Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

Image: Minnesota United

Minnesota United came into their Sunday night matchup against FC Dallas on a three-game MLS losing skid and hoping, nay, begging for their first home win of the 2023 season. There was room for optimism as well despite recent form, as the Loons went down south to Toyota Park back in February and came home with three points after an opening night road win.

While the performance was more than worthy of three points, the finishing touch failed Minnesota spectacularly in a disappointing 0-0 draw.

“You can look at the opportunities that we’ve had, probably three or four clear cut opportunities, but pretty much a microcosm of the season at this moment in time,” said MNUFC manager Adrian Heath. “It’s a lot of good approach play, good movement with the ball. And the final, most important piece. The final touch is not quite there at the moment.”

Two players who missed Minnesota’s last two matches were back in the starting XI, as Kemar Lawrence returned to action after dealing with a family health issue, while Wil Trapp started alongside Hassani Dotson after tweaking his hamstring days ahead of the match in Seattle.

Luis Amarilla got the start up top ahead of Bongi Hlongwane, Sang Bin Jeong, and Lod.

For the visitors, Alan Velasco was left off the team sheet for the third match in row after spraining his knee in early June.

After what can only be described as a sloppy and pedestrian first 10 minutes for both teams, Minnesota was able to find their footing and generate a handful of quality chances in the opening 45. The best of which came in the 22nd minute, as DJ Taylor fired a cross in from the right that fell to Boxall, who centered it for Amarilla at the doorstep, but somehow the striker’s effort rose over the crossbar.

He and 18,000+ at Allianz all reacted in pure disbelief as the Loons’ No. 9 still searches for his first open play goal of the campaign.

“We’ve got to keep showing faith in the big players and, as I said to the players before, I can’t give them any more confidence and keep picking them and giving them that opportunity,” said Heath. “I know, having been through it myself as a striker, that the last thing you need is to keep thinking about it and you’ve just gotta keep getting yourself in the right spots, keep continuing to do the things that you know have made you score goals in the past. And I think that if [Luis] and the attacking people keep getting in the right spots, goals will come.”

As the team’s switched ends and night fell on Saint Paul, more quality chances came Minnesota’s way, but goals did not.

In the 51st minute, Hlongwane shifted past multiple Dallas defenders, but his shot missed the goal by a wide margin, ending up in the stands below the Grand Casino Brew Hall.

Heath made two substitutions and changed his shape late on, bringing on Franco Fragapane for Dotson in the 64th minute, and replacing Sang Bin with Mender Garcia in the 70th.

With those adjustments, Lod moved to the midfield and almost broke the deadlock. After stifling a clearance attempt, the Finn maneuvered through traffic and fired a low bullet that just missed the mark. The crowd, and everyone in the press box, had to pick their jaws up off the floor afterward.

“I thought that Robin was like his old self again tonight,” said Heath. “I thought, when he went in midfield, actually, he got us control of the game again. It was a bit too much end to end at one stage, and that’s the type of game that they enjoy, because they’re very good on the counter attack and in transition moments, but Robin gave us some calmness and some strength of possession.”

The final whistle didn’t come before a bit of controversy, as Mender Garcia seemed to be in on goal alone with Dallas keeper Maarten Paes in stoppage time, but had his shirt tugged from behind before he could fire a shot off. Roars rang down for a VAR check for DOGSO, but none came.

“Obviously they showed the replay…and it looks like he’s pulled [Garcia’s] shirt, but [Official Allen] Chapman decided not to have a look,” said Heath.

In all, Minnesota outshot the visitors 17-5, held a 5-2 shots on target advantage, accumulated 1.19 expected goals, and even passed the ball more accurately than their opponents for the first time all season.

Still, it’s now four matches without a win at a home venue that’s largely been a fortress since it opened in 2019. Allianz Field remains Wonderwall-less entering the month of May.

“First of all, I feel bad for the fans,” said midfielder Robin Lod. “We are getting into May and we haven’t heard Wonderwall. I’m sorry about that for the fans. We need to build up the mentality that this place is where we want to win games and be even more aggressive. That starts with wins, but I think they will come.”

Reynoso Update

A notable off-the-field storyline arose in the first half, as Taylor Twellman unveiled some information on the Apple TV broadcast regarding Minnesota’s efforts to bring Emanuel Reynoso back with the club.

“Two weeks ago they were down in Argentina and felt like Reynoso was going to get on the airplane, and then 24 hours later he did not,” said Twellman.

Andy Greder from the Pioneer Press tweeted a confirmation of that report shortly after. Adrian Heath also addressed the quote following the match.

“We’ve had people down [in Argentina] a lot of time,” said Heath. “It’s a place where we’ve spoke to Rey consistently. Obviously, [it] was disappointing. We thought he was going to be back, but he didn’t. We’ll keep asking the question and hopefully, some sort of common sense will prevail and he gets on a plane and gets back here.”

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