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Zulgad: United player goes on the defensive, unfortunately it’s after defeat

MINNEAPOLIS — My soccer guru recently passed along the information that Minnesota United’s loss on Wednesday at Los Angeles FC did not come as a big surprise because the visiting team was thought to have viewed it as an expendable match.

This happens during the course of a long season in which there are a few games that aren’t considered to be all that important and, thus, defeat isn’t thought of as a significant setback.

But there was nothing expendable about United’s game on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium against San Jose. The match opened a three-game homestand — Sporting KC will visit on May 20 and Montreal on May 26 — and presented an excellent opportunity for the second-year MLB franchise to collect three points.

The Earthquakes entered the match with a 1-5-2 record and at the bottom of the Western Conference Standings. That one win had come in the season-opener against a United team that has made improvements since then, including adding dynamic midfielder Darwin Quintero, and was 3-1 at home before Saturday.

But while the Loons had every intention of coming away with a victory, it did not happen as the bottom-feeding Earthquakes left town with a 3-1 win and United departed the stadium a frustrated bunch, with Francisco Calvo expressing his disgust with the work of referee Victor Rivas and his displeasure that the local media might now be taking some shots at him and his club.

Let me say this for Calvo. If Andrew Wiggins or various members of the Wild showed the same type of passion that he did in his postgame comments, Wiggy and the local NHL team might be better off. I am told that Calvo’s play on defense has been pretty putrid, but listening to what amounted to two rants was entertaining.

The first involved Rivas’ officiating. The Earthquakes scored their first and third goals on penalty kicks, with Magnus Eriksson scoring in the second minute and Chris Wondolowski in the 76th minute. The first goal came after United’s Jerome Thiesson tripped Eriksson and the second was the result of a handball.

Judging from the comments made by United coach Adrian Heath and Calvo the frustration went well beyond those calls, with Heath admitting the first penalty kick was deserved.

“I think the referee was embarrassing,” Calvo said. “I don’t want to talk too much about the referee but he was terrible. We need to be together now as a group, as a team, because it’s a big chance … for the media to talk bad things about the team now. We have to be together as a team. We need to be more stronger than anyone.”

Any athlete who drops an “embarrassing” when discussing officiating, then says he doesn’t want to say much more and comes back with a “terrible,” is all right in my book.

“If you call all the fouls, you have to call all the fouls for both teams,” Calvo said when asked to elaborate on his frustration. “I think he was calling more fouls for them and not for us. For example, when I challenged with (my) head, I win the ball and then he called a foul on me. I don’t know how. I think the referee wasn’t good. I (have) never seen that guy in my life in this league. We as a team we need more respect because all the referees come here (and) they do whatever they want.”

Heath didn’t go that far in his comments but said he would be talking to Howard Webb, who oversees officiating in the MLS, in the coming days. “When referees blow the whistle and both sets of players don’t know which way it’s going you have a problem,” Heath said.

As for Calvo, he was on a roll and there was no reason to stop him. A reporter asked Calvo about what went wrong on Danny Hoesen’s goal in the 69th minute that gave San Jose a 2-1 lead. The reality was that Calvo was in part to blame for the goal.

“We didn’t clear the ball. … It’s hard,” he said, getting a bit more defensive. “When you point at one guy, it’s hard, it’s hard. If you want to point (at) me, point (at) me. I’ve been playing as a pro for eight years. I know what this pressure is. So if you want to say ‘Calvo is doing mistakes, Calvo is not playing well,’ you can say whatever you want. But we’re 11 on the field, all right? So if you want to talk, talk about the team, don’t talk about me or any of my teammates.”

Surely, Calvo knows it doesn’t work that way. If you goof up, we write about that goof and if your team loses a game it should win it’s likely to be pointed out. Somebody should tell Calvo that’s good for business. It’s when people don’t write about you that you’re in trouble.





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