United FC kicks off preseason friendlies against SKC
Minnesota United FC took to the field for the first time this preseason for a friendly against 2012 US Open Cup winners Sporting Kansas City. Sporting won 2-1 behind closed doors at its Swope Park training facility as Minnesota United FC head coach Manny Lagos took the opportunity to get playing time for 22 different players as United FC finished its first full day on a preseason trip to Kansas City that finishes Friday with an exhibition against the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“Overall it was a great tempo for a first preseason game,” Lagos said. “Kansas City played really well and were just what we needed as we assess our own fitness and match readiness. We’re looking forward to two more days of hard work and another chance to get back out and compete on Friday.”
Lagos started the game by giving 60 minutes to the players he felt were at highest fitness. Matt VanOekel started in goal behind a defense of Justin Davis, Brian Kallman, Connor Tobin and Ernest Tchoupe. Aaron Pitchkolan and Michael Reed played as holding midfielders with Miguel Ibarra and Nate Polak on the wings. Simone Bracalello and Pablo Campos paired up at forward.
The second shift played the final 30 minutes as Mitch Hildebrandt went in goal behind Edi Buro, Kevin Friedland, Kevin Venegas and trialist Luis Heitor-Piffer. Bryan Arguez and Kentaro Takada paired in the middle of the midfield with Travis Wall and trialist Joe Lapira out wide. Etienne Barbara and Griffin paired at forward.
Sporting took to the field with Eric Kronberg in goal. Mechak Jerome, Ike Opara, Yann Songo’o, Josh Gardner, Michael Thomas, Christian Duke, Kyle Miller, Peterson Joseph, Dom Dwyer and Soony Saad rounded out the Kansas City lineup.
Soony Saad—who spent time on trial in Minnesota in 2011 before joining Sporting—had a goal and an assist early in the second half for the hosts before Maxwell Griffin pulled one back with 15 minutes to play. United FC had VanOekel to thank for a scoreless first half after he stopped Saad twice. Saad wouldn’t be denied in the 52nd minute when he slipped behind the defense and scored with his left foot as Sporting broke in a two-on-one. Saad turned provider three minutes later as Yann Songo’o headed home a corner to make it 2-0 right before Lagos’ shift change.
The fresh legs re-energized United FC as Arguez, Barbara and Griffin partnered up with some promising combination play. It paid off on a counterattack in the 75th minute as Griffin played a give-and-go that put Griffin through to make it 2-1. Takada could have tied it with seven minutes to play after stealing the ball from a defender, but Sporting goalkeeper Kronberg stopped him on the break.