The Union opened the new season in disappointing fashion Saturday, held to a 1-1 tie by Minnesota United before an announced crowd of 17,487 at Subaru Park that included MLS commissioner Don Garber.
Minnesota’s Robin Lod opened the scoring in the 23rd minute and Cory Burke equalized in the 35th. But the Union couldn’t find a second goal, despite outshooting the Loons, 19-14, and holding 52% of possession.
“It wasn’t our best today,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “You saw a lot of mistakes, a lot of silly turnovers, things that we know we need to clean up. ... It’s early in the season, so I won’t overreact, but it’s good to get humbled and recognize it’s not going to be that we just step on the field and have an easy time.”
Here are some observations on the game.
Mbaizo beaten again
Just like we saw too often last year, including in the Eastern Conference final, Olivier Mbaizo looked pretty bad on Minnesota’s goal.
He was pressing high when Loons left back Bayake Dibassy hit a long ball down the left wing toward Franco Fragapane, and Fragapane turned and sprinted away. Mbaizo couldn’t recover in time, and when Fragapane got to the end line he had a clear view to pass the ball into the middle for Lod.
The mistake won’t help Mbaizo’s case as Nathan Harriel challenges him to be the Union’s starting right back. But let’s note too that as Lod made the trailing run into the box, he had no Union players near him as he received the pass. It’s a play that teams all over the world run all the time, and the Union did a surprisingly bad job of defending it.
Burke — and Glesnes — answer
Burke’s header for the tying goal was as good as you’ll see, set up by an inch-perfect cross from Jakob Glesnes on the right flank near the end line. Glesnes doesn’t usually get to that part of the field, but he ended up there after a corner kick turned into a broken play.
As much as fans love to yell at the big Norwegian centerback to shoot from long range, this was a reminder that he’s just as good — and just as important — of a passer.
Mikael Uhre got a big cheer from the crowd when he walked on to the field with a Union scarf in hand, but after that Julián Carranza was the player in the spotlight. He was active, but Minnesota kept him from being too much of a threat.
Carranza played 75 minutes, registering 13 touches, 15-of-19 passing, one blocked shot, and two defensive recoveries. He also drew three fouls, one of which bordered on being worthy of a penalty kick but was let go by referee Rubiel Vazquez.
The closest Carranza came to scoring was in the 57th minute, when he was just a step late to a sharp low cross from Dániel Gazdag into the six-yard box.
Though the Union held the overall advantage in shots, Minnesota put six shots on target to the Union’s five. Andre Blake made five saves, including two with big dives, and made a number of other catches of crosses and loose balls that the box score didn’t officially record.
One of the underrated questions coming into the season was who would take the Union’s free kicks in the wake of Jamiro Monteiro’s departure. The answer proved to be Kai Wagner for left-footed free kicks (which wasn’t surprising), and Gazdag for right-footed free kicks.
Jack McGlynn was the Union’s first substitute, replacing Leon Flach in the 68th minute. That was a like-for-like positional move on the left side of the midfield diamond, with Curtin’s decision to start Flach the biggest choice he made on the day.
Curtin really hit the gas pedal in the 75th with a double-substitution: Paxten Aaronson for Gazdag and Sergio Santos for Carranza. Curtin said Santos took the field just a few hours after flying overnight from Chile, where he had gone to finish paperwork to get his U.S. green card. Now that he has it, he doesn’t count as an international player on the roster anymore, and the Union have three international roster spots open.
Solidarity with Ukraine
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the minds of people across the soccer world, the Sons of Ben supporters’ club refrained from the display of colorful banners it usually hangs on the front of the River End. They instead mounted a Ukrainian flag on each side of the end of the tunnel from the locker rooms to the stands.
There was also a well-observed moment of silence across the stadium before kickoff to honor victims of the war so far.