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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Ramsay makes debut, celebrates his ‘Wonderwall’ moment

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Minnesota United’s newly debuted Eric Ramsay coached nearly three years in the Premier League with Manchester United, so it’s particularly fitting he savored his new team’s beloved tradition after Saturday night’s 2-0 victory over Los Angeles FC at Allianz Field.He calls himself a fan of Oasis, the Manchester 1990s hometown brother band whose “Wonderwall” superhit is sung after every Loons home victory.They sang Saturday night after the Loons turned a Robin Lod set-piece goal in the 16th minute and Bongokuhle Hlongwane’s opportunistic 88th minute insurance score into a 3-0-1 record against tough competition. The Loons sit at the top of the Western Conference after their first four games.Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso made his 2024 debut, entering in the 61st minute along with countryman Franco Fragapane.Dressed in a long, hooded jacket on a cold, wind-swirling night, Ramsay stood in the coach’s box rather stoically most of the time, but pointed and gestured as well.Ramsay hugged and shook hands on the bench when Lod scored that early goal.”You want him to start off on the right foot,” Loons veteran defender Michael Boxall said of Ramsay. “You want to win it for him, as opposed to just another game at home that we expect to win with the energy we have. Everyone stuck to their jobs.”The coach saved most of the celebration for the end, taking in all of the smoke and the singing of “Wonderwall” that came not long after Hlongwane provided the two-goal cushion. Hlongwane scored a late goal off the bench for the second consecutive game.Asked what memories he made from his head coaching debut, Ramsay said: “It’s difficult to look past the ending. It’s spectacular, it really is, isn’t it? It’s absolutely unique. I’d heard an awful lot about what it feels like to win a home game and I didn’t want to make too big a deal of it. I knew it would happen eventually. Hopefully it would come today.”On Friday, he said his college team sang “Wonderwall” after it won the British university championship — “And as the night went on, 10 more times,” he said.BOXSCORE: Loons 2, LAFC 0On Saturday, supporters and team players, coaches and staff sang it just once.Asked how the Minnesota United experience compares with college, Ramsay said, “Significantly better I would say.”Ramsay coached for the first time in Minnesota, in MLS — and for the first time anywhere as a head coach. At age 32, he is the youngest MLS head coach ever and the youngest in the league this season by seven years.Lod scored his second goal of the season, despite missing the home opener against MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew after he was kicked in the calf. His first goal came in the season opener at Austin FC.Lod cleaned up right in front of the goal after Sang Bin Jeong’s long free kick from near the left sideline was headed by leaping LAFC defender Jesus Murillo. He hit the ball down and right to Lod, who moved the ball from his dominant left foot to his off right foot for a chippee. It was his first goal at Allianz Field was May 22, 2022.”I think it came perfectly to me,” Lod said. “It was kind of easy to score. I mean, if I can’t score from 5yards, then I need to think about something else, for sure.”Ramsay called Lod’s goal sort of “messy,” but nonetheless scored out of a structure the team had worked on all week.”We know set pieces are part of the game,” Lod said. “It’s one thing where you can manage to score goals and win games. It’s a high priority for us. Today it worked.”Nine minutes before Lod score, LAFC star Denis Bouanga shot over a wide-open net after Loons keeper Dayne St. Clair got caught far out of goal. It was probably the best chance the visitors had all night.Reynoso made his season debut after missing the first three games injured, but as a substitute for Lod in the 61st minute. Subs Hlongwane and Tani Oluwaseyi entered later.Reynoso injured his knee in preseason training in Arizona and later aggravated it on his road back to recovery that kept him from being fully fit for the regular season’s first three weeks.Ramsay said he sent in Reynoso and Fragapane relatively early in the second half to sustain his team’s pace.”We wanted to make sure we had good energy in the team and that it was sustained,” Ramsay said. “Obviously, I was relying on the fact that Rey coming on would give the stadium some energy and it’d give the team a different dynamic and it really did. You could feel the energy when those two players came on the pitch. That applies to Bongi and Tani, too.”

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