Minnesota United (4-5-0) clashed with Los Angeles FC (5-2-1) on Wednesday night at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The Loons were attempting to extend their winning streak to three games, a milestone that would be a first for the franchise, and LAFC were looking to extend their unbeaten streak to five games. The stage was set for a mid-week match between two clubs each riding their own wave of positive momentum.
A combination of injuries, suspensions, and the fact the Loons will be playing three matches in seven days forced Adrian Heath to employ a new formation (4-3-3) and sprinkle in some fresh faces: Maximiano and Harrison Heath both made their first career starts for MNUFC, and Collin Martin made his first start of the season for the club.
The match began at a break-neck pace, with LAFC and MNUFC trading shots off the woodwork in the 6th and 7th minutes, respectively. Diego Rossi received a perfectly placed through ball from Eduard Atuesta and beat everyone but the post for the game’s first real scoring chance. Just moments later, Darwin Quintero received a lovely ball from Carter Manley and, after creating a bit of his own space, rattled the post at the other end of the pitch. This, unfortunately, would prove the be the Loon’s best scoring chance of the game.
Throughout the first 25 minutes, Minnesota were able to keep their shape well despite playing in a new formation - LAFC were controlling the play, but the Loons were able to bend without breaking.
That would come to an end just six minutes later.
Diego Rossi received a pass on the left wing and played the ball into Eduard Atuesta around the Loon’s penalty spot. Francisco Calvo overcommitted a bit, and Atuesta did well to let the ball run across his body and bury it in the back of the net.
The Loons, 1-5 when conceding first this season, had their work cut out for them.
A glimmer of hope came for Minnesota United not long after the LAFC opening goal when Quintero, Maximiano, and Miguel Ibarra combined for a near chance that was snuffed out by the smart goalkeeping of Tyler Miller. Miller was able to rush Ibarra and scoop the ball off his foot before any real damage could be done.
LAFC doubled their lead in the 37th minute. Latif Blessing, the 5’5” forward was (inexplicably) able to win an aerial battle against Francisco Calvo in the Loons penalty area and get the ball to Mark-Anthony Kaye who was able to beat Bobby Shuttleworth from six yards away.
The Loons would go into halftime with a two-goal deficit, and only 31% of the possession.
In the first half, Darwin Quintero showed why he is worthy of being Minnesota’s first Designated Player - he was the only Loon who consistently looked dangerous on the ball. As the second half began, Adrian Heath stressed the need to get more support to Darwin. That support, unfortunately, did not materialize in the second half.
LAFC continued to dominate the game throughout the second half and were able to keep sustained pressure in the Loon’s half of the field. When MNUFC were able to regain possession, there was little to no offensive movement, allowing LAFC to regain possession and re-establish their attack. The lack of a true forward, without the injured Christian Ramirez and the suspended Mason Toye, shown through in the second half, as Quintero was forced to drift back towards the midfield to help create chances.
The sustained pressure from LAFC began to take its toll, and Bobby Shuttleworth was called into service numerous times. He was able to answer the call in each instance, keeping the score line respectable. He and Quintero were two bright spots for the Loons in an otherwise forgettable night.
Another bright spot for fans of MNUFC was the long-awaited return of Frantz Pangop in the 75th minute. The Cameroonian replaced Collin Martin for the final 15 minutes but did not have an extraordinary impact on the remainder of the match.
When all was said and done, LAFC outshot the Loons 29-7, and controlled 58% of the possession. LAFC earned a well-deserved three points, and the Loons will look to avenge an early season loss against the San Jose Earthquakes who are winless in their last six matches.