Well, that didn't go as expected. Sporting Kansas City came into Sunday tied for the top of the Western Conference. Minnesota United were one spot out of last place. But the Loons rolled past SKC in Minneapolis, 2-0.
Here are our takeaways from the surprising result:
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Welcome to MLS, where nothing makes sense
Coming into Sunday's match, one of the best teams in MLS and the clear best defense in MLS (Kansas City) was set to face one of the worst teams in MLS (Minnesota). So of course it was Minnesota who dominated the match and won. All season, Minnesota had never led at the half and Kansas City had never been trailing at the half – but that's exactly what happened Sunday. This is MLS, where anything can happen any at given time. There are no unbeatable powerhouses and there are no gimmie matches – and that's what makes it fun.
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KC fell victim to a packed schedule and squad rotation in defense
With Sporting Kansas City staring down three matches in a nine-day stretch, coach Peter Vermes opted to rotate his squad – and that included on the back line. Igor Juliao made his first appearance of the season at right back in place of Graham Zusi while Kevin Ellis replaced Ike Opara as right-sided centerback and indeed the Loons targeted the right side in their opening two goals of the match. Igor also got away with a first-half hand ball that should've been a penalty for Minnesota.
Of course, such packed stretches are part of life in MLS and it's a question of whether Vermes and SKC were adequately prepared for it. Sporting Kansas City have been the best defense in MLS by miles, only having conceded three goals in nine games coming into Sunday. But the best defense in the league was too easily rendered ineffective by changes on the back line.
Zusi came into replace Igor at halftime, but it was too late.
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Top draft pick Danladi makes the most of his first start
Minnesota coach Adrian Heath made one big change from his starting line-up on Sunday: Johan Venegas, who has two goals and two assists for the Loons this season, started on the bench. In his place was Abu Danladi, who the Loons selected first overall in the college draft. It was Danladi's first start, and he apparently only got it because Heath felt Venegas lacked energy in his previous outing.
Danladi didn't let the moment linger too long before impose himself: In the 22nd minute, Danladi struck a cross one-time and scored on a very clean inside of-the-foot finish. What's more, the rookie played with confidence and was aggressive enough that he'll continue to be a real option going forward.
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Ramirez might be earning himself a USMNT call-up
Coming into this season, the question was whether NASL holdover Christian Ramirez could adapt to MLS. It can be a tough transition for players used to the lower divisions in the U.S. and Adrian Heath seemed unsure of it too, starting Ramirez on the bench in their season opener.
But he quickly made the most of his minutes and has played himself into not only being a consistent starter, but being one of the best goal-scorers in MLS. After Sunday's win over Kansas City and his thunderous first-half header, Ramirez is now on six goals and one assist in nine appearances.
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The Loons' upward trajectory continues
At some point, the Loons' bad reputation that was set by their horrific first few weeks of the season may not match their current existence. For the last four weeks, Minnesota has looked competitive and kept their score lines relatively close. Sunday was a continuation of the progress they've made – they continue to look at dynamic in the attack as they have most of the season, but their defense continues to look better since Brent Kallman earned a starting spot and Marc Burch joined the team.
With the result, Minnesota jumps to seventh place in the Western Conference, above the likes of the LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders.
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Dwyer was on an island
It's kind of hard to score when you don't get the ball. And Dom Dwyer didn't on Sunday. The focal point of the Kansas City attack, Dwyer is supposed to go at back lines and be the outlet for scoring goals, but he found himself dropping deeper and deeper to get the ball on Sunday. He finished with just three shots and no goals.
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Shuttleworth played through a presumed broken nose – and he came up huge
A collision midway through the second half looked like it could put the Loons' chances of shutting out Kansas City in peril. Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who had been vital to keeping SKC scoreless as the visitors attacked more in the second half, went down with what was reported to be a suspected broken nose – and backup goalkeeper John Alvbage lost his starting spot for a reason.
But Shuttleworth played on, even though his nose looked to be in pretty bad condition, and it's probably a good thing for the Loons he did. He went onto make a multiple big stops and he cut out good chances for SKC. He ended the match with an impressive seven saves and the Loons' second shutout of the season.