At the end of the season, nobody will ask how Minnesota United got three points from their 1-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes, just like nobody will ask how they got three points from last week’s 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls. But for the Loons, the two wins could hardly have been more different.
Against New York, Dayne St. Clair put on a match-winning performance in goal. Against San Jose, he didn’t need to make a single save.
Luis Amarilla scored the game’s only goal in the 32nd minute, timing his run to meet an excellent Robin Lod cross and turning it past San Jose keeper JT Marcinowski from point-blank range.
“It would have been a travesty if we hadn’t taken all three points,” said head coach Adrian Heath.
The final scoreline was good enough, but certainly Minnesota could have had more than just Amarilla’s winner. Amarilla in the first half, Bongokuhle Hlongwane in the second half, and Franco Fragapane in second-half stoppage time all were left with just Marcinowski to beat. Amarilla’s attempted chip landed on the roof of the net, Hlongwane’s shot low to Marcinowski’s right was palmed away, and Fragapane tried to round the keeper and failed to even get a shot away.
“At one-nil you’re never completely certain, you’re always a mistake away or a little bit of quality away from getting one point when you thoroughly deserve three,” said Heath.
Once again, what could have been a makeshift back line for the Loons was excellent. Brent Kallman made his fourth consecutive start alongside Michael Boxall, with Bakaye Dibassy filling in at left back and Hassani Dotson filling in on the right. Minnesota hasn’t given up a goal in 265 minutes, with the last coming in the fifth minute in week two of the season.
Heath credited the defense for the team’s success this year. “When we needed to fight through we’ve done it, defending as a group. The people in front of the back four have done excellent, and if we give ourselves a base ,I know we’ll always create chances, with the people that we got on the team.”
MNUFC’s 2021 schedule was pockmarked with games where the team could have and should have done better – games where one point, or no points, should have been three. At least through four weeks of the 2022 season, they’ve got fewer regrets about points left on the table.
- Heath set a more achievable target for Amarilla, who now has two goals in his last two games. “If he plays all the games this year, I’d be very, very surprised if he doesn’t get close to 15,” said Heath. “I know he said 25 when he first got here, we’ll sort of remind him on that one.”
- Asked about how often he gets reminded of his 25-goal promise, Amarilla said, “All my teammates, the coaching staff, they tell me ‘this many goals left, this many goals left.’ But I think in the present and do what I’ve been doing and that’s work hard and score goals.”
- Emanuel Reynoso had another difficult night, with more giveaways than key passes. Heath said that he wasn’t worried about his star attacking midfielder. “He’ll keep on doing what he does, you know, and we know that the quality is there,” said the coach. “I don’t think the field helped him this evening. The field is not in a great condition at this moment in time, it’s very bobbly. He has so much faith in his own ability, and he needs a good surface to play on.”
- Asked about the field, Kallman said that – compared to the field at Red Bull Arena the previous week – the Allianz Field surface wasn’t terrible. “[In New York was] the first time I’ve ever played in MLS where they didn’t wet the field before or at halftime,” said Kallman. “Because it was lightly snowing before the game so they could technically say it was precipitating, so they had the option of not wetting [the field]. We couldn’t move the ball. And that suited them – of course it did, it’s gamesmanship. Last week you saw the ball kept getting caught underneath guys and getting poked away. It’s not really on our attackers, the field was really difficult.”
- Abu Danladi made his first appearance of the season, coming on for Amarilla with 12 minutes to go.
- Before the game, the Wonderwall fan section put up a card section-style tribute to Chase Gasper, who entered the MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program this week. Fans also displayed a banner that read “Get Well, Chase.”
- Kemar Lawrence, the newest Loon, was at Allianz Field on Saturday, but not yet in uniform.