We’re back, baby. Minnesota United took down Walmart Manchester City by a score of 2-0 on Sunday night in a very business-like display, showing the kind of patience, composure, and defensive acumen that most teams were lacking throughout Leagues Cup play.
It was a slow return to MLS action for both sides, with the first 15 minutes passing harmlessly by without much worth talking about. Neither team was able to get a leg up on the opposition, with generally slow and sloppy play keeping attacks from building up enough steam to truly threaten either goal.
After 20 minutes, the play of Teemu Pukki began to show through the slow start, with the Finn getting on the ball frequently and finding space to work with. MNUFC looked comfortable and patient, trusting that the breakthrough would come if they simply stuck to their game plan.
The home side kept hold of the ball for the majority of the match, with nearly 60% possession in the first half. However, a sloppy start to the game saw much of their time on the ball prove fruitless, aside from a golden opportunity squandered in the 28th minute. Maxi Moralez’s first game back on the baseball field didn’t really go to plan, with the midfielder failing to really make any significant impact at any point.
The first half ultimately proved to be uneventful, with the most notable occurrence being Bongokuhle Hlongwane’s substitution in the 39th minute after taking a knock. He was replaced by new-old-Loon Jan Gregus, who would make the most of his return to the Black and Blue.
After picking the ball up in transition, Gregus decided to have a hit from 25 yards out. His powerful shot took a deflection, looping it up and over the outstretched form of Luis Barraza and giving the Loons the lead seemingly out of nowhere.
The goal seemed to stun the Pigeons, but they recovered by the hour mark. From then on, NYCFC picked up the pace, with substitutes Talles Magno and Julian Fernandez causing problems in the Loons defensive third.
Their late push was in vain, however, with the impressive play of Dayne St. Clair and Michael Boxall combining to keep everything out of the net. A PK scare in the 85th minute was waived off when VAR revealed that Micky did absolutely nothing wrong, thank you very much.
The New York crowd was hoping to see a late goal, so, being the kind Midwesterners that we are, we obliged. Ménder García’s low, driven shot across the face of goal doubled the lead in the 95th minute, putting the nail in the coffin and sealing all three points with a flourish.
A solid second debut from Jan Gregus and some brilliant play from Minnesota’s backline proved to be the difference on the night. The visitors were never in a rush, instead opting to stay calm and play their style of soccer. Composure and trust were the keys to this victory, especially after the craziness of the Leagues Cup tournament.
The Black and Blue will be back at Allianz Field for their next match, with the Seattle Sounders making their way to Midway next Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT.
Minnesota United FC vs. Seattle Sounders
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
08.27.23 | MLS Game 24
3:30 pm CT (Watch free on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)