Jul 18, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota United forward Christian Ramirez (21) celebrates his goal in the first half against New England Revolution at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS — Christian Ramirez snapped a four-game goalless streak and Minnesota United FC broke with recent history by not conceding late goals to come out 2-1 winners over the visiting New England Revolution. Goals from the Loons’ Darwin Quintero and the Revs’ Diego Fagundez rounded out the evening’s scoring.
The victory extended Minnesota’s home winning streak in the league to three games — the club’s longest since joining MLS last year — giving an announced season-high crowd of 27,544 a reason to celebrate.
Loons head coach Adrian Heath called his team’s victory a “monumental effort against a really well-organized, aggressive, athletic team.”
Minnesota started quickly, scoring in the fifth minute when a midfield header reversed the direction of New England goalkeeper Matt Turner’s goal kick and made its way to Revs centerback Jalil Anibaba.
Anibaba presumably tried to head the ball all the way back to Turner, but didn’t get the required distance. Scooping up the loose ball, Christian Ramirez chipped Turner, who was caught out of position by the turnover.
Ramirez celebrated by taking a seat in the middle of the field.
“I was called a ‘sitting duck’ somewhere, so I thought I’d let them know that I saw that,” explained Ramirez. “One of my teammates passed that along to me, as well as some ranking. It was all fun.”
Ramirez was referring to a pair of tweets from SB Nation blog E Pluribus Loonum’s Twitter account.
Feel like #MNUFC need a striker who can create chances, not just be a sitting duck. And the sitting-duck tactic hasn't been working this season
— E Pluribus Loonum (@EPluribusLoonum) July 17, 2018
Since you asked,
Just a hot take for ya, feel free to agree. https://t.co/LqSRv3KoS8
— E Pluribus Loonum (@EPluribusLoonum) July 17, 2018
“We went to breakfast today, so we were talking about it. [Ramirez] does what he always does when people are talking — he just loves to prove them wrong,” teammate Miguel Ibarra said.
Asked if he’d considered creating any sock-puppet accounts to keep Ramirez motivated, Ibarra laughed and said, “Definitely not. I just tell him, ‘Don’t listen to it,’ and just keep doing what he always does.”
Just before the end of the first half, Quintero doubled Minnesota’s lead.
After a blocked effort of Ramirez’s, Quintero found himself on the ball inside New England’s 18-yard box. Rounding three Revs defenders, the Loons’ dangerman ripped a low shot inside the far post from an acute angle to score his fifth goal in four games.
“In the last two games, we have made five individual errors that have cost us the game,” said Revs Head Coach Brad Friedel. “We can never fault the players work rate, their work rate is superb. I think in the first half they were in our box maybe three times and they scored twice off our mistakes.
“I said it at halftime during the broadcast, ‘What a great strike by Quintero.’ It was such a poor goal because it could have been stopped four different times. You can talk about the strike being good, but the goal was really poor. Anyone that can watch it will see. If you keep putting yourself in these holes, sometimes you can crawl out of them, sometimes not. We have to be far more resilient mentally. It’s something that has been our strengths this season, but the last two games it’s definitely not been there.”
Bouncing back to an extent, New England found a way back into the game not long after halftime.
Racing to a loose ball in Minnesota’s 18-yard box, Kelyn Rowe won inside position on Alexi Gomez and drew a foul from the wingback. After some protesting from the home team that contact occurred outside the penalty area, VAR official Drew Fischer confirmed that referee Jose Carlos Rivero’s initial call was correct, and New England was awarded a penalty.
Fagundez converted the subsequent kick, shooting low and hard down the center as Bobby Shuttleworth’s initial move was to his right.
For Minnesota, the Revs’ goal was an avoidable one. Gomez fouled Rowe while the midfielder was running away from goal.
“I feel that if we can cut silly mistakes out, we’re more than capable of playing with anybody in the league,” Heath said. “Now, can we do that consistently? Can we start to do it on the road? Can we put this type of defensive performance on the road? That’s the next step for us.”
The Loons held New England at bay for the next 25 minutes. Having spoken publicly about his team’s issue with protecting a lead late, Heath opted for a defensive-minded change to see out the last quarter hour, bringing defender Eric Miller on for Ramirez.
Heath described Ramirez as “absolutely gassed at 75 minutes,” but spoke highly of his forward.
“The one thing I told him is all he can control is his enthusiasm and his desire and his workrate. And I thought he put an incredible shift in today,” Heath said. “I’m a firm believer that in football, you always get out what you put in.”
With Ramirez withdrawn, the Loons made use of a 5-4-1, sat deep and dug their heels in. A pair of late saves from keeper Bobby Shuttleworth made the lead stand.
“I think Bobby Shuttleworth had a really good game and made some saves,” Friedel said. “One went off Calvo, the other off Nemeth and a good save off of Diego’s free kick. In the first half, we created numerous opportunities that we should have scored on as well. The chances were definitely there to win the match. I always felt that when it was 1-nil, if we scored the one, we’d score five. It was that kind of feeling on the game, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”