Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

FMFC 0-2 MNUFC: Squall

Good Thursday all, would be a better Thursday knowing we’re in the 4th round draw of the Open Cup, but it just wasn’t to be this time around. It’s easy for me to say we can pick ourselves up after a result like that having watched the game from my vacation home couch in Belize, because for just the second time in the past four years, I missed a competitive home game at Breese Stevens. I can say from experience that weeknight matches are tough in general, difficult for the team to play some many games in quick succession but also tricky for the home support to prioritize around their normal work schedule. This is amplified for the folks helping curate the stadium atmosphere, often needing to leave work early the day of, set up the section, play a drum/instrument or wave flags for 90 minutes, and then be a bit of a zombie the next day as well.

When you add last night’s unrelenting cold, 15-20 mph sustained winds, and sideways rain to the heap, it makes for a brutal 36 hours, and I’m sure many Flock End fanatics woke up this morning with only one thought on their minds: being able to lie back down for sleep tonight. Even with all that said, those folks all do this stuff because they love this club and will support the team no matter the conditions or how many other people show up. The club is lucky to have them as fans.

The matchup brought arguably the first proper away presence at Breese Stevens for a football match since June of 2011, when the Madison 56ers hosted Chicago Fire’s PDL side in the Open Cup. This time around Madison fans played host to Twin Cities friends in Dark Clouds, True North Elite, and Red Loons, among others. Unable to fit their numbers into the corner section opposite the Flock End, they appeared to be in section 111, just 2 sections over in the Grandstand from the Brearly end of the stadium. The Loons faithful giving their all for their team in such close proximity to the relentless Flock End made for a raucous atmosphere, palpable even through the broadcast. I’m bummed I missed seeing some of my MNUFC-supporting friends in person, and doubly disappointed I missed being in that stadium atmosphere, even with the cold and rain. Huge thanks to the Twin Cities folks who made it down, especially the folks on the coaches with a same-day return – an 8-hour round trip is brutal, hope y’all were able to call off work today.

Match Recap

Jeremiah Streng got the match started from the center circle, It was quite the back and forth battle for possession without much to say about chances on goal until the 17th minute. A dangerous cross came in the Flamingos’ box, to which a sloppy clearance was attempted by Enriquez and almost saw Hunou have Minnesota’s first chance on goal. Breno reacted exactly how you’d want, leaping into action to make his first save of the game.

16 minutes later the Loons once again had a chance on goal. After a couple of one-touch passes from MNUFC’s left flank, the ball finds its way into the Madison box and falls to Hunou who hits it straight at Breno, ricocheting off, the danger eventually cleared by Leonard. Then in quick succession, Loons take the corner, Leonard clears it, and it’s once again put into the Madison box and headed towards goal but goes just right of the far post and out for a goal kick.

I’m not exactly sure where the 6 minutes of added time came from in the first half, which ended up being played into the 52nd minute. Justin Sukow was subbed on for Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu in the 29th minute, following a strong challenge on AWO by Joseph Rosales in the 9th minute. Rosales receives a pass from behind on MNUFC’s left flank, takes a couple of touches and makes a forward pass at the same moment AWO steps in to make a tackle.

AWO gets the ball, and Rosales in his follow-through steps directly on AWO’s ankle. Bizarrely, the ref doesn’t even issue a foul. Even slowing it down, stepping through the frames it looks inoccuous, but AWO gets the ball and Rosales – unintentionally or not – gets the man. It’s not a cautionable offense, but it’s still a foul. Really hope Andrew is okay, and that having the next 10 days off will help heal things up. He’s been such an important part of this team, it would be a huge loss to see him out for an extended period due to ligament damage or similar. I assume he’s gone in for a scan today, everything crossed all is well.

Play is stopped, and AWO continues to play until the 29th minute when he has to sit down and tell the ref he needs to come off. After the game Coach Glaeser weighed in on the challenge and AWO’s condition having to come off, and was none too happy about it:

(He’s in) bad shape, man. Pretty awful tackle, to be honest, if you watch it back. His leg’s not looking great. So I was a little bit puzzled by the decision not to call a foul there and then give us a red card late in the game. I thought that was a little bit befuddling, to put it kindly. He’s not in a great place.

– Head Coach Matt Glaeser on Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu

Now, I know football is a contact sport and these types of collisions happen, it’s frustrating that the referees around competitions under US Soccer are just so goddamned inconsistent in their calls. We previously complained about the referee in Tucson handing out cards like candy, but this one handed out the same amount of yellows (8) plus a straight red. We’ll come back to that though.

The visitors would break the deadlock just 6 minutes into the 2nd half, Adrian Hunou firing home a header from a corner. The traveling Loons would once again force a save from Breno in the 66th minute, Rosales playing a 1-2 into the Madison box, laying it off for Hunou whose shot forced Breno to drop and push the ball away. Drew Conner replaced Christian Enriquez in the 68th minute, followed by Cassini and Murillo making way for Bartman and Alvin Jones in the 78th minute, a tactical substitution and Jones’ first minutes for the Flamingos.

Minnesota would head home another corner just 5 minutes later, Rosales delivering a near-post lob which found the head of Brent Kallman. 3 of the past 3 goals we’ve conceded have come from corners, so it’s definitely something the team needs to sort out. Glaeser mentioned as much during the postgame presser:

I thought we were well-organized for a large majority of the game, difficult to break down. It took us a little bit to get into it, but I thought we did a good job of making the game difficult for them and making their chances difficult ones. Look, ultimately it’s pretty clear – we concede on two set pieces, and so that’s something we’ve gotta address, something we’ve gotta improve on. We’ve gotta go back to the drawing board. We’ve got a little bit of a break until Fresno at home next weekend, and we’ve got some time to work on some things. so we’ll get to work.

One minute later as Minnesota started to try to break from their third into the middle, Drew Conner came sliding in and his intended target saw it coming and made an absolute meal of it. The commentator on the ESPN+ feed even pointed out that an earlier similar challenge from Mitch Osmond wasn’t given a straight red, and remarked that the punishment for Conner wasn’t consistent with the way the head official was calling fouls. “I think Drew Conner can feel very hard done by it.” PRO Referees, everyone.

After the red card the Loons made a couple more subs, and though Madison were playing down a man, still kept pushing and pressing but were unable to create much in the way of chances. The ref called for 5 minutes of added time, in which Audi and Streng continued to press in the middle and final thirds. Alvin Jones tallied himself a couple of tackles and in general looked quite solid being employed as a wingback on the right side. In the end a frustrating evening in dire weather, but one where defensive lapses on set pieces were Madison’s undoing. Matt Glaeser still had plenty of praise for the fight of his team, noting there were positives to take from Madison’s exit from the Open Cup:

I’m really proud of the guys, they worked their socks off. We knew it was going to be a tall order with them sending such a strong group down. The guys worked their socks off, they stuck to the game plan, and I think we made it interesting for the better part of the game. Look, there are certain things we’re going to improve on that are clear to everyone, so we’re going to continue to improve and grow, but overall, pleased with the resolve, pleased with the resilience. These are the things we’ve spoken about all season and preseason, so, really pleased with the effort.

– Matt Glaeser

On Madison’s difficulty creating and converting chances:

In training we’re going to be looking at getting some things right on the defensive set piece side of things. We’re going to be looking at quality with the ball. Obviously tonight is a bit of a one-off, it’s hard to be super objective about our attacking performance with the quality of the opponent we faced. I believe for our level and our league, we have a good attacking group. I think we’re going to create chances, we’re going to play some good football, and if you look at the stats in the league, that’s reflected in the way we play our football. So, no real concerns but we have plenty of things to touch up on.

– Matt Glaeser

The Lineup

As mentioned in our preview, Cassini and Streng were both in the starting XI for the first time in competitive play this season. The duo replaced Tucson starters Abdou and Bartman, and the back line saw Cesar Murillo get the nod while Alvin Jones started from the bench. After AWO came off injured, Mikey Maldonado was frequently pushed into the CDM role, and for the most part acquitted himself quite well.

Lineups and player ratings from Fotmob

Cassini looked like he was still carrying a remainder of that calf issue, though I thought did quite well for himself and looked very lively against a good Minnesota side. His trickery and ability to run at defenders – to find space where there seemingly is none – is a quality that’s been largley lacking since the departure of Josiel Nuñez. He’s been a welcome addition, and the hope is some time off with his fiance now in Madison will be the medicine he needs to be at 100% before a very good Fuego side comes to town on April 30.

Look, the guys all worked hard tonight. it was such a difficult task. I thought literally every player that started the match worked their socks off. In terms of our defenders – all of our defenders – I wish we had GPS so we could see the amount of work that our group did. For me, no one particularly was outstanding, but I thought the guys worked really hard in a really difficult game. 

– Matt Glaeser

Right, it’s time I moseyed back to the beach, I’ve got a hammock calling my name and a nap to accomplish before Grant and I chat to Mitch Osmond tonight. Look for that on the site tomorrow, and until then, take it easy ✌️

Author

  • Andrew Schmidt

    Eclecticist, FMFC supporter, Flock co-founder, designer of things, and taker of photos. Writer, wrench, motorcyclist. Pro-intellectualist, anti-pedant. Drinker of coffee and greeter of dogs.

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