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Late Drama Sees Loons Grab Another Road Win

WOW. Minnesota United has been anything but dull this season. Despite a gut-punch less than 15 seconds into tonight’s match, the Loons fought back for an exhilarating 3-2 win over Orlando City, and it was packed with action from start to finish.

If you were up and about at the beginning of this one, I’m so sorry; the first four minutes were absolutely insane. Right after kickoff, Orlando pounced on a wayward pass, launching a lethal counterattack and finding Duncan McGuire in the box. The Lions’ 2023 breakout star gave the home side the lead after just 14 seconds, sending the crowd into hysterics for their club’s first MLS goal this season.

With the volume turned up and the stadium shaking, it looked like it would be a tough night for the Loons. But the visitors had a few notes of their own for the scriptwriters.

In the fourth minute, a lackadaisical back pass put Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese under more pressure than he anticipated. Teemu Pukki darted in front of Gallese’s attempted clearance, blocking it and setting himself up for the clinical finish from a tight angle. Just 86 more minutes to go.

With the scores level once more, the frenetic start to the match gradually reset to tactics as usual, though both sides appeared a bit frazzled and shell-shocked. About 20 minutes in, Orlando was patiently moving the ball around the back, waiting for opportunities to exploit the Loons’ high line. The speed of Iván Angulo was a nightmare for DJ Taylor and Michael Boxall, but no matter how many chances they created, the Lions couldn’t find that finishing touch. Though the visitors were a bit slow in the back, they never lost faith; Ted Lasso would be proud, as it seemed that 11 goldfish lined up for the Loons.

Relentless effort turned out to be the key, and after a tidy bit of passing around Orlando’s 18, Pukki slotted in a beautiful pinpoint finnish to put his side ahead. While Pukki’s efforts were superb, it’s worth noting that the assist came from none other than Robin Lod. Finnish connection, anyone?

Orlando came alive during stoppage time, but between their own misses and the outstanding play of Dayne St. Clair, the equalizer would have to wait. Though it wasn’t the prettiest half of soccer they’ve played in 2024, the Loons did enough to get to the break with the lead, thanks to the quality of their number nine.

The second half was characterized by Orlando’s failure to capitalize on the chances they created and the Loons remaining composed. The visitors survived several scares before Duncan McGuire grabbed his brace, leveling the score and giving the crowd hope that a winner was on the way. They weren’t wrong about that, though they didn’t seem to be too excited when it came.

Remember Bongokuhle Hlongwane? Our beloved Bongi? Well, I’m thinking he’s back. Once again, the Loons left it late, waiting until a breakaway in the 90’+6’ to strike. Tani’s perfectly weighted touch gave Bongi just enough space to get his shot over the outstretched arms of Gallese, sealing the win and getting a warm reception from the Orlando faithful that watched his goal celebration.

Though they didn’t generate a ton of chances and looked overall slightly less sharp than they did in their first two matches, the Black and Blue did enough to win once again. One look at the match stats will tell you that fortune favored the Loons today, especially after trailing the hosts by a whopping 3.1 expected goals.

An indomitable spirit seems to surround the squad this year—a complete refusal to quit, as evidenced by late goals in the last two matches. The performances of Tani Oluwaseyi and his fellow substitutes have been both crucial and downright impressive this season, giving their side exactly the edge they need to get a result.

Aside from the standout performances of Bongi, Pukki, and Tani, midfielder Wil Trapp lived up to his chant today, continuing his fantastic form to start the season. Number 20 was everywhere tonight, winning the ball and covering the gaps that Orlando pried open during his time on the pitch.

The Loons will look to build off of their impressive start when they return home to take on LAFC next Saturday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m. CT.


Minnesota United FC v Los Angeles FC

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota

03.16.24 | MLS Game 4

7:30 p.m. CT (Watch on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)