In the last game of Minnesota United’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer, the Loons just missed spoiling San Jose’s trip to the playoffs with a 2-3 loss in extra time.
The Earthquakes simply needed a win to seal their own destiny, but the Loons definitely made it interesting.
The first half began as so many halves this season had: barrages of shots by the opposing team, not much work for San Jose’s keeper, and a disorganized defensive unit. For one last time this season, the Loons gave up a goal within the first 15 minutes. Defender Michael Boxall let a long pass bounce behind him, leading to a blunder from the normally sure-footed Francisco Calvo, and his fall let Quake’s attacker Danny Hoesen waltz into the box alone and slot the ball past Bobby Shuttleworth to make it 1-0 San Jose.
Although the Loons seemed to play slightly lackadaisical, possibly being tired after an entire MLS season or possibly being that MNUFC has no chance at the playoffs, the team seemed to get more physical and hungry the longer the half went on.
In the 36th minute, after a weak poke away by a San Jose defender rolled directly to Minnesota, Jérôme Thiesson took one small touch and sent an absolute beauty to the left corner with his weak foot to tie the game up at 1-1.
Just before the goal, a no-call by the referee towards Michael Boxall on Hoesen was taken into question on whether or not the goal should have counted. Both players fell after going up for a header, and Boxall seemed to pat/grab Hoesen’s hair. Despite pleas from the players and San Jose’s announcers, the goal stood.
At the end of the first half, the score (1-1) and the possession (50%) were all knotted up despite the 13-4 slaughtering on shots.
The second half started similar to the first, with more shots pounding Shuttleworth and the Loons having trouble making anything happen on offense. Lead scorer Christian Ramirez was nearly invisible up top as he had trouble keeping the ball and turning up field.
Ten minutes into the second half, another sigh-worthy Loons defensive giveaway found its way to Hoesen, who curled the ball across the box, past a diving Boxall, and found captain Chris Wondolowski, who slipped it past Shuttleworth to retake the lead.
After that goal, in the 66th minute, gaffer Adrian Heath decided the team needed to stack on the offense and subbed in Johan Venegas for Sam Nicholson and Rookie of the Year hopeful Abu Danladi for Kevin Molino.
In the 71st minute, defender Jermaine Taylor was brought off with an apparent wrist injury that didn’t look good. Taylor looked in great pain and the wrist lay limp. Marc Burch, who did not start because he wasn’t 100%, came in to finish off the game for Taylor.
San Jose subbed out their star, Hoesen, with 10 minutes left in the game, hoping to coast to the end of the game and into the playoffs. However, minutes later, the Loons earned a corner and found the head of Calvo, who arched it off an Earthquake’s defender, off the top bar, and straight down to tie the game with less than 10 minutes to go.
The remaining minutes of the game went scoreless, but not without some close calls from both teams. As the end of the game came near, five minutes of extra time were given, a combination of the goals, the five yellow cards, and the injury time to Taylor.
In the 92nd minute, Wondolowski found Marco Ureña unmarked in front of the goal, and with the goal came the bursts of joy from the San Jose team and crowd destined for the playoffs.
Minnesota United will end the season 10-19-6 and will go to the offseason with a season of MLS soccer to improve and alleged plans of making moves.