Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

Image: Minnesota United

Despite accumulating 17 shots and countless quality opportunities, Minnesota United failed to score in a 0-0 draw with FC Dallas Sunday night at Allianz Field. They held advantages in total shots, shots on target, passing percentage, forced interceptions, and expected goals, but it was the final touch that failed them.

Four of those shots came off the foot of young winger Bongokuhle Hlongwane, with two on frame. Even with a pair of goals to his name on the year, Bongi’s had enough chances to at least double that total, and while he’s gone the full 90 in all eight of his appearances this season and provided value in other ways, MNUFC manager Adrian Heath is looking for more production on the scoresheet.

“You can’t fault the kid for his energy and his work rate to get in some spots, but now he’s gonna have to start getting some composure,” said Heath. “That’s the next evolution of his game. He’s got to start showing a bit more composure in and around the penalty area.”

One of several “missed opportunity” moments for the Loons in Sunday’s match came with Hlongwane racing towards goal, flanked by fellow attackers Robin Lod and Luis Amarilla. Instead of passing the ball off to either teammate and forcing the goalkeeper to reposition, the winger decided to take the low-percentage shot himself, which didn’t challenge keeper Maarten Paes.

In total, Hlongwane has 17 shots so far this season, 10 on target, and 3.0 expected goals. He also hasn’t yet notched an assist to complement his two goals.

“He’s got to pick the moments consistently,” said Heath. “When to run with the ball, when to pass the ball. This is going to be the next phase for Bongi now. We know he’s got incredible energy… ultimately, when you’re an attacking player, then you’ve got start showing that in the final third.”

The South African started the season at the right-wing spot he made a home in late last year, but was moved over to the left after the introduction of Sang Bin Jeong in April. Hlongwane’s listed at a right-footed player on both FBRef and TransferMarkt, so theoretically the left side should suit him better, being able to cut in to the middle on his strong foot.

Time will tell if the Loons’ fan favorite can start turning his effort into more goal-contribution.

Arriaga Returns

After tweaking his hamstring in last Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match in Detroit and missing training all last week, influential midfielder Kervin Arriaga didn’t make the team sheet for Sunday’s match vs. Dallas. Adrian Heath said after the match they were still evaluating the Hondurian regarding his status moving forward, but Arriaga was spotted fully participating in the open portion of the Loons’ Tuesday training session in Blaine.

According to Heath, he also played 10-15 minutes in the first-team’s closed scrimmage with MNUFC2.

“I think he’ll be okay for the weekend,” said Heath.

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