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Recap: Loons draw 3-3 with NYCFC in Allianz Field opener

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Despite an entertaining match, Minnesota United was only able to pull one point from the fixture.

Ethan Finlay goes down in the box during the first half of Minnesota United inaugural match at Allianz Field
MNUFC vs NYCFC
Tim C McLaughlin

Minnesota United’s first match at Allianz Field featured many things: goals (six of ‘em), drama, but, disappointingly no Wonderwall at the end of 90 minutes.

Despite having teased the possibility of a Darwin Quintero-less starting lineup, manager Adrian Heath chose to start his star player. The exact team shape was not immediately clear — the media lineup listed it as a 3-4-3 — but the formation proved to be a 4-2-3-1.

After last week’s 3-4-3, this looked to be a more normal XI for the Loons. Midfielder Kevin Molino, who tore his ACL in week two of the 2018 season, returned to the match day squad for the first time since his injury.

The pregame festivities began with all the necessary fanfare: The national anthem featured brass players from the Minnesota Orhestra and singers from VocalEssence. The giant tifo display from the supporters was as large as billed and was certainly impressive, holding together until the final moment.

Ozzie Alonso picked up his third yellow card of the season in the 8th minute for a confident challenge on Maxi Moralez.

That caution could be well forgiven, for, only minutes later, Alonso became the first goal scorer in Allianz Field history, giving the Loons an early lead through a perfectly-aimed volley.

No matter how special it was, the lead was not built to last. Two simple plays from NYCFC leveled the score as Valentin Castellanos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi found easy openings to turn the game around.

In what was quickly becoming an early theme, that lead too was not built to withstand much pressure. Ethan Finlay slipped past his marker on the right wing and used his position to send an easy cross to Angelo Rodriguez, who easily executed the equalizing header.

The Loons restored their lead through a lucky break just after the half-hour mark. Sean Johnson, New York City’s normal-sturdy goalkeeper, misplayed a back pass, accidentally letting it roll back into his own net, giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead.

Minnesota United’s social media team didn’t miss the opportunity to recall memories of an own goal scored by former United keeper Sammy Ndjock.

The already-bonkers game continued to disintegrate. The official called a penalty in favor of the Loons after Finlay was bumped down in the box, but called the play back for an earlier offside offence after consulting the VAR.

Perhaps for no other reason than that it was what the game needed, the fourth official awarded five minutes of stoppage time.

The visitors almost found yet another equalizer as Castellanos poked the ball past a charging Vito Mannone, but after taking a look at the video replay, the official called the goal back for offside.

Just after the review, Rasmus Schuller replaced Romario Ibarra on the left wing.

The equalizer ended up coming in an unfortunate method, as Francisco Calvo’s slight touch on a free kick set-piece from Tajouri-Shradi leveled the game at three goals apiece via an own goal.

After a relatively minor performance, Quintero left the game for Abu Danladi in the 78th minute.

Fans of both teams had a scare late in the game as Ike Opara’s and Castellanos’ heads collided. Castellanos initially appeared to go unconscious as he lay unmoving on the pitch, but he was able to walk off the field. Both players left the match, with Brent Kallman replacing Opara.

The Loons had several late chances off of loose balls coming from corner kicks, but most sailed well over the bar.

A brief scuffle took place in stoppage time as Alonso took offense with a questionable injury to an NYCFC player, but there was no disciplinary action from the incident.