Jul 22, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota United forward Christian Ramirez (21) celebrates his goal with midfielder Miguel Ibarra (10) during the second half against Los Angeles FC at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS — Goals from Rasmus Schüller, Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra, plus a brace from Christian Ramirez saw Minnesota United run rampant over Los Angeles Football Club for a 5-1 result. Benny Feilhaber found the scoresheet for LAFC on a night to forget for the visitors at TCF Bank Stadium.
Quintero started things off in the 25th minute, slamming on the breaks when reaching the endline on a counter and waiting for Schüller to arrive in the penalty area on a trailing run. The Finn converted an open look from inside the 18-yard box, scoring his first MLS goal in his 27th appearance with MNUFC.
“It felt good. I think it was two years since [my last goal],” said a smiling Schüller. “Darwin is a great player, and he can keep the ball in the box. So if I come in the second wave, he can find me.”
LAFC answered a minute later. With the Loons scrambling to organize in their penalty area during a spell of sustained pressure, Latif Blessing picked out United States international Benny Feilhaber, who made quick work of a close-range finish in front of the announced crowd of 22,739.
“To be honest, when Rasmus scored and then they scored a goal, I never felt like we were going to lose,” said MNUFC captain Francisco Calvo. “The whole team has the same feeling: We’re going to score a lot of goals.”
To that end, the arrival of defender Eric Miller — of all players — sparked a pair of goals just before the close of the first half.
Keeping a corner alive in the 45th minute, Miller headed an attempted clearance from Dejan Jakovic back into traffic in front of goal. The ball found its way through and onto the the foot of Ramirez just before keeper Tyler Miller could reach it, and the forward bagged a poacher’s goal to retake the lead for for the Loons.
A few moments later, in added time, Quintero struck on the counter. Minnesota’s dangerman feinted checking back to the ball, pulling Jakovic up field before blowing past the defender and running onto the end of a finely-weighted ball from Miller. Playing in from an acute angle, Quintero’s far post finish was an accurate one.
“For me, [Quintero is] in that Robbie Keane — who was probably the best player in the league for two or three years — Giovinco, Almirón, he’s in that company,” MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath said. “No disrespect to them players, but he’s played for as big of clubs as them. Great to coach, great to work with, he’s a great presence in the locker room.
“He’s a top-drawer player. As long as we keep him fit and healthy, work with him and put things on ahead of him, then we’ll continue to cause teams problems.”
As it had in the opening minutes of the first half, LAFC started the second on its front foot, pinning the Loons back early.
“Big moments are really important — that you score at the appropriate time,” noted Heath. “Every time that they just started to get a head of steam up we’d go down and put a really clinical finish in.”
LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley took a similar view, but from the opposite sideline.
“Let me stop you right off the bat, we were terrible in all ways,” Bradley interjected. “We had a bad mentality about the game, we had two 90-second meltdowns, so everybody from front to back. So please let’s not just talk about the defensive side because we were bad. The mentality was bad, so in all ways we deserved to get smacked.”
In the 53rd minute with the Loons searching for a way toward goal, Quintero chipped the ball forward for Ramirez. The forward did his best to shield the ball in the penalty area as it squibed past him and into the path of Ibarra, who made easy work of the opportunity.
Five minutes later, Ibarra returned the favor and setup Ramirez. Using a give-and-go with Schüller to beat his mark with a change of direction, Ibarra squared the ball to Ramirez for an easy back-post finish.
Midweek against New England, Ramirez used a goal celebration to respond to critics on Twitter, but against LAFC he offered subdued reactions following both goals in his brace.
Asked if a lack of choreographed celebration was intentional, Ramirez offered only a, “Yeah,” through a broad grin, letting his answer breathe until another question was asked.
In the visitor’s locker room, LAFC looked to move on from the lopsided defeat as quickly as possible.
“You know, the first 20 minutes we started off pretty well, but after we just didn’t have enough guys that wanted to fight tonight,” said defender Mark-Anthony Kaye. “I think our mentality wasn’t very good. This is definitely a game we want to put behind us. We don’t have to go back to the drawing board or anything, but we definitely need to understand that every game we need to fight, especially looking forward to the Galaxy game.”
The Loons achieved their aim of earning all nine points from their three-game homestand and inserting themselves back into the postseason discussion. Spirits were high, but six road games in the team’s next seven contests loom on the horizon. Minnesota’s last road win was March 10 in Orlando against a team missing its top players, Sacha Kljestan and Dom Dwyer.
“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,” said Calvo. “I mean, for me, the similarity of it is Atlanta or LA. The only thing that I said before is MLS gives too much credit to those kind of teams. Just because we didn’t spend $20 million, that doesn’t mean that we are a bad team, you know? Because we beat Atlanta over there, we beat [LAFC] over here.
“We don’t have to prove to 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 stronger and together as a family, and our first goal is to get into the playoffs. We’re getting close. We’re getting close, and that’s our first goal, and then when you get into the playoffs, it’s a different term.”
Heath concluded: “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.”