In the end, the result was heartbreaking. But, the Loons left all the blood, sweat and tears on the Toyota Stadium grass. They went the distance with a very talented FC Dallas team, but that doesn’t change the fact that Minnesota United’s 2022 campaign ended late Monday night. By a single penalty. The Loons weren’t able to exorcise their first-round playoff demons, but it was not for lack of effort, with many of the Loons starting XI playing a majority of the game, and going blow-for-blow in a game defined by physicality and all the drama a soccer fan could want.
The first half was reminiscent of a prize fight where the first few rounds are more strategic, with each team feeling out their opponent. Both the United and Dallas attacks felt like they went blow for blow on the attack, with FC Dallas holding possession of the ball about 60% of the time. But, for all the dangerous shooters on the Dallas side, the Loons were able to hold the Toros at bay. Not to say that Dallas didn’t have its share of shots on goal, but as the adage goes, the MNUFC backline bent, but thankfully, did not break, leading to a 0-0 draw at the half. If the first half action was any indication, fans were in for a dog fight between the three and six seeds in the Western Conference.
And, in that regard, the second half didn’t disappoint.
While at times the attack would be more selective and strategic with their shots on goal, both teams picked up the pace and got more aggressive around the net. Stepping up the intensity proved to be the catalyst to the Loons connecting with the net first with Bongi Hlongwane emerging from a scrum near the top of the box to dish off a short touch pass to Emanuel Reynoso, with his lethal left foot drawing first blood in the match.
GOAL: Emanuel Reynoso, Minnesota United FC - 53rd minute
In the 64th minute, Dallas struck back with a goal of its own when a Matt Hedges corner kick found its way to Dallas midfielder Facundo Quignon, who put a close range header past St. Clair to even things up, 1-1.
In spite of allowing the goal, goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair showed why he’s been so important to the Loons this season, making acrobatic saves throughout the first ninety minutes and both extra fifteen-minute periods, notching a career-high eight saves prior to the match going into penalty kicks. Simply put, Dayne St. Clair is a difference maker, and hopefully, continues to be one for the Loons for many years to come.
SAVE: Dayne St. Clair keeps a potential 110th-minute winner from crossing the line
SAVE: Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United - 75th minute
Both clubs would begin the extra time by getting fresh legs out on pitch with Franco Jara entering in relief of Paul Arriola and MNUFC subbing in Alan Benítez for Robin Lod in the midfield. Refreshed lineups didn’t break the stalemate in either extra half of play, with both teams showing the wear and tear on a long, physical back-and-forth battle on the pitch.
Extra Time would tick away without any scoring, and penalty kicks would determine the fate of the Black and Blue’s 2022 season. And, unfortunately, Wil Trapp’s unsuccessful PK attempt would be the difference for a Loons team that showed their mettle. A hell of an effort by the boys and a great season of memorable moments, but in the end, the Loons season ends in frustrating fashion after being unable to slay the playoff beast.