PREVIEW | United vs. Silverbacks

Minnesota United seeks its first win, while the Atlanta Silverbacks aim to remain unbeaten
Minnesota United Staff | May 8, 2015

With three points from four matches, Minnesota United returns to the National Sports Center Stadium this Saturday in search of its first win of the season. It has been a timid start to the 2015 campaign for the Loons, a club with high expectations that have so far gone unfulfilled. With just one loss, Minnesota has drawn three matches in 2015.

"We've had a sluggish start with a lot of road games where we haven't gotten the results we've wanted to," United head coach Manny Lagos said. "We had a well-played draw here at home, but the big thing for us is to make sure we're thinking about how we want to prepare for this Saturday – acknowledging Atlanta has had a great start to their season."

The Silverbacks have started the 2015 campaign on the right foot. The team has earned seven points on the season – enough to sit level with the Strikers in third in the Spring Season standings, only behind on goal differential.


Atlanta lines up in a 4-3-3 formation. Players generally stick to where they line up, almost rigidly defending at times, but remaining extremely organized throughout the match. This Silverbacks team is absolutely a defend-first squad. From the start of the match to the end, Atlanta works hard to have at least nine men behind the ball at all times. Defenders and midfielders fall back into their position and cover their zone well.

Offensively, Atlanta is not a creative, finishing squad. They work the ball up the pitch slowly, keeping their shape, and remain in position to defend the quick counter. The Silverbacks create chances off the opposition mistakes.


Miguel Ibarra – The United midfielder scored his first goal of the season last weekend in just the second minute of the match. Miguel Ibarra is capable of scoring and creating chances whenever the Loons are anywhere near the final third of the pitch.

Greg Jordan – Starting two matches in a row at the center of United’s midfield, Greg Jordan stands out as one of the harder working Loons. Jordan creates opportunities by diving into challenges and winning 50/50 balls.

Michael Reed – The Atlanta midfielder made the move to the Silverbacks this season after spending the last three with United. Michael Reed had difficulty earning a starting role in the Loons’ lineup in 2014, but has started all five matches for the Silverbacks. Reed is an old-fashioned box-to-box midfielder.

Steward Ceus – The 6-foot-6 goalkeeper has yet to be beaten since taking over as Silverbacks goalkeeper two weeks ago. Steward Ceus shut out both the New York Cosmos and Fort Lauderdale Strikers this season.


The Atlanta Silverbacks are unbeaten in the season, and undefeated stretching back into 2014 —riding a six-match streak into NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minn. A team with a lot of confidence, the Silverbacks match up against a formidable but underachieving Minnesota squad.

"Atlanta is a quality team that's coming in with a lot of confidence," Lagos said. "It's important for us to be ready for them."

Part of United’s preparation will certainly focus on breaking through the dense Silverbacks defense. The Silverbacks fill the penalty area with defenders to cover gaps and block shots. Atlanta shut down two of the most potent NASL attacks in the New York Cosmos and Fort Lauderdale Strikers these past two weeks and have only allowed three goals in 2015.

The Loons have struggled to finish in the final third in a young Spring Season. Of the four goals the team has scored, two have come from penalties and two from the creative play of United midfielder Miguel Ibarra. Ibarra struck last week from an impossible angle, after receiving the ball off a deflected shot.

"Scoring last week is definitely going to motivate me," Ibarra said. "The first two games we struggled to put the ball in the net so getting some goals is a big confidence booster."

Minnesota’s four goals have all been scored within the first and last 15 minutes of both halves. A quick start will be difficult against Atlanta, a team that on average doesn’t score or concede until well into the second half of play.  According to Ibarra, there are still reasons to be confident. United is earning goals and making plays, and with a couple of lucky bounces could still be in the running for the Spring Season Championship.

"For me, going into the game with a goal and an assist gives me more confidence," Ibarra said. "We know that Atlanta is undefeated so it's going to be a good game.”

The play of United’s left back Justin Davis and right back Kevin Venegas will be tested this weekend against a stout defensive Silverbacks squad that doesn’t create a lot of chances, but finishes those chances when they come around. It will take a flawless effort in Blaine on Saturday for the Loons to earn three points.

"We're still growing as a group," Lagos said. "We've certainly had some stresses that haven't gone our way, but the guys are excited to get in front of their home fans and put a good soccer game together."

Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 9, at the National Sports Center Stadium.

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