All good things must come to an end, unfortunately including the winning streak of the Minnesota United Loons. In a defensive battle, the Cosmos were able to find the back of the net in the only goal of the contest. This causes a tie at the top of the NASL table, with MNU and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers both sitting with 12 points. This puts added importance on the Loons' next match, on Saturday, May 17, at home against the Strikers (game starts at 7:00, tickets can be found here).
On Monday, the Loons took the field against the Cosmos. Minnesota lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Ibarra and Ramirez up top. New York, on the other hand, played in a 4-2-3-1, with a lone striker, but three midfielders pushing forward. The strategies, however, differed greatly. New York sought to find space down the flanks and cross into the middle for their striker Stokkelien to knock in. Minnesota, conversely, sat back defensively and tried to play the counterattack.
The first 30 minutes saw intense pressure on a slightly disorganized United, with multiple fouls, yellow cards, hand balls, and free kicks being awarded in favor of New York. The Cosmos had multiple scoring chances, however. Goalkeeper Van Oekel was equal to the task, with assistance from his defenders and midfield (notably Simone Bracalello, who was responsible for the own-goal against the Indy Eleven).
Minnesota had a difficult time maintaining possession throughout the game, and it would be a theme that they would fail to capitalize on what chances they earned. The pressure from the Cosmos would continue, with occasional ventures forward by Minnesota, until the half.
After the intermission, Minnesota made few changes to their strategy, and the same was true of New York. By no accident, the run of play continued, with New York possessing the ball far more than Minnesota, and earning more scoring chances as well. 15 minutes into the half, a corner kick for the Cosmos by right fullback Hunter Freeman found their central attacking midfielder Marcos Antonio Senna Da Silva (better known as Senna), who was able to hit the ball low into the corner.
The final 30 minutes saw Minnesota press forward, while New York was able to sit back and defend. Minnesota was able to earn a number of decent scoring opportunities, but was unable to break through the Cosmos' defense. Minnesota Coach Manny Lagos made a number of changes in the second half, but none were able to find the touch, and the 1-0 scoreline stood at the end of stoppage time.
This represents the first loss for Minnesota United, but also the first time the team played poorly. Their season thus far has been marked by immense cooperation, with every goal-scorer also marking at least 1 assist. The Cosmos are a tough opponent who have been a bit snake-bitten this season; losing to them is not a marker of impending doom.
That said, the next match against Fort Lauderdale is particularly important, with 6 points hanging in the balance between the league leaders. The winner will tally 15 points, putting them at least 3 above the next team. The Strikers have played well this season, winning 2 of their matches by 2 or more points, and losing only one (to FC Edmonton).
The match between the two at the top of the table is this Saturday, May 17. The game begins at 7:00 PM, at the National Sports Center in Blaine, MN. Show up and show your support for your team! Tickets can be purchased HERE.
photo courtesy of Minnesota United FC