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Oluwaseyi Steals a Point in Electric Home Opener

Can we play Columbus more often? My goodness, that was amazing. Though the home opener against the defending MLS Cup Champions—the Columbus Crew—ended in a 1-1 stalemate, it was the best 1-1 draw you’ll ever see. Between the outstanding performance of Sang Bin Jeong and the overall quality of the product on the field, this match should be right up there with MNUFC’s finest performances. 

Much like the last time these teams clashed, today’s match was end-to-end and exhilarating from start to finish. The stats don’t really do a great job of telling the story of this one, as a quick glance might make one think that the champs were robbed. For much of the match, MNUFC was on top, but Columbus’ quality created more clear-cut opportunities than their hosts. 

The first 20 minutes were dominated by the home side, whose high press and evident energy were fueled to greater heights by a raucous Allianz Field crowd. The champs looked shell-shocked early on, unable to slip into the style they’ve found so much success with. This was due in large part to the Loons midfield keeping Darlington Nagbe from making his mark, as well as an incredible pressing effort from the front three.

The Loons spent the half winning the ball much higher up the pitch than in years past and generally looked as confident and calm as they’ve ever looked in their MLS history. There was plenty of promise in the opening stages, but no end product.

It wasn’t until just over a quarter of an hour in that the visitors finally woke up, and even then, they weren’t the dominant side that we’ve grown used to seeing. Nagbe started to find more pockets, completing short passes to ease himself into his usual conductor role, connecting his team and bringing his trademark fluidity into the match. The guy never loses the ball, and he always makes the right decision. Poetry in motion, my friends, pure poetry. 

The second half started as it would continue, with the Loons still playing well but fading in the face of an extremely composed Columbus side. They’re the defending champions for a reason, and though they demonstrated their pedigree throughout the match, the Black and Blue went toe-to-toe. 

As the hosts began to tire and drop off, the Crew began to surge into dangerous positions, dictating the speed of play and dragging the MNUFC back line out of position far too often for comfort. The midfield lost their legs about an hour in, but substitutes Moses Nyeman, Loïc Mesanvi, and Tani Oluwaseyi revitalized the team upon taking to the pitch. 

Columbus cashed in on their dominance just before the subs entered, though, as Cucho Hernandez’s strike from the top of the box found the bottom corner for the 1-0 lead in the 59th minute. For the next 20 minutes, it looked more likely that the visitors would add to their lead before the Loons fought back, but the final ten minutes didn’t play out quite as expected. 

With fresh legs and the kind of passion and determination that makes us all love this game, Minnesota United pressed with renewed vigor and a refusal to rest on what was already an admirable day at the office. They welcomed the Crew’s decision to sit in and defend, putting the champs under intense pressure in search of that elusive equalizer.

Then, seemingly out of nothing, they found it. 

A long throw-in deeeep into stoppage time found its way to Tani Oluwaseyi at the back post. The forward turned to face the crowd, where most would assume he would try to pick out a quick pass. Instead, he lifted the ball past two defenders and a helpless Patrick Schulte from an impossible angle, snatching a point at the death and blowing the metaphorical roof off of Allianz Field’s roofless facility. 

In the absence of key players (Emanuel Reynoso, Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Robin Lod, and Franco Fragapane), the Loons never flinched or backed down against what many consider the best team in the league. They looked every bit as talented as the visitors, and for large portions of the match, they were far more energetic.

It would be wrong to not specifically call out the tireless efforts of Sang Bin Jeong. The first half of this match had his fingerprints all over it, as the South Korean international wreaked havoc on Malte Amundsen down the right side of the pitch. His crossing ability was absolutely superb, serving perfect in-swinging curlers to his teammates at the back post time and time again. Unfortunately, no one rewarded the winger with a finish, but the threat he created was undeniable. 

Fantastic shifts from Mesanvi, Oluwaseyi, and Dayne St. Clair gave the Loons a platform to fight from, and the performance of Alejandro Bran in midfield was, at times, inspired. This match will give the squad even more confidence and positive momentum heading into their next game, another Eastern Conference showdown against Orlando City SC down in the Sunshine State next Saturday.  


Orlando City SC v Minnesota United FC

Inter & Co. Stadium | Orlando, Florida

03.09.24 | MLS Game 3

6:30 p.m. CT (Watch on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)