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Match Recap | LA’s Score At The Death Extends Loons’ Pain


Regardless of who would be featured in the Minnesota United starting XI tonight, Coach Eric Ramsey and company certainly understood the assignment on Sunday evening in Carson, California:

Stop the skid.

The Loons would step onto the pitch at Dignity Health Sports Park in an announced 4-4-2 that played more like a 5-2-3, with Robin Lod, Bongi Hlongwane, and Sang Bin Jeong spearheading a Loons’ attack hoping to find space to hit the jets with their killer speed—a task certainly easier said than done against an LA Galaxy side that’s put in some of its best performances of the season as of late, the exception being their 2-1 loss to LAFC at the Rose Bowl on the Fourth of July.

While lineup structure isn’t a new look for the Loons this season, tonight’s plan was to keep it especially compact in hopes of cutting off any midfield channels for LA’s Riqui Puig to operate and distribute the ball. That approach was effective until the 25th minute, when, Puig, a player that's always dangerous with the ball at his feet, would hit Miki Yamane streaking down the right flank, to set up Gabriel Pec for a tap-in. 1-0, LA.

The Loons would attempt to bring the score even in short order, playing through a quick counter-attack just a few minutes later. The push up the middle would open opportunities for the Loons and looked to materialize in leveling the scoreline. It would be some fancy footwork from Sang Bin Jeong near the 18-yard line who was able to catch the Galaxy’s backs off-balance for the quick pass to Hlongwane, with the beauty of a cross to mid Alejandro Bran for the score...or so we thought. Ultimately, VAR would reveal Bongi just a hair offside on the Sang Bin pass, thwarting the Loons’ hopes of finding the first-half equalizer. Adding insult to literal injury, defender D.J. Taylor’s night would end early due to an apparent leg injury, which meant Caden Clark would be called to duty earlier than expected.

The Loons would up their aggression in the early minutes of the second half, as the attack would try to pounce on the Galaxy’s defense early on, with Boxy and the boys on the backline even pressing up field to, hopefully, force the issue.

It would be a healthy Teemu Pukki in his return to the pitch Sunday in Carson that would make his presence felt for the Black and Blue after missing several weeks due to a knee injury. The most impactful moment of the fine Finn’s return would come in the 73rd minute, when he struck a beauty from distance to finally notch the equalizer the Loons had worked for with their second-half surge.

In the closing minutes, Carlos Harvey would return to the lineup and look strong in his short time on the pitch, as he would key on the ever-dangerous Puig and limit his chances of breaking the draw. Franco Fragapane would also enter into the match, subbing for Bongi along with Harvey in the 77th minute. And, Fragapane would nearly put the boys ahead in the 85th minute with his strong, line-drive shot that LA keeper John McCarthy was able to get a finger on and redirect out of play.

But, at the death, MNUFC’s hope of putting a stop to their incredibly tough 6-game stretch would be put to bed thanks to more mastery from Puig and Pec, as Puig's beautiful ball set up Mauricio Cuevas, who sliced through the box before handing it off to Gabriel Pec for the easy tap-in for the brace. The Loons missed a golden opportunity in the 92nd minute right at the doorstep of the Galaxy’s box, as a back-and-forth between Lod and Fragapane would prove to be a tap too many, and LA would clear the ball safely out of bounds.

This match wouldn’t come without some positives, with Bongi continuing to rise to the occasion, using his speed and physicality to pose a scoring threat to the opposition tonight and over the past few weeks. In only his second-ever MLS start, Loons’ keeper Alec Smir would flash his potential throughout the match, highlighted by a beautiful diving save in the 70th minute. The scores surrendered were tough to stop, with the LA attack being more of the reason for deciding goals than any lapse by Smir. And, of course, seeing Teemu Pukki find the net after his early-season frustrations was a welcome sight to see.

But, in the end, it would be a great effort spoiled for a Minnesota United team that keeps hoping that great efforts like tonight don’t go unrewarded any longer. They will do their best to hit the brakes on their skid next Saturday against the Dynamo down in Houston.