It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, it was worth three points.
Minnesota’s familiar 4-2-3-1 received an injection of new components. Fullback Eric Miller, who arrived in a trade with the Colorado Rapids earlier this week, Alexi Gomez, and Mason Toye all made their first starts for the Loons. Abu Danladi, who was listed as questionable heading into the match, did not make the matchday squad.
Vancouver forced goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth into a few saves to prevent an early goal, but Minnesota quickly settled into the game. Though dangerous opportunities were hard to come by, the Loons had a few strong spells of attacking possession in the early parts of the first half. The first real chance of the half came from an Alexi Gomez cross that led to a goal-line scramble for Mason Toye.
The first half was marred by yellow cards. Aly Ghazal and Darwin Quintero were both given cautions, while hard challenges and questionable officiating underlined the first forty-five.
The second half quickly took a turn for the worse in the 50th minute. Rookie Toye, the only available true forward, showed a lapse of common sense when he elbowed Vancouver’s Kendall Waston in the gut. The ensuing—and deserved—red card brought his first start to an unfortunate early end.
“It’s silly,” said manager Adrian Heath. “He could’ve cost his teammates.”
Just as quickly as things had soured, Minnesota’s prospects quickly bettered. A dangerous cross from Gomez found Miguel Ibarra, who pounced on his own rebound to put the hosts in the lead.
Just as Ibarra earned the lead, Shuttleworth maintained it with two phenomenal saves, including an amazing leaping parry to deny Brek Shea. The Loons’ defense was anchored by three defensive substitutions: Wyatt Omsberg, Collin Martin, and Carter Manley replaced Ibarra, Gomez, and Miller, respectively.
The Loons, content to sit back and defend, survived the six (!) minutes of stoppage time to close out the victory.
“I thought it was a monumental effort,” praised Heath after the match. “It was a really big result for us. Now we hopefully can keep this momentum going.”