I like goals.
And it’s a good thing too, because thanks to the quickly-developing chemistry between Emanuel Reynoso and Kevin Molino – combined with the emergence of Robin Lod as a true threat – Loons goals are easier to come by of late.
The second goal against Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference semi-finals was particularly inspiring, and it got me thinking – what are the greatest goals in Minnesota United’s MLS history? I don’t necessarily mean the most important, or the most aesthetically pleasing – I was thinking about some combination of those two important factors. Simply put, what five goals over the past four years have brought me the most joy?
I’m glad you asked.
Following are the Loons five greatest MLS goals, listed in chronological order.
Christian Ramirez vs. Portland Timbers: March 3, 2017
Johan Venegas looked upfield and found Christian Ramirez posting up near the top of the 18. Ramirez received the ball, executed a half turn, and just basically smashed it into the lower left hand corner. This goal was exciting because it was the team’s first in MLS, but more importantly because it was Ramirez who scored it. Many of us began watching and wondering what would happen with the Loons all time-leading scorer from the NASL days as soon as the newly-formed Minnesota United MLS side began signing players. I remember aggressively scanning the Reddit threads and even snooping around Ramirez’s Twitter feed looking for clues. Could he make the jump? Would Minnesota sign him?
Why wouldn’t they?
They did, and even though he didn’t earn the start in game one, he notched that historic goal within minutes of coming on as a second half substitute. My jump off the couch and fist pump was extra enthusiastic and heartfelt, because it was Christian Ramirez, of all people, who opened our account.
Abu Danladi vs. Montreal Impact: September 6, 2017
There was a stretch in late summer and into early fall of 2017 when Abu Danladi managed to stay off the training table long enough to get into a bit of a groove. For those of us who remember this stretch, it’s hard not to keep watching those Nashville SC box scores to see if Danladi might catch fire again at some point.
No goal captures the high-end potential of the speedy striker better than his game winner against Montreal. Mired in an attempt to outrun doomsday predictions of how bad Minnesota United would be in their inaugural season, it became clear that the best way to put some distance between their record and Grant Wahl’s infamous 5-win forecast was to supplement the handful of home victories with some wins on the road. The contest in Montreal was tied 2-2 in the 89th minute when Danladi took a pass from Ethan Finlay near the top right corner of the 18. He took one longish touch to create separation, and then let it go. Because of the distance and angle of the approach, the shot seemed more aspirational than dangerous. When it struck like a lightning bolt into the upper left corner, I could only laugh and roll around on the floor with glee.
How in the world did that go in, I kept asking myself? The answer: he kicked it really, really hard.
Darwin Quintero vs. Real Salt Lake: July 14, 2018
The best thing about the summer of 2018 was undoubtedly the Darwin Quintero ‘chipstravaganza.’ Quintero got into a groove in July that surely gave MLS goalkeepers night sweats. He first showcased the chip as part of his arsenal in his dazzling hat trick against Toronto on July 4. But the goal that sticks out for me came 10 days later, because of how I was able to watch it develop from the stands at TCF Bank Stadium.
Francisco Calvo got free up the middle on a counter attack. He passed half field and then released it to Quintero, who was streaking down the right. At this point, most of us hoped/knew what was coming. My loudest friend at that point yelled, “THE CHIP, THE CHIP,” and although Quintero was too far away to actually hear us at the opposite end of the stadium, he did slow down suddenly – and look up – to see Nick Rimando creeping off his line.
We went absolutely bonkers when that ball dipped into the far end of the goal over the frantically back pedaling Rimando, and Quintero went to the corner flag to take a theatric and well-deserved bow.
Mason Toye vs. Portland Timbers: August 7, 2019
Ah Mason Toye, we hardly knew ye.
Toye had a stretch in the summer of 2019 that . . . let’s not talk about it too much, or I will become sad, and this is supposed to be a happy column. What I liked about this goal was not just the occasion – the game-winner in the semi-finals of the US Open Cup – but also the vintage Kevin Molino delivery. Molino took the ball deep in his own half, looked up and saw Toye streaking upfield off the back shoulder of Portland’s last defender. Molino lofted a perfectly weighted pass that landed deep in enemy territory, where Toye settled it with his right foot, then slotted it with his left into the far side panel. Cue maracas.
Kevin Molino vs. Sporting Kansas City: December 3, 2020
There’s so much to like about this one that I hardly know where to start, but let’s begin with the elegant interplay between Emanuel Reynoso and Romain Metanire. Metanire darts into a pocket of space near the top of the box, and he and Reynoso perform a give and go that seems to lull the Sporting defense into a confused and sleepy trance. Cue symphonic music now and watch it in slow mo, and you will see Reynoso glance up to recognize that Molino has drifted into a dangerous area right along the back line of Kansas City’s defense with his back to the goal.
I hope you still have the symphony music going, because next Reynoso lofts the ball in a comely arc and Molino – who now hears the music too — watches the ball float over his head, tracks it, and executes a half spin in order to volley it far post while falling to the ground.
You look back to see that Reynoso – who was of course holding the batons all along – do that dramatic gesture conductors use to make the orchestra do that loud ending thing – a crescendo? – and then we all go nuts.
Now that is my happy place. Cue Wonderwall.