Coach’s corner: Manny Lagos’ perspective on the Home Opener
The players and coaching staff felt and appreciated the tremendous energy created by Minnesota soccer fans at the Metrodome on Saturday night as we all welcomed the start of a new era of pro soccer in our great state. As much as we would have liked to get the season going with a win, I was very proud of the players’ energy and effort toward securing a victory. Having said that, we must learn from this game and get better in order to effectively participate in a very competitive league.
San Antonio played almost the entire game in a 4-4-2 formation with a very deep and compact set up. We felt that our 4-2-1-3 formation matched up very well. In theory, this should not only lead to good ball possession, but also put us in key attacking areas to break down their defensive positioning. In fact, we got the ball possession we wanted, but it ended up being too deep and too wide to develop the type of attacks that lead to good and consistent scoring chances.
Both sides seemed to be a little tentative to start the first half. Maybe it was opening day jitters, but that lack of aggression early on in the match cost us the ability to dictate the tempo from the start. This led to a limited number of scoring chances in the first 15 minutes. A big positive, though – from the very beginning to the 90th minute – was our organization and shape on defense. That stability set the tone in terms of us keeping a clean sheet. San Antonio did create a few opportunities off through counter attacks and a couple of some dangerous set pieces throughout the game, but keeper Daryl Sattler (and the crossbar!) was up to the challenge each and every time. He exuded great confidence for the entire game.
About halfway through the first half, we switched Simone Bracalello from the left wing to the right wing and Lucas Rodriguez from the right wing to the left in order to spark more movement offensively. This led to some nice spaces opening up and with that a better tempo and better soccer. In addition, it helped create some really nice scoring chances for us to close out the first half. That momentum carried into the second half where we continued to create good chances early on. We had several opportunities to win the game, but unfortunately we were unable to capitalize on them.
We made three substitutions in the second half. The first one followed Justin Davis going down with an ankle injury in the 63rd minute. As a coach, you hope not to have to use a tactical substitution in response to an injury, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Fortunately, Kevin Venegas was able to step in a shore up our back line very capably. In the 72nd minute, we subbed in Kentaro Takada for Lucas Rodriguez to give us some much needed energy wide. Our last sub was Travis Wall for Etienne Barbara in the 86th minute.
Every soccer match is unpredictable, especially in terms of the ebb and flow within a game. In this game – particularly in the second half – it is fair to say that we created some great chances. From Simone’s world-class blast off the bar (which would have beaten any keeper in the world) to the superb opportunities for Aaron Pitchkolan and Kevin Venegas, the game certainly was ours to win. At the same time, it is fair to say that we didn’t have quite enough creativity in the final third of the field to ensure that we got the game winner. This is the reality of playing any game against a quality opponent who also wants a positive result.
The team is disappointed about this missed opportunity to earn three points at home on opening day, but everyone has been back working hard at training the past two weeks. We will be ready for Edmonton when we return to the Metrodome on Saturday, April 20th. Kickoff will be at 2:30pm and will be preceded with tailgating and live music outside starting at 12:30pm.
Saturday was a special night for all of us. Without question, the players admirably represented the state and the Minnesota United FC badge. I was extremely encouraged by the immense enthusiasm for Minnesota soccer that I saw on display. The players, coaches, medical and support staff are all excited to be part of this great beginning. I look forward to seeing you at 2:30pm on April 20th at the Metrodome.
Photo by Ryan Siverson, RySiPhoto.com
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