20220514_MNUFC2_Houston_JJX71159

MNUFC2 v Houston Dynamo 2

AVEVA Stadium | Houston, Texas

07.24.2022 | MLS NEXT Pro Game No. 16

7:00 p.m. CT | Streaming on www.mlsnextpro.com

For the second week in a row, MNUFC2 are on the road. This time, they’re heading south to take on Houston Dynamo 2, another Western Conference opponent that is just above them in the league standings. With the season getting shorter and shorter, the importance of every point is beginning to increase with every passing game. 

These teams faced each other once before this season in a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field. This game came in the middle of MNUFC2’s 8-game unbeaten run that stretched from early April to early June. While the Loons were able to win that match 5-4 on penalties, it was a tight affair. 

The game remained locked at nil-nil until the 54th minute, when Houston defender Talen Maples managed to put one past the Loons. Just seven minutes later, MNUFC2 midfielder Aziel Jackson leveled the score once more. Despite several chances both ways, no one found the breakthrough they desired. 

Goalkeeper Fred Emmings was called upon frequently in the game, having to make eight saves. Dynamo 2 took the edge in possession, shots on goal, and passing. However, neither team was able to completely dominate the game. 

The Loons went five-for-five in the ensuing penalty shootout, with takers Diogo Pacheco, Aziel Jackson, Veljko Petković, Tanitoluwa Oluwaseyi, and Jason Ramos all finding the back of the net. 

This time around, Jackson feels an added sense of responsibility for his team. 

“I feel like I have a lot of responsibility on my hands because to be the top chance creator and not score any goals for the team is disappointing, but with all these chances, we need to put away goals,” Jackson said. “I feel like we’re ready for this game [against Houston Dynamo 2] and we need to be ready.”

While the last matchup found the Loons in the midst of great form, the same can’t be said about the current state of affairs. A two-game skid has seen them drop points to St Louis CITY2 at home, as well as a narrow loss to Tacoma Defiance on the road last week. 

When looking back at the Tacoma game, MNUFC2 head coach Cameron Knowles saw plenty to build off of.

“We had some really good moments in the game,” Knowles said. “When we reflect on it, we’ve said this many times, it’s not just how the result may affect the standings, but how we’re moving forward as individuals and how we’re moving forward as a group, and I thought a lot of guys had a lot of good moments. Unfortunately, it didn’t reflect in a win and three points, but I’m happy for Sagir [Arce] to get on the score sheet. And Tommy [Williamson], that was a well taken chance and an opportunistic chance. We had a few others. Even AZ [Aziel Jackson] to draw the penalty is really good playing and he’s really brave in that moment. So, I think there’s a lot of positives to take from the game.”

As things stand, Houston are eight points ahead of MNUFC2, with the former having played one more  game. A win would make a playoff charge feel more attainable for the Loons, though a loss won’t close the door just yet. Regardless, it’s crunch time, and no points can be given up easily from here on out.