Jun 3, 2018; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Diego Rubio (11) celebrates after scoring against Minnesota United in the second half at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
After holding Sporting Kansas City to a 1-1 draw in Minneapolis on May 20, Minnesota was unable to manage a result Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park. In the loss, the Loons conceded four goals for the first time in 2018 and were outshot 25-7.
While losing to the Western Conference leaders on the road isn’t necessarily cause for great concern, the final margin denied the visitors much sense of a moral victory.
It seemed like the Loons might make a game of it early, as Tyrone Mears’ long-range effort answered Dániel Sallói’s opening goal. Back-to-back goals from 19-year-old Wan Kuzain and Cristian Lobato, scored just three minutes apart, broke the game open before the half. Then a second-half red card left the Loons lucky to escape with only a three-goal defeat.
Alexi Gomez’s early exit
Gomez had a first half to forget against SKC, contributing little before being replaced by Adrian Heath at halftime.
The Peruvian completed 10 of 14 passes, was dispossessed on the dribble, contributed a recovery and made one successful tackle. Looking at a map of Gomez’s distribution, the left winger failed to play a single ball into Kansas City’s penalty area, and his only completed passes in the final third moved the ball away from goal.
The evening’s effort wasn’t an aberration as Gomez has struggled to find his feet since transferring from Liga MX’s Club Atlas. Prior to the move, Gomez’s last start for Los Zorros came on Feb. 10 against Lobos BUAP.
Gomez was given a single, 12-minute substitute appearance against Houston April 28 before the trade of Sam Nicholson’s to Colorado landed the former in Minnesota’s starting XI. That occurred after season-ending knee injuries to Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay reduced the talent available to Heath at what was viewed as Minnesota’s deepest position heading into the 2018 campaign.
Loons fans will be hoping Gomez finds his feet sooner rather than later. Based on Gomez’s passes and shots attempted, the winger has only produced a 1.07 expected goals-plus-assists in 488 minutes this season, per American Soccer Analysis. In the final third, Gomez has completed 55 percent of his passes and has placed four of 12 shots on target.
“We made the change at halftime, which we had to do,” Heath said following Sunday’s loss. “I thought we actually started the second half quite well, and even though it’s 3-1, you think if you get the next goal you can make a game of it. But the sending off of Maxi was really the killer blow for us. After that, it was: can we keep it down?”
Maximiano’s rapid exit
Introduced in Gomez’s place to facilitate a change from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-3-3, Maximiano made a quick impact. In the 48th minute, the defensive midfielder was shown his first yellow card of the game for tripping Kuzain from behind.
Fifteen minutes later, Maximiano caught Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sánchez late with a lunging tackle that got no part of the ball. Referee Drew Fischer showed him a second yellow.
The dismissal set two MLS-era club records. Gomez became the first Loons substitute to be shown red, and being sent off after playing just 18 minutes marked Minnesota’s fastest red card.
|Minnesota United Red Cards (MLS Era)|
Having accrued four yellow cards in three games, Maximiano has been cautioned an average of once every 26.5 minutes. The Brazilian has the potential to be an important player for Minnesota, as neither Rasmus Schüller or Ibson are true No. 6s. But in order to be an asset, Maximiano will have to show enough discipline to stay on the field.
It might come off as odd to single out a centerback for praise in a 4-1 defeat, but Brent Kallman turned in a solid shift in his first start since March 24 at New York Red Bulls.
Called upon to start because captain Francisco Calvo is on international duty with Costa Rica, the 27-year-old defended well while sitting deep and trying to help his team absorb pressure. Kallman’s final stat line read three blocks, two interceptions, four clearances and a recovery — all from within the Loons’ penalty area.
For his own part, Kallman was introspective after the final whistile.
“I felt good about the way that I played in the box but some of my clearances weren’t good enough,” said Kallman. “Those are dangerous when you clear a ball and then the ball knocks down to the next level and they’ve got guys there waiting to shoot. The clearances have got to be better.”
Said Heath: “We obviously never came to terms with their wide guy coming in field and the fullback going wide. We allowed them too much space to do that.”