In the end, it came down to a trade made late in 2017.
Ethan Finlay’s late goal against his former club helped Minnesota United top the Columbus Crew 1-0 at Allianz Field on Saturday.
Manager Adrian Heath made some notable changes in his starting lineup. Miguel Ibarra, normally an attacking midfielder, started at left back as Eric Miller moved to the bench. Michael Boxall also returned to the starting lineup for the first time since a poor performance against Toronto FC, replacing Ike Opara. Darwin Quintero also started for the first time since April 28th. Romain Metanire, whose son Isayah was born earlier in the weekend, was a starter as well.
The Loons thought they found an early lead when Quintero pounced on a loose ball following a corner, but the Colombian playmaker was clearly offside on the play. Quintero had a chance to put his side ahead minutes later, but he was late to the cross.
Though shots and meaningful chances were hard to come by, United looked to be the better team through the first twenty minutes, maintaining 60% possession and completing nearly 85% of their passes while restricting the Crew’s attack.
Columbus did pull an opportunity from the void after the half-hour mark. Despite having two defenders in front of him, Federico Higuaín managed a shot from outside the box that bounced off the far post.
Another goal was disallowed for offside at the beginning of stoppage time. Quintero, clearly in offside position, got a slight touch on a header off a corner, sending the flag up.
Higuain produced once again for the Crew early in the second half, finding Columbus newbie David Accam with a curling through ball. United’s Vito Mannone was on top of the play, however, diving at the feet of Accam to nullify the chance.
At the 70-minute mark, however, it was Minnesota’s Ethan Finlay who broke the deadlock by scoring against his former club. The goal came off a set piece — a rarity for the Loons — with Metanire’s service finding Brent Kallman, whose diving header set-up Ethan Finlay for an easy finish across the goalmouth.
Eric Miller was Minnesota’s first substitution of the night, coming in for attacker Kevin Molino. Miller, a more natural fullback, filled in at left back while Ibarra shifted up the field to a more offensively-focused position. Abu Danladi replaced Darwin Quintero with a little less than ten minutes to play. Finlay received a standing ovation as he left the game for Rasmus Schuller.