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Recap: MNUFC settles for draw against RSL

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Loons unable to score despite second half barrage

September 27, 2020 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United players Jacori Hayes (5) and Chase Gasper (77) fight Real Salt Lake midfielder Maikel Chang (16) for the ball during the match at Allianz Field. 

(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)
September 27, 2020 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United players Jacori Hayes (5) and Chase Gasper (77) fight Real Salt Lake midfielder Maikel Chang (16) for the ball during the match at Allianz Field. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Minnesota United put together a second half full of quality scoring opportunities, but in the end had to settle for a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake at Allianz Field on Sunday night. The Loons dominated possession throughout, and had the better of the chances, but RSL keeper Andrew Putna stood firm to help the Claret and Cobalt earn its first ever point in MN.

Head Coach Adrian Heath called the result “disappointing.” Heath cited the run of play in the second half, noting that when teams produce quality chances, ”eventually and normally good things happen.”

This night was not normal.

Heath opted for a 4-3-3 to open the game, with the trio of Jan Gregus, Hassani Dotson, and Jacori Hayes in the middle of the park. Kei Kamara got his second start up top, and Emanuel Reynoso lined up on the right.

The first half saw the Loons garner the lion’s share of the possession, but do very little in the way of sustained pressure or legitimate chances. The home side’s best opportunity came in the fourth minute, when Robin Lod slipped Romain Metanire through for a sharp angle shot from the right side that Putna parried wide.

Emanuel Reynoso occasionally combined effectively with Metanire, but MN never found the right combination to unlock Salt Lake’s back four.

RSL center back Marcelo Silva gave Kamara little breathing room, and the visitors continually forced the Loons out wide where the attack died again and again. Minnesota ended the half with only two shots attempted. On the other end, Salt Lake’s best opportunity came in the dying moments of the half, when Damir Kreilach got his head on a cross and forced Dayne St. Claire into a diving save.

The second half was a different story. The Loons were more incisive with their passing, and found more creases in the RSL defense as a result. Reynoso broke into the penalty area twice in a two minute span, forcing successive big saves out of Putna. Salt Lake came close to equalizing on the other end, when Douglas Martinez put a lofted cross wide of the goal, then it was the Loons turn to apply sustained pressure.

Reynoso nearly created some vintage set piece magic in the 55th minute.

But it wasn’t to be.

Kamara used his chest to bring down a lofted pass in the 58th minute and find an open Lod near the top of the 18. When Lod’s shot went wide it began to feel like one of those nights that the ball just would not find the net.

And it didn’t.

Minnesota continued to create, and Putna continued to find a way.

When Bakaye Dibassy’s header off a corner kick in the 88th minute kissed the post and rolled wide, even the optimists could see that this was not Minnesota’s night. The final whistle left the Loons feeling disappointed. While Heath talked about the value this point could have down the road, this was one of those games that – given the opportunities squandered – felt like a loss.

That’s not to say there wasn’t something in this game for Minnesota fans and neutrals. Reynoso’s performance should be a boost to Loon morale. He found a lot of the ball, and made good use of it. He created numerous opportunities for himself as well as his teammates – and, perhaps most importantly, earned some serious style points along the way.