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Minnesota United try to curtail mental lapses

ST. PAUL—Minnesota United's film session lasted longer than usual before Tuesday's practice, but the Loons' area of focus in the classroom centered on a short time frame.

Miguel Ibarra's goal had just put the Loons up 3-0 in the 67th minute Saturday, but less than 20 seconds later, Albert Rusnak sliced through Minnesota's defense for a open shot on goal from 18 yards out. If not for Bobby Shuttleworth's alert save, Real Salt Lake would have immediately cut into the Loons' lead.

"They would have even more time to affect the end result," United coach Adrian Heath stressed after the Loons survived Real Salt Lake goals in the 77th and 85th minute for a nerve-racking 3-2 victory.

The video session marked the latest emphasis to try to curtail mental lapses that have plagued Minnesota this season and address the soccer adage of "you're most vulnerable after you score," Heath said.

The Loons (7-11-1) will put that point to the test against New England (7-5-7) on Wednesday night at TCF Bank Stadium. It is Minnesota's second of three home games over nine days, and the Loons will try to win consecutive games for the first time since early May. Streaking Los Angeles FC comes in Sunday.

The Revolution, meanwhile, are reeling. They have one win in seven road games this season and three wins overall since early May.

After allowing two stoppage-time goals in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, New England coach Brad Friedel called the defeat "heartbreaking" and "sickening." "That was one of the worst losses that I've suffered at this stadium," added forward Juan Agudelo.

Three New England players will miss Wednesday's game because of suspensions. Forward Cristian Penilla, who's second on team with eight goals, received a red card Saturday and will serve a one-game suspension. Midfielder Luis Caicedo and center back Antonio Delamea will be absent with yellow-card accumulation.

"They had a long period with 10 men (against L.A.) and were still the better team," Heath said. "Knowing Brad, they are not going to take the defeat lying down, and they will be organized and motivated."

Nearing debut

When Romario Ibarra scored two goals in two World Cup qualifiers for the Ecuadorian national team last fall, the Universidad Católica player in Ecuador's top division saw interest pick up from clubs in Mexico, Europe and MLS.

But an injury delayed his dream of playing abroad for six months until Minnesota signed him July 9.

"Minnesota struck me as a new team in the league," Ibarra said in Spanish through a translator. "It's trying to do good things and it's a great challenge for me at this point in my career. I have to do well and leave my stamp on this club."

Ibarra prefers to play left wing, which doesn't mesh with Heath's current 3-5-2 formation, and there could be a switch back to the coach's regular 4-2-3-1. If Ibarra comes inside to play through the middle, Heath sees an injection of pace to create space for other players, primarily central attacking midfielder Darwin Quintero.

Ibarra, who arrived in Minnesota to train Monday, could debut for the Loons this week.

"The last game I played was two months ago, but I'm doing very well both physically and mentally, and I feel ready to go 90 minutes whenever the coach feels like," he said.

Heath said New England was among teams interested in Ibarra, "so it will be interesting to see what Brad has to say" Wednesday.

Bunbury's back

Teal Bunbury, a Prior Lake native who attended Shattuck St. Mary's in Faribault, will return to Minnesota during a career-best season. The Revolution striker has 10 goals in 19 games, besting a previous season high of nine goals in 2011.

"He's big, strong and athletic and no doubt being back home will be motivation for him, if he needs any," Heath said.

At Shattuck St. Mary's, Bunbury was coached by Tim Carter, the director of United's youth development academy. Heath joked that Carter hasn't pointed out Bunbury was his former pupil "today."

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