Minnesota United FC hosted a rare afternoon match on Saturday afternoon against a struggling Houston Dynamo. With Hector Herrera unexpectedly absent from the Dynamo lineup, the Loons were poised for a solid performance. Defensive lapses, complacency, and a serious injury, proved it would be tougher than expected. Still it only took an own goal and a few good moments from Emanuel Reynoso and Luis Amarilla to secure a 2-1 win and a big three points at home.
With Kemar Lawrence still dealing with a knee injury, DJ Taylor once again filled in at leftback making this the same Starting XI for two consecutive games. New DP Mender Garcia was in the 18, his first appearance at Allianz Field. Wil Trapp and Brent Kallman joined him on a fairly deep bench.
Loons ins STP this afternoon pic.twitter.com/YIAZmWCVEf— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 27, 2022
Houston’s Hector Herrera was a late scratch for Saturday afternoon. The midfielder, who had played all 90 minutes of Houston’s last six matches, is dealing with a leg knock. Head coach Paulo Nagamura shifted to a 4-3-3 with Adalberto Carrasquilla in the center. Corey Baird, Sebastián Ferreira, and Fafa Picault led the attack. Former Loon Darwin Quintero was on the bench.
The hits came early. While the Dynamo came out with a high press, the Loons managed to force a few midfield turnovers. An early chance was stopped by keeper Steve Clark in the 4th minute but an injury in the run-up stopped the match. Centerback Bakaye Dibassy, making a supporting run down the left wing, was undercut by a Houston midfielder and landed hard and awkwardly on the pitch. He had to be helped off the pitch and was replaced by Brent Kallman in the 7th minute.
After the game, Wil Trapp said, “Bakaye [Dibassy] is someone that we know how important he is to the group and he’s not a guy that goes down easy He certainly doesn’t yell out like he yelled out in that play.” Head coach Adrian Heath said the injury “doesn’t look good.”
“We’ll have a better idea, he’s having an MRI as we speak. Probably will have a bit more information either later this evening or tomorrow,” he said in the post-match presser. “My first fear is that it’s not so good.”
Back on the pitch the squads continued to trade shots through traffic and it started to look like the team to make the first mistake would concede first. Picault and Baird both registered missed shots before the 20th minute. However, play was stopped again in the 24th minute for serious injury. Kervin Arriaga went up for a header on a Minnesota corner kick and collided with Baird. Both players had to have cuts bandaged before being escorted to the sideline and remained out while Minnesota took the resulting corner, but they would play on.
The injury time worked to Houston’s advantage. With six minutes added on to the first half, Houston capitalized on Minnesota’s fatigue and exhaustion. An unmarked Corey Baird (by now on his second bandage) chipped Dayne St Clair to take a 1-0 lead in the first minute of stoppage time.
“Maybe, we’re a little fatigued. We’re just trying to work ourselves into the game and look, this is their season. [Houston] gave everything in that first half and I don’t think we were really initially prepared for that and thought maybe it would just come and it didn’t come,” Trapp explained.
Trailing 1-0 Heath made a rare halftime substitution, pulling Bongokuhle Hlongwane and sending in Trapp. With the Arriaga-Trapp pairing restored, Robin Lod moved back up to the right wing.
Lod quickly went to work supporting the attack and was one of two available targets for a DJ Taylor cross in the 48th minute. Lod was ready for the ball but it was too far ahead of him. Amarilla was better positioned but couldn’t quite make it before the ball curled past the post and out. Amarilla found a better opportunity five minutes later, this time on a cross from Lod. He struck with a clean bicycle kick but the shot was high.
Amarilla had another great shot in the 61st, assisted by rightback Alan Benítez, but Clark easily gathered it. Garcia replaced Arriaga in the 68th minute. The substitution was another rarity — Heath putting two true forwards on the pitch with three midfielders/wingers in support. While they caused a little trouble, the Loons didn’t equalize until the 79th minute.
Reynoso took a freekick from his favorite area, just outside the corner of the 18. His shot found net - with a little help from Picault.
The equalizer lit a fire under Minnesota to find a late winner and they did just that. Benítez again found Amarilla camped out in the center of Clark’s six-yard box. Amarilla one-timed the cross with his right foot, easily beating Clark and giving Minnesota the lead in the 84th minute.
Amarilla and Ferreira each added shots before the end of regulation and Minnesota was able to earn enough setpieces over two minutes of injury time to kill the clock. Amarilla’s late goal salvaged three points from what was nearly a sloppy, costly shared point.
Heath did not bring out his standard “goals change games” spiel, which would have been fitting, following this win.
It truly was a game of two halves, but the second half depended on a little luck (like a Houston own-goal) and Amarilla’s newfound confidence.
“This is the time of the season where you want to be peaking, you want to start performing, and we still have room to improve and getting results too. We’ve still got some tough games ahead to prove ourselves against some difficult teams, against the best team in the league,” reflected Boxall. “They [conference leaders LAFC and Austin FC] can have all the titles, all the accolades, all the media write about them. We know in this room what we’re capable of and we just get to work.”
The Loons travel to Salt Lake on Wednesday before returning home for another Saturday matinee against FC Dallas. Heath is confident that his squad has the depth to rotate personnel for the midweek match and prepare for the marathon stretch to playoffs.