Houston & Minnesota fire blanks in not-so friendly Tucson scrimmage | Preseason soccer
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Preseason soccer

Houston & Minnesota fire blanks in not-so friendly Tucson scrimmage

2-hour match produces no goals on cold night at Kino

Minnesota United FC and Houston Dynamo met at Kino North Stadium on surprisingly chilly Wednesday night for a scrimmage in front of a small crowd. Both teams are still working on fitness, so instead of the usual two 45-minute halves, the match was four 30-minute periods.

The extra half-hour, however, didn’t result in any goals. The teams left the field to a 0 – 0 draw. Fans looking for action had to settle for the half-dozen or so confrontations between players that resulted in two yellow cards and one ejection.

“I don’t know why they were trying to kill each other,” said Minnesota coach Adrian Heath with a laugh. “Every one’s competitive, aren’t they?”

Both teams came to this match working on fitness, with Houston having a bit of a steeper climb on that account with a match against Guatemalan club CD Guastatoya on February 19 as part of the CONCACAF Champions League. In addition to that, Minnesota started the match with a raft of problems to solve after a season with only eleven wins despite players like US national teamer Miguel Ibarra and former Club America forward Darwin Quintero.

Two of Minnesota’s new players, former Kansas City defender Ike Opara and former Seattle Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, saw time for the first hour of the match. Opara showed a bit of his backline leadership early when he helped break up a Houston attack in the 12th minute.

It was still Houston who saw many of the early chances in the match. Strikers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto had shots at Minnesota’s goal in the first thirty minutes.

It took until minute 36 before Minnesota had its first shot, and it took a save from Houston’s Tyler Deric to keep the Loons off the board. An ensuing mass shoving match between the two sides resulted in a red card for Minnesota captain Francisco Calvo. Since it was a preseason friendly, Chase Gaspar, a former Chicago Fire defender acquired in a trade last month, was allowed to take his place.

The final hour of the match featured new Houston additions Marlon Hairston and Tommy McNamara. Neither of the two second-half teams were able to pose much of a threat to the other, and the whistle blew with a nil-nil score line on the score board.

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In a game without much in the way with tactical fireworks, coach Heath still found some positives, citing improvements in the team’s shape as well as Alonso and his new midfield partner, Slovakian Ján Greguš.

“I thought we defended very well against them,” he said. “Early on, they had a couple of good opportunities from corners. Our marking wasn’t so good, but in general I thought our back line looked well organized.”

“I thought our two midfield players are starting to get a chemistry with each other. It was a much improved performance,” he said. “The most important thing for us to do is come through unscathed and build and build next week and gradually get ourselves ready for the opening game”

Minnesota United FC will be returning to Minneapolis for a short (and likely indoor) training stint before playing in Orlando against New England Revolution in a preseason tournament on February 19. Houston Dynamo will face Seattle Sounders FC in a non-gated match on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Kino North Stadium.

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Jenny Sandoval

Midfielders Juan David Cabezas (5) and Osvaldo Alonso (6) meet during the scrimmage.