As the leaves begin to turn to autumn colors, the winds of change have picked up at Minnesota United — for the 2023 season, and beyond, as Loons longtime Gaffer Adrian Heath was dismissed this week as the coach of Minnesota United FC. While it brings no joy to see any coach dismissed from managing his team, Heath’s departure holds a bit more weight than most as he was the one and only head man to command the sidelines in the club’s 7-year run in Major League Soccer. But, on this Saturday evening in October it would be longtime assistant Sean McAuley stepping up to the task that lay ahead of the Loons: claiming a crucial three points to stay in the playoff hunt in the logjam that is the Western Conference. Well, that, and making it one hell of a Fan Appreciation Night for the last home match at Allianz Field in the regular schedule. And, leave it to the finest Finn on the field to turn it into a party, as Teemu Pukki would have a club record 4 goals to lead the Loons over the Galaxy by a gaudy scoreline of 5-2.
With both squads entering with playoff hopes still alive, this one would be an action-packed affair, with much of the excitement provided by a Loons side desperately in need of the win at home, where they haven’t found positive results recently. But, points wouldn’t be a problem on Saturday night, thanks to an offensive onslaught from the home side. Hassani Dotson kicked off the scoring in the 33rd minute of the first half, after Bongokhule Hlongwane connected from the wing with Dotson in the dead-center of the box, who would find the net to make it 1-0, Loons.
While the Galaxy would bring things level after LA midfielder Tyler Boyd’s shot found the net in the 41st minute, Pukki would give the home crowd just a sample of the scoring night to-be before the half. It would be Emanuel Reynoso’s forward lob pass that landed in front of the striker, who went on to shoot just hard enough to get by the hand of LA keeper Jonathan Bond and roll over the line to head into the locker room with a 2-1 lead. But, would those good vibes transfer over to the second half?
The answer to that would be an emphatic “yes,” as Pukki would strike again in the 60th minute when he would collect a loose ball at the top of the box and put another boot past Bond to expand the MNUFC advantage to 3-1, birds. He wouldn’t take too much longer to make it a hat trick in the evening when Hlongwane found Pukki open at the left wing and in close range of the net to put a laser shot in the back of the net, putting the fellas ahead even further, 4-1.
Pukki would cap off his night by putting his name in the MNUFC record books in the 75th minute, when a fast-breaking Fragapane would hit Pukki in stride with a through ball and, with the keeper Bond charging to challenge the shot, the crafty Finn would look off Bond to the left and angle a long shot to the right past his outstretched arms. LA would score a late goal, but the night would belong to Teemu Pukki and the Loons, as they notched an exciting and critical 5-2 victory over the Galaxy.
With their playoff hopes still alive, three more points in the standings, and a much-needed confidence boost, the Loons will look toward Decision Day and a massive matchup in Kansas City, as both clubs will enter with a very real shot at the playoffs if they can claim three points in the finale. Let’s. Go. You. Loons!
Sporting Kansas City vs. MNUFC
10.21.2023 | MLS Matchday 37
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, KS | Kickoff: 8:00 p.m.
Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN