Twosies Tumble in Season Opener

Action during MNUFC2’s loss to LAFC2 on Sunday,, March 17. (Photo courtesy: @MNUFC2 – Twitter)

The Twos are back for 2024 and the MLS Next Pro side opened their campaign at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, CA against LAFC 2. For MNUFC2 this was the first of five straight away matches as they await the dome to come down at NSC Stadium in Blaine. In addition to the long road swing to start the season, the Twos currently lack a permanent head coach. Previous head coach Cameron Knowles was named as a first team assistant following the end of his time as interim manager for Minnesota United FC. The preseason chaos was reflected in the final scoreline of this season opener with the Twos being downed 4-1 by the hosts from Southern California.

Only two players from last season’s final Starting XI, Loïc Mesanvi and Kage Romanshyn Jr., were on the roster for this season opener. The Twos shifted from the 4-2-3-1 they primarily used in 2023 to a 4-3-3, matching the formation the first team has used this season. Darius Randell, Jordan Adebayo-Smith, and Mesanvi lined up on the forward line. Romanshyn Jr., Moses Nyeman, and Carlos Harvey were slotted into the midfield while Derek Dodson, Britton Fischer, Morris Duggan, and Jonah Gasho started on the back line with Alec Smir in goal.

LAFC2 struck early in the first half with Leonardo Flores scoring after jumping on an opportunity from a Minnesota defensive lapse in the 13th minute. This would be the only real action in a relatively well played first half for Minnesota.

“I don’t think there was very much in the first half,” assistant coach Alex Morawiecki said. “We gave up a few moments outside of the [LAFC 2 first] goal, but really I felt like the game was in control.”

Both teams came out of half time not having made any changes, but LAFC2 started just as hot as they did in the first 45 minutes. Just as the Twos were set to make some changes, LA’s Luis Müller snagged his first goal in the 56th minute. Then just four minutes later, as Rory O’Driscoll came on to replace Harvey, Luis Müller snatched a brace and put the hosts up 3-0.

In the 65th minute, Minnesota finally showed signs of life with a much needed goal as Adebayo-Smith scored from inside the six yard box.

“Jordan [Adebayo-Smith], we got him in really good moments throughout the match to get one [goal]. Jesse [Khan] came in and the idea was that once the game settled down a little bit, we could bring him on and he could create moments,” said Alex Morawiecki. “He’s obviously got a lot of quality and is a really good passer. It’s not surprising that he found that link [on Adebayo-Smith’s goal] and could have found another one with Jordan shortly after Jordan got the first goal.”

The two goal deficit did not last for long as LAFC2’s Matt Evans came in as a sub and almost immediately found the back of the goal to seal LAFC2’s season opening win.

“We turned them over an awful lot, just probably weren’t clean enough in the final third. We gave up a goal every time we were close. Those sort of swings, I feel like there were individual things that can be corrected when we go again on Wednesday,” assistant coach Morawiecki said following the match.

The heavy loss to LAFC2 is the first season opener loss in team history and starts the team out on the wrong foot for 2024. The Twos will look to quickly make up for that loss as they face a short turnaround ahead of a midweek match. MNUFC2 heads to Elmhurst, IL this Wednesday to face Midwest Premier League club Chicago House AC.

Due to the reformatting in the US Open Cup for 2024, the MNUFC first time will not participate and instead MNUFC2 has qualified for the tournament. Should they or any of the nine affiliated MLS Next Pro sides in the Open Cup win the tournament their MLS affiliate will gain the Concacaf Champions League spot.

Kickoff for Wednesday’s match at Elmhurst University’s Langhorst Field is set for 7pm and will be streamed online. You can also follow along with us @NorthlandSoccer for coverage on our various social media platforms.