ST. PAUL -- Minnesota United had trouble keeping up with the quality of Aston Villa on Wednesday, July 17, falling to the newly-promoted English Premier League side 3-0 in an international friendly before an announced crowd of 18,335 at Allianz Field.
Villa had the upper hand most the evening and showed how they are a few notches above the Loons after earning promotion from England’s second division, the Championship, to the Premier League last season.
Granted, the Loons started 11 backups with the exhibition sandwiched between important MLS Western Conference matches against FC Dallas last weekend and a road game at Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Villa captain midfielder Jack Grealish, a rising star in England, lodged a long-distance strike past United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and into the bottom corner of the net in the 36th minute.
In the second half, Villa right back Frederic Gilbert’s perfect cross found Henri Lansbury in front of the net, and he finished it with ease. Three minutes later, Birkir Bjarnason’s header off a cross from Andre Green made it 3-nil. Both goals came easily.
The Loons did have some first-half chances. Miguel Ibarra’s cross to Collin Martin was pushed wide across goal. Abu Danladi’s breakaway in the 26th minute was punched wide by goalkeeper Jack Clark, and Rasmus Schuller had a pretty through ball that nearly connected with Mason Toye a minute before Grealish’s goal.
The Loons brought on regular starters Ethan Finlay, Kevin Molino and Jan Gregus in the second half.
In the second half, Molino’s attacking pass broke Villa’s lines and nearly connected with Finlay but was too far out of his reach.
The Loons had midfielder Ally Ng’azi make his debut; the 18-year-old Tanzanian has been on loan with USL affiliate Forward Madison all season.
United has a third friendly scheduled against Pachuca of Mexico’s Liga MX at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. The Loons lost 1-0 in their first friendly this season against Hertha Berlin of the German Bundesliga on May 22. … Wednesday’s friendly didn’t have restrictions on substitutes or the amount of bench players for each team. Here are a few reasons for why some Loons were left off the bench: Ozzie Alonso (shoulder), Romain Metanire (rest after Madagascar national team duty), Michael Boxall (rest) and Chase Gasper (rest). United didn’t play Angelo Rodriguez, Darwin Quintero, Ike Opara, Hassani Dotson or Dayne St. Clair.