MNUFC2 Opens Second Season with Two Dominant Away Wins

Minnesota United FC 2 does not have an easy start to their 2022 MLS Next Pro campaign. The Twos will play their first six matches of the season all on the road. So far the extended season opening road trip has been going very well for MNUFC2. The Twos defeated Real Monarchs SLC (RSL) 3-0 at Zions Bank Stadium in the season opening match played in Utah. Then over the weekend MNUFC2 duplicated the result of the first team with a 3-1 win over St. Louis City 2 at CITYPARK on Sunday afternoon.

MNUFC2’s first starting XI of 2023 season ahead of a 3-0 win at Real Monarchs SLC on Friday, March 24. (Photo courtesy MNUFC2)

Matchday 1 at Real Monarchs SLC:

MNUFC2 had some work on their hands as they opened the season playing with a short bench. While MLS Next Pro allows for 20 players to be named to the roster, Minnesota only had a total of 15 players, including Emmanuel Iwe and Zaydan Bello. Iwe and Bello signed a short term deal with MNUFC the next day in order to fill out the first team’s roster against Vancouver Whitecaps. Of those four substitutes, one was goalkeeper Will Pulisic, leaving the Twos with only 3 field players to use as substitutes. Even with just 15 players compared to SLC’s 19, MNUFC2 would walk away out of Zion’s Bank Stadium with a 3-0 clean sheet victory.

“It was difficult conditions to play the game. We were under a little bit in the beginning, but that last half hour of the first half, I thought we were excellent,” Minnesota United 2 head coach Cameron Knowles stated after the match. “They [Real Monarchs] had the better start to the second half, but then we started to get a grip of the game and then obviously, the red card helped. But, considering how many people we had making their first professional appearances, it was fantastic from the guys.”

Minnesota scored the opening goal of the night on the snow covered pitch in the 39th minute when Keith Romanshyn sent a beautiful long pass from inside the centre circle through the middle to Diogo Pacheco. Pacheco took control of the pass near the top of the box and immediately squeezed a low shot between SLC keeper Blake Kelly and the nearside post to make the game 1-0. MNUFC2 would score once again before the halftime break when Loïc Mesanvi received a long pass and drew Blake Kelly towards him as he got to the top of the six yard box. Mesanvi then slipped a low short cross to Fatorma Conneh who finished the play with a shot from inside the six into a wide open goal.

Real Monarchs forward Zavier Gozo was issued a second yellow card for a bad foul in the 58th minute, resulting in SLC being required to play the remainder of the match with just 10 players. In all Real Monarchs would be issued 3 yellows and the lone red (for a second yellow) on 14 fouls, while Minnesota was issued just one card on 17 fouls. The Twos put a bow on the match with an 81st minute goal, once again by Diogo Pacheco, with Conneh sending in the pass and getting the assist.

“We had Rory [O’Driscoll], who was new to us, playing tonight playing central-midfield where he spent all of last season playing right-back. We had Kage [Romanshyn] playing in there as well. Those three [including Diogo Pacheco] were all outstanding,” said head coach Cameron Knowles. “They balanced off of each other, the ball that Kage played for the first goal was fantastic. The second goal with Loic [Mesanvi], to hold off and send that ball unselfishly across the box to Leo [Conneh] – I think they were all just wanting each other to succeed and willing to do the work for each other. That makes a big difference.”

MNUFC2 continues the 2023 season with a 3-1 win at St. Louis City 2 on Sunday, April 2. (Photo courtesy MNUFC2)

Matchday 2 at St. Louis City 2:

After having run a short bench the weekend before, Minnesota United 2 would have a full roster for the side’s second match of the season. The Twos regained both Iwe and Bello back for the match, with Iwe fresh from another short term contract with the senior team. Additionally Patrick Weah played his first competitive match since 2021, coming on in the 76th minute for Iwe. This comes after Weah missed the entire 2022 season due to a torn ACL. MNUFC2 would have to come back from down 1-0 early and struck three second half goals in order to take their second win of the season.

“Overall, it was a really good performance from the guys. To come back from a goal down is never easy, but the response from the guys in the second half was outstanding. To get ourselves back into game and then to keep pushing to find the winner, and then add on to the result, I just thought overall that it was a really good response in the second half from the guys,” MNUFC2 head coach Cameron Knowles said about his teams performance.

Just four minutes in Britton Fischer committed a bad foul in the box, earning a yellow card and giving St. Louis their first big chance of the afternoon with a penalty kick. Célio Pompeu’s shot would be saved by goalkeeper Fred Emmings. On the ensuing corner Akil Watts headed a corner into the top corner of the goal to put St. Louis up 1-0. In the 64th minute St. Louis City 2’s Josh Maher was issued a second yellow and the game continued to mirror the senior side’s clash the night before, with MNUFC2 and STLC2 combined for 37 fouls and 10 bookings.

For the second straight week the Twos would have a one man advantage following Maher being sent off and it would not take long for them to take advantage. Juan Mosquera scored the match tying goal in the 66th minute off the rebound when a free kick from just outside the box hit the post. Cameron Dunbar would score the game winning goal in the 85th minute, sending a free kick into the top left hand corner, out of the reach of St. Louis goalkeeper Ben Lundt. Diogo Pacheco scored the teams third goal of the game and his third of the season on a sliding shot inside the six yard box, directly off a pass sent in by Loïc Mesanvi.

Minnesota United 2’s next challenge awaits them on Sunday, as the Twos will head to California for a Western Conference showdown with the 0-2-0 LA Galaxy II at Dignity Health Sports Park. This will be the first meeting between the sides, as Galaxy II has just joined MLS Next Pro after having spent 2014-2022 playing in the second division USL Championship.