Following a disappointing loss to Colorado last week, Minnesota United needed to bounce back against Austin FC. Returning international players gave the squad a lift and an early goal from Franco Fragapane ended up being the difference in a hard-fought 1-0 road win that solidified the team's playoff ambitions and gave goalkeeper Tyler Miller a team record-tying 11th shutout on the year.
Minnesota United began the game with energy — a much-needed commodity on the road for any team. Both they and Austin FC racked up chances early, with possession tilting slightly in the home side’s favor and four shots for each side through the first 10 minutes. Shortly thereafter, Austin began to push their advantage and opened up more chances but it was Minnesota who would seize the moment against the run of play.
In the 16th minute, the Austin defense gave midfielder Emanuel Reynoso enough space to line up a shot, which he blasted from the edge of the area. Goalkeeper Brad Stuver punched it clear, but it came to Hassani Dotson, who did well to corral it and hold it long enough in the box to send a low pass through the six-yard box and onto Franco Fragapane’s feet. The Argentine struck it hard one-time into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Neither team shrank from the challenge of either climbing back into the game or putting it out of reach, but the remainder of the first half featured more missed opportunities than made ones. In the 20th minute, Reynoso took an incredible first touch to control a long, lofted through ball but instead of taking his chance, he centered it to forward Adrien Hunou, who was a little too slow to find his touch and fired it into an Austin defender. Austin’s Tomas Pochettino left several attempts on the table as he consistently struck shots wide left from inside the box.
The net result heading into the break was a big possession advantage for the home side in the first half (59% for Austin and 41% for MNUFC), 10 shots for each side and a tenuous lead for the visitors.
The second half seemed to only get chippier and chippier as the squads took out some of their frustrations on each other with physical play and some healthy jawing. For much of the second 45, Minnesota did not register a shot but were stalwart in defense. Tyler Miller made seven saves en route to the final whistle and the Loons had to withstand some heart-stopping moments.
In the 78th minute Cecilio Dominguez ran onto a ball in the box practically unmarked, but his deftly curled shot was not curled quite deftly enough and missed wide right. And then in stoppage time, Sebastian Driussi got a good look at a cross from the right wing directly in front of goal but he couldn’t elevate quite high enough to aim his header down and instead it sailed into the stands, along with Austin’s hopes to salvage something from the game. The 1-0 win gave Tyler Miller his 11th shutout of the season, equaling the record set by goalkeeper Vito Mannone during Minnesota’s 2019 campaign.
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
10.20.21 | MLS Week No. 31 | MLS Game No. 30
7:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North+, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)