Minnesota United FC hosted another top-of-the-table clash on Saturday night, welcoming second place Austin FC back to Allianz Field. Despite ceding the majority of possession to their visitors, MNUFC saw out a sloppy period of injury time and clinched three points at home with a 2-1 finish.
While only one goal came from the run of play, a season-high crowd of 19,829 were treated to a display of two attacking sides with all their biggest components in form. At times it was even another look at the MLS All-Stars with Minnesota’s Emanuel Reynoso and Austin’s Sebastian Driussi reuniting, this time as opposing 10s.
how the fellas are lining up tonight pic.twitter.com/rW3Ikfq1TI— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 20, 2022
Tonight's Starting XI to take on Minnesota United.#AustinFC x @YETICoolers pic.twitter.com/Ynh4YWUJu8— Austin FC (@AustinFC) August 20, 2022
Unfortunately, most of the attacking displays came from turnovers. Reynoso began a run following an Austin turnover in 4th minute and dribbled into Austin’s third. He was well-defended by forward Maxi Urruti who closed off any scoring opportunity, but it was the first of many counterattacks.
Our front four is starting to look dangerous.— John Gerlach (@mn_jdg) August 21, 2022
Reynoso did put Minnesota on the board first, converting a penalty kick in the 25th minute after being fouled on yet another run into the 18. It was Austin midfielder (and former Loon) Ethan Finlay who threw in a little extra shoulder to push Reynoso off the ball. The goal was Reynoso’s tenth of the season, giving him a solid two-goal lead over striker Luis Amarilla.
our #10 and his PK pic.twitter.com/PJKeVqrVQm— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 21, 2022
The opening goal raised the stakes for both attacks and play sped up, but the turnovers remained an issue. Reynoso, Bongokuhle Hlongwane, and Franco Fragapane, played nearly as much defense as offense while fullbacks DJ Taylor on the right and Alan Benítez on the left initiated runs from Austin turnovers.
Benítez added a shot of his own in the 44th minute. Despite a poor defensive performance at Colorado (4-3 loss, August 6), the rightback contributed a goal and an assist in his first two starts and continued that run, off the scoresheet, on Saturday.
this was that rocket shot https://t.co/lPhf0axouH pic.twitter.com/tGU784ttqw— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 21, 2022
A late surge by Austin saw a few more shots in Minnesota’s third. While the Loons did well to closed down space, DJ Taylor found himself in some trouble when he slid in to intercept a shot on goal. The ball hit his arm and he was called for a hand ball. Driussi joined Reynoso on the scoreboard by converting the penalty in the 45+2’, bringing the match level 1-1. The two 10s even laughed together on their way to the center circle for the restart.
Never a doubt from the @MLS Golden Boot leader. pic.twitter.com/DeTREXWS1u— Austin FC (@AustinFC) August 21, 2022
The second half began much the same as the first. In the 46th minute, Fragapane ran toward goal following a turnover at midfield. Goalkeeper Brad Stuver stopped the shot. A mess of setpieces followed at both ends of the pitch — Dayne St. Clair punched away corner kicks shots, chippy challenges at midfield both created and followed turnovers. It was a turnover in Stuver’s own box that changed the game.
Much better defensively and a stolen, chipped goal.— OnlyPunsCEO (@MarknessVisible) August 21, 2022
Lackadaisical passing as Stuver attempted to play the ball out of the box gave Fragapane and Reynoso the chance they’d been working toward. Stuver’s casual clearance to Ruben Gabrielsen on his left in the 62nd minute drew Reynoso into the box. Reynoso’s pressure forced the centerback to pass it back to the keeper. As Stuver sent it back out to Julio Cascante on his right, Fragapane stepped up as well. Fragapane picked the ball off from Cascante and chipped it over a diving Stuver.
Franco's goal, but from the broadcast view pic.twitter.com/IaLUGZ5QiY— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 21, 2022
Adrian Heath said of the play,
With a 2-1 lead, the Loons turned on the pressure looking for more. Austin head coach Josh Wolff made three changes in the 67th minute to do the same, replacing Urruti, Finlay, and Pereira, with Danny Hoesen, Rodney Redes, and Owen Wolff. Heath started making adjustments as well, pulling Fragapane in the 71st for DP Mender García, whose paperwork just cleared this past week.
The match continued to get more chippy with Joseph Rosales and Wil Trapp returning to midfield in place of Reynoso and Amarilla in the 79th. Despite the bunker, the game continued much the same way — sloppy turnovers in midfield, pockets picked in the final third, and shots pulled well wide of goal.
Good subs, good subs, new guys looked good— Reid Bonshire (@CoachBonsh) August 21, 2022
García was one of those players who got into the attack and attempted to send dangerous balls in. He had a poor finish, but seemed to fit into the squad well given his very recent arrival. “Oh, he’ll be better for that. It’s been a sort of whirlwind few days for Mender and the fact that he’s seen where he plays now and the crowd has seen a little bit of him,” said Heath. “He’s been with his teammates for a bit. He’ll be better for that. He hasn’t played for, what was it, maybe seven weeks… eight weeks? He’ll be better for a few minutes under his belt.”
Mender G. is going to be fun to watch.— Friend of Jibs!22 (@OldAssCorey) August 21, 2022
Yes, it's nine words, I am not good at following rules. ♂️
In the final minutes of injury time, Austin did what every trailing visitor does at Allianz — attempt to steal two points in the dying moments of a match. While Minnesota’s defense held off the onslaught, a late gaff by Rosales gifted Austin a final opportunity. The midfielder took off on a counter following a turnover and, despite having Benitez and others running in support, opted to take a long shot himself rather than burning off the clock with the squad. Stuver redirected the ball right back into Minnesota’s third and it looked like Austin was poised to have the final word. Fortunately for the Loons, the whistle blew before the visitors could pull together a good opportunity.
This match was sloppy. It showed a lot of Minnesota’s perennial weaknesses. However, it was also a culmination of an attacking front four coming into form and playing with good chemistry. Reynoso played in support rather than having to make plays for himself and the whole squad worked box to box.
“I think, in this day, the player who doesn’t run, he can’t play soccer. Honestly, this league is a league where you run a lot, you press a lot. It’s very intense,” Fragapane told the media. “For that, we train, we take care of ourselves, we prep for that. The team is in a great run of form. We’re doing things well but it’s not time to relax. We have to keep going, there are more games left before qualifying to the playoffs.”
Minnesota United FC’s next game is back at Allianz and, with a former Loon on the opposing side, the Wonderwall is sure to be boisterous. The Loons will face Darwin Quintero and the Houston Dynamo, who sit in 13th place in the West, on Saturday, August 27, at 2:30 PM CST. Houston’s 3-9-1 road record is good for Minnesota but as we’ve seen time and time again, nothing can be taken for granted.