Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Loon Call: Your Source for MNUFC News


In an effort to better cover and support MN United FC, In Loons We Trust and The Relegated are joining forces! Bill MK and I have decided that it is both of our best interests' to work together, and we have created a new site to do just that. The Loon Call will be a daily source for news, commentary, and analysis of everyone's favorite soccer team! Come find us at our BRAND NEW SITE.


This will be the final post for In Loons We Trust, unless something goes terribly awry. It's been a short, but very rewarding run. Thank you all for reading, and I hope to see you all at The Loon Call.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Minnesota United v Swansea City: July 19, 2014

Last night, Minnesota United FC welcomed the first ever Premier League club to Minnesota, for the first ever meeting between the Premier League and a club form Minnesota. The turnaround for both clubs was very quick, with Minnesota last playing on Thursday in a 1-0 defeat of the Carolina Railhawks, and Swansea last playing on Wednesday in a 1-1 tie with Chivas USA.

The Loons fielded a few changes from the side that dominated possession against Carolina, with Cristiano Dias, Aaron Pitchkolan, Omar Daley, Daniel Mendes, Kevin Venegas, and Floyd Franks coming off for Simone Bracalello, Michael Reed, Brian and Brent Kallman, and Greg Jordan, who has recovered from his foot injury. 

The Swans and Loons faced off in front of a record-setting crowd of 9,064; this despite NSC only officially having a capacity of 8,000. The full highlights for the match can be found here.

Formation and Tactics

Minnesota United was very smooth in this game- players were mobile and contributed wherever they could. Tactically, Minnesota lined up somewhere between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1. The defense was very clear, with Justin Davis at left back and Brian Kallman at right. Tiago Calvano and Brent Kallman held down the center. In the midfield, Michael Reed and Juliano Vicentini anchored the center, with Miguel Ibarra playing wide on the right and Simone Bracalello wide left. 

This is where things got interesting. When defending, Reed and Vicentini dropped back to become defensive mids, and pushed forward more on the attack. Greg Jordan also was a key swing man; on the attack, he pushed forward and become a central attacking mid, and dropped back to center Bracalello and Ibarra in defense. Christian Ramirez was alone up top. Often, however, Jordan would be even with Ramirez, if not further forward. 

The result was a very fluid team. Jordan has shown his ability and affinity for attacking, and his role in this game showcased that. The combination play between MNU's midfielders was absolutely brilliant, with Ibarra's speed, Bracalello's technical skill, and Jordan's aggressive forward runs causing havoc whenever they were able to move forward. 

Ramirez, however, was rather ineffective for most of the game. He couldn't find space to run into, and his touches on the ball were rare. He was able to draw the occasional foul, but had very little overall effect on the game. 

Justin Davis was again brilliant down the left side. His forward runs provided a target for Vicentini and Reed to pass to, while allowing Bracalello to advance. Defensively, he was responsible, with the steadiness of Calvano and Kallman in the middle providing support when necessary. 

First Half

Davis' runs and Jordan's movement was rewarded very early- Davis was able to get around Swansea's defense on a through-ball from Bracalello and lob the ball to Jordan. Jordan missed his header, but the resulting ball fell back to Davis, who calmly slotted his shot near-post past Swansea keeper Tremmell. This occurred just 7 minutes into the game.

The Welsh side was clearly upset at such a defensive lapse occurring so early in the match. After the goal, Swansea took control of the game. They dominated possession, and the ball was predominantly in Minnesota's half. Fortunately for the American side, Swansea was unable to find the final passes into the box to create quality chances. They regularly were able to cross the ball, but there was rarely a in a threatening situation, and Minnesota was able to clear them. 

The pressure from Swansea calmed a bit after 15 minutes. they retained much of the possession, but their buildup was slower, and players were less aggressive with their runs. At this point, Minnesota was able to get back into the match. The Loons' play was very fluid; players were very willing to leave their traditional zones to create more attacking options. However, this left some Swansea players open and unmarked. This shows the team's trust in their defenders, but very nearly burned them after Swansea won possession back. 

Swansea's aggression, however, would prove to be their undoing. A foul at midfield late in the half resulted in a free kick which, with a few deft touches, fell to Greg Jordan alone with Tremmell. Jordan very coolly knocked the ball in for Minnesota's second goal. 

The Second Half

The second half saw a return to Swansea pressure, which created a number of good opportunities. Swansea's substitutions played brilliantly, and Jonjo Shelvey continued to create chances for his side. Minnesota had their chances also, however. Minnesota for the entire second half (until the end) was very content to sit back defensively and play for the break. After Ramirez came off for MN trialist Abdiel Arroyo, Arroyo showed his speed and created a very nice opportunity

Swansea substituted many players at half across the field; this was, after all, a chance for their manager to see how they perform and help them get into shape for their upcoming season. 

Jonjo Shelvey, while he committed multiple fouls, was putting on an absolute show of class. He was decisive in his tackles, and very offensive in his passing and movement. While it doesn't appear in the highlight reel, at one point, Shelvey punted the ball from near his own penalty box and hit Marvin Emnes in stride near Minnesota's box. Unfortunately, Emnes' first touch was heavy and rolled past the touch line. 

Swansea continued to have much of the possession, but Minnesota was dangerous on the break. Furthermore, towards the end of the half, Minnesota was able to retain possession and keep the ball in Swansea's end. This may have been as much due to Swansea's lack of ideas moving forward as much as Minnesota's skill, but this is not a team that plays for the counterattack because they have to. 


This game was a great demonstration of Minnesota's depth. By the end of the game, few of Minnesota's regular starters were on the field. Despite this, Minnesota fielded a very productive side. 

Vicentini was very good getting the ball forward, though he wasn't quite as solid as Pitchkolan in the midfield. Michael Reed was very quick and willing to go forward. Furthermore, his long term shots were optimistic, and some were very nearly in: kept out only by Fabianski's diving saves. 

Greg Jordan was, for me, the man of the match. His movement was brilliant, his tackles intelligent, and he had great vision. He drew a number of fouls, as well as a few cards (for Swansea players), and won headers consistently. Based on his play in this match, I see no reason he should not be starting, save if his fitness is an issue. To that, he was unavailable on Thursday due to a lower leg issue. 

Ramirez hasn't scored a goal in the past two matches. While he had chances against Carolina, he was unable to capitalize, and he was very ineffective against Swansea. His movement was not particularly great, but I'm not panicking yet- one game does not a habit make. It's also important to realize that his play in the Spring season was likely above Ramirez' average, and we may see some regression to the mean in the fall. 

Not enough good things can be said about Jonjo Shelvey. He stood out, and played the general for his side, and played it effectively. They were unable to find the back of the net, but Minnesota was defensively competent, and Swansea is just adjusting to a new roster. Further, their inability to find the final passes are, from what their fans have told me, pretty typical for the side. 

On that note- I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions I had with Swansea supporters last night- just generally a great group of folks, and I hope our squads have a chance to meet again. 

Minnesota's next match is on Saturday, August 2 against the Ottowa Fury. The match is in TCF Bank Stadium, and follows EPL Champions Manchester City vs. Greek champions Olympiakos. I unfortunately will be out of town during the match, but I believe Bill MK will be there, so keep an eye on The Relegated, and keep an ear to the ground regarding MNUFC coverage.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Minnesota Improve to 2-0, Defeat Carolina 1-0

Image courtesy of Minnesota United FC


Last night's game was fantastic! It featured some very nice play by Minnesota United, and was a great win for the team. Let's take an in-depth look:

Lineup and Tactics:

Minnesota, being without Greg Jordan and Pablo Campos due to Injury, put Omar Daley into the starting lineup. Mitch Hildebrandt started in goal. Justin Davis was at left back, with Kevin Venegas on the right, and Calvano and Dias in the center. The midfield was anchored by Aaron Pitchkolan and Floyd Franks in the center, with Daniel Mendes on the right wing and Omar Daley on the left. Miguel Ibarra and Christian Ramirez tag-teamed up front as dual strikers.

The formation was, fundamentally, a 4-4-2, but that does a disservice to the style of play United employed. The only five players who truly played their position consistently were Hildebrandt in goal (duh), and the "spine" of the field: Franks and Pitchkolan in the midfield, Calvano and Dias at the back. United used, to a large extent, was is called "total football," that is: players were very free to float and take up space.

This was especially noticeable in the midfield: when one of the wing-players (Daley or Mendes) would journey forward, one of the center-mids would drop back a bit. This floating strategy could also be seen from the play of the strikers: it was not uncommon to see Ibarra drop back to collect the ball from Dias or Calvano, and make a long run to return to the front. There was a stretch of 2-3 minutes when Ramirez ended up on the right wing.

This is both good and bad. On the plus side, having that mobility in their players allowed United to maintain possession very well, and allowed their creative players to journey forward when they saw an opportunity. The downside is that it can force players to play positions which they aren't as familiar with: Ramirez very nearly gave away the ball at midfield while playing on the wing. While that wouldn't be a problem if he were up top, it is more problematic to give the ball away at the center line.

That said: the tactic worked very well in terms of creating scoring chances: Minnesota had a number of great shots and scoring opportunities; they were simply unable to take advantage of them.

With all that said, let's look at the game itself:

First Half:

The first half began with Carolina aggressively coming forward and creating a few scoring chances. Hildebrandt, Calvano, and Dias were able to keep the ball from the twice, however. After the first 2-3 minutes, the game took the pace that it would hold for most of the game: Minnesota having lots and lots of possession, often in Carolina's half, but struggling to find the final passes to create a goal. When Carolina would win possession, they would rarely get past the midfield line. Minnesota employed a very high press throughout the game, catching Carolina offsides multiple times. There were long stretches of time where the only player in Minnesota's half was Mitch Hildebrandt.

Much of the first half was spent with Minnesota passing around, trying to find a way into the net, with Carolina chasing the ball. Minnesota was finally able to break through with a low, driven corner kick that found Dias, and then Mendes tapped it in for the lone goal. It's hard to see on the replay: there was a lot of ping-ponging around, and even  the crowd took a second to realize MNU had scored.

The rest of the first half passed, much as the early did: lots of MNU possession, but few great scoring chances.

Second Half:

The second half nearly saw MNU score again within 5 minutes; there were 2 great chances, including one particularly nice chance for Daniel Mendes to double up. Scott Goodwin, Carolina's keeper, had a great game, and was able to keep the score level despite a number of good chances and shots by MNU. Calvano had a brilliant header from a corner kick, but a Railhawk defender was able to clear it from the line.

From there on out, Carolina had some great chances. Hildebrandt was on his game, and it's a good thing he was. Minnesota was assisted a number of times by the posts of the goal, which were effective at keeping balls out also.

Things heated up in the 80th minute, when a late tackle by Justin Davis led to a scuffle, much akin to the MNU-Mexico game. The scuffle resulted in both teams being reduced to 10 men (Davis for Minnesota, Kupono Low for Carolina), as well as a yellow card for Carolina.

After the cards, while Minnesota did not put another defender on the field, Pitchkolan dropped back far more often, and Dias played wider to cover for Davis' absence.

Thoughts and Notes:

Omar Daley getting the start was a bit of a surprise: he has been a sub most of the season. Daley made multiple great runs forward, but simply couldn't find the net; almost all of his shots went wide. He's a good attacking midfielder, but Minnesota (apparently) cannot count on him to score goals. He also made a number of questionable tackles, and seemed to get a little hot-headed early on, though to his credit he was able to calm down, and made dangerous runs throughout the night.

Tiago Calvano and Cristiano Dias are absolutely the coolest cucumbers on the planet. They had very little to do for the first half, yet were reliable and consistent when they were called upon. They are the rock upon which the defense is built, and I'm very comfortable with them leading the defense for as long as they are able.

Overlapping Runs from the midfield played a HUGE role in Minnesota retaining possession and creating offensive chances. The interplay between the wing players- Diaz, Venegas, Daley, and Mendes, is extremely important, and their willingness to run fast and far is hugely vital also.


A HUGE thank you goes out to Minnesota United FC, and Eric Durkee in particular, for getting me into the press box last night. What a fantastic way to watch the game!

It was great to meet Bill MK- a fellow MNU blogger, who writes for his site The Relegated. If you don't follow him and/or read his site- GO DO IT.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2 Upcoming Games, and Team News

Welcome back!

This week, the Loons play 2 games, against the Carolina Railhawks, and Swansea City, of the English Premier League- the first team from the EPL to come to Minnesota.

I will be at both games, and will live-tweet them (wifi allowing) at @ChrisRayBoyd, and will post reviews and analysis of each game here.

For anyone looking for some socialization, there is a Dark Clouds Shuttle (Dethloon Express) that runs from the Nomad pub to NSC before game time, and returns afterwards.

Lastly- Congratulations to Justin Davis, Mitch Hildebrandt, and Miguel Ibarra for being named to the NASL's team of the week. For Justin Davis, this is his 4th consecutive week with this honor, and Ibarra has been named numerous times also.

I'll see you after Thursday.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Minnesota United defeat Fort Lauderdale 3-0

For any who missed it, Minnesota played their fall-season opener this last Saturday night in Florida, and defeated the Strikers 3-0 in a convincing win.

The game saw a return to the 4-2-3-1 used by Manager Manny Lagos previously, and featured a number of great chances for both teams. Mitch Hildebrandt was absolutely stellar in goal, and the Loons were dangerous on the attack.

Hildebrandt seems to have watched the World Cup, and learned from German Keeper Neuer, as he came off his line quickly and aggressively, as Neuer has been lauded for doing in the Cup. There were a few instances where this may have put the team in a bit of a bind, but the defense of the Loons held strong and kept the clean sheet. This save in particular was Neuer-esque, and featured Mitch bravely grabbing the ball while at the feet of an attacker.


The goals came by 3 different players. First, Daniel Mendes found a corner kick and tapped it in after the ball ping-ponged between Mendes and the Florida keeper. Second, Justin Davis broke on a superb run, and fired a low cross to Christian Ramirez, who buried the chance. Finally, after a backwards pass was bobbled and intercepted by Miguel Ibarra, Ibarra dipped, ducked, and dodged the Florida defense and keeper before slotting home a shot.


Minnesota played very well, though this was not as convincing a win as it might seem at first. Had Hildebrandt not been stellar, Florida would have had at least 2 goals. The defense played well, but let in a number of good scoring chances. In addition, while 2 of the goals came from play, Ibarra's score was created by a mis-touch by the opponent. He had a lot to do still, and Miguel deserves loads of credit, but had Florida handled the back-pass better, that goal doesn't happen.

In all fairness to the team, the Strikers are not as bad a team as their spring season showed; there is ability there, and defeating them 3-0 is no small feat.

Games Galore

This coming week, MNU has 2 games, one on Thursday, and one on Saturday. Thursday features the continuation of the fall season, as MNU takes on the Carolina Railhawks at the NSC in Blaine. On Saturday, MNU welcomes the first English Premier League club to come to Minnesota, and takes on Swansea City, also in Blaine.

These games should both be great, and tickets are still available.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy the coverage here, any publicity would be welcomed.

Thursday, July 3, 2014



This is a new blog- it's under construction now, but hopefully will be up and running soon. I will cover Minnesota United FC, as well as big soccer news, updates, thoughts, and whatnot. I'll cover the EPL and Bundesliga as I can, but the focus will be on US National squads, MLS, and NASL.

Thanks for stopping by!