a career 1-0-2 record against Orlando. He made six saves in those matches, including two clean sheets.
- Orlando lost two of its leading goalscorers from last year, Cyle Larin and Kaka, during the offseason. Larin (12G) was transferred to Besiktas and Kaka retired from professional soccer.
- Sacha Kljestan led MLS last year with 17 assists while playing for New York Red Bulls. He joined Orlando prior to the 2018 season.
- Orlando’s Meram and Spector both were featured in the MLS Team of the Week for Week 1.
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