After two weeks off for International Break following the end of the 2021 Major League Soccer regular season; Minnesota United returned to the pitch to face Portland Timbers in the opening round of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
After a few weeks away Adrian Heath made a few changes to their lineup from the Starting XI against LA Galaxy. The front four remained unchanged while Trapp shifted over to LDM with Alonso taking the spot at RDM. The back four would also be unchanged, however Dayne St. Clair would take over in goal as Tyler Miller tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the match. This change would give the Canadian his first start in six months, last appearing and starting on May 8th against the Colorado Rapids.
YOUR Playoff XI ⚫️ pic.twitter.com/dXufu73eo2— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) November 21, 2021
Minnesota, did what they needed to do early, opening with an 11th minute goal from Franco Fragapane. Robin Lod slipped into the box and sent a pass to an open Romain Métanire who took control of the pass about 4 yards wide of the six yard box. Métanire sent a low cross to Fragapane at the other side of the box, where he then scored an easy opener for the visitors.
OMG just watch this goal.— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) November 21, 2021
like for real.
Loons up 1-0. pic.twitter.com/1zfP7OTvOr
Portland evened the match up just before half-time when Larrys Mabiala scored a header goal off a cross from Claudio Bravo who got the setup pass on a short corner from Yimmi Chara.
BIG MAN LARRYS— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 21, 2021
Mabiala rises highest for his first goal of the season! 1-1.#PORvMIN // @Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/JjSQ2JOEN4
After the second half started, things did not get better for Minnesota United. After having a ball sent into the box, Chase Gasper misplayed the ball, heading it back to Timbers CAM Sebastián Blanco. Blanco used the opportunity to send in a genuine rocket past St. Clair, in what turned out to be the game winning goal.
¡MISILAZO de Sebastián Blanco! ¡Golazo argentino! #SomosTimbers #PORvMIN @Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/LUVJnltxWu— MLS Español (@MLSes) November 21, 2021
Down 2 – 1 with almost 40 plus minutes to go after the goal, things turned from bad to worse for the Loons. Hassani Dotson would come into replace RB Romain Métanire, who had been dealing with a hamstring injury during the match.
Not long after the substitution Portland would get the dagger with Blanco securing a brace with his second goal of the night in the 66th minute.
BLANCO WHAT A GOAL— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 22, 2021
His second of the night for Portland!
(via @MLS) pic.twitter.com/NWwABpgea9
Following the third goal, the rest of the second half turned into an extremely chippy and at time dangerous game of football. Five of the matches eight yellow cards would be issued after the 70th minute, including four in 13 minutes and three issued on a single play. One of those arguably should have been a red card on Minnesota’s Franco Fragapane.
The loss sends Minnesota United tumbling out of the playoffs in the first round for the second time in the last three seasons. Since entering Major League Soccer the Loons have made it to the Western Conference finals once (2020), the US Open Cup Final once (2019), the MLS Cup Playoffs thrice (2019-21), and the MLS Is Back tournament Semi-Finals last year. Minnesota United has not made it to a league final since the 2012 North American Soccer League season when the then named Minnesota Stars lost the Soccer Bowl to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The only championship in club history game 10 years ago as NSC Minnesota Stars, when they defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the Soccer Bowl 3-1 on aggregate.