With two wins and six points at home, Minnesota United hit the road Wednesday night against an LAFC team that had picked up just one point from its two previous games. Similar to its weekend matchup against Portland, Minnesota United was forced to come from behind to earn a result. In the end, a heroic late stoppage time strike from Hassani Dotson equalized for the Loons, with Carolos Vela, Tristan Blackmon and Emanuel Reynoso all earning their place on the scoresheet in a 2-2 match.
The high-pressure press from Minnesota United was largely unsuccessful early, with Jose Cifuentes and Vela finding each other well in the final third for LAFC at home. In just the third minute Cifuentes played a ball through to Vela, putting it on his favored left foot and pushing a bent shot wide of the far post. Ten minutes later the duo connected again, this time with Cifuentes splitting two Minnesota United defenders to Vela free on a solo break against Tyler Miller. He played the ball low to Miller's left, but caught the goalkeepers outstretched cleat deflecting the ball away and out of play.
Vela would find his fifth goal of the season in the 41st minute, after Romain Metanire – returning to the lineup after an extended trip in France – was intercepted near midfield by Cifuentes. The Ecuadorian midfielder found Vela streaking down the right hand side of the pitch, and despite the best efforts of the Minnesota United defense, Vela shrugged off the challenges and lifted the ball over Tyler Miller's right shoulder for the first goal of the night.
The Loon's gameplan saw them defending much of the game, with just 40 percent of possession, and less than half the shots of their rivals. Instead, Minnesota United attempted to counter quickly after winning the ball, searching out runs from the outside of the pitch and darting into the center of the field. Several times through the first 45 minutes, Ethan Finlay found space in behind the LAFC defensive line, but was unable to find a teammate with a ball across the box and the Loons went into halftime down one goal.
A halftime substitution saw Marco Farfan slide into a more central role for LAFC with the exchange of centerback Jesus Murillo for attacking winger Raheem Edwards. Just three minutes into the second half, Farfan found himself on an island defending Reynoso after Robin Lod played the ball across the box to the Argentine playmaker. Reynoso took a step to the right before playing the ball onto his left foot and around Farfan. His leg gave way underneath him and he slid toward the ball as he shot, sending it into the side netting across goal with his left foot and equalizing for the Loons.
Tyler Miller tallied three saves in the match, and came up huge in the second half for the Loons. With the help of his defenders, the Loons absorbed 19 shots, allowing just five shots on goal. In the 56th minute, Brent Kallman blocked not one, but two shots from the top of the box, sending the second up into the air and comfortably back down into the arms of Miller. Miller would be called on twice more, saving shots from Diego Rossi at his left and right near posts before the Loons were once again beat in the 78th minute.
In what seemed like an inevitable moment, with LAFC pushing all out in the attack and chasing all three points, the club in black and gold earned a corner which was struck well by Eduard Atuesta, curing toward the edge of the six yard box. It was met cleanly by Tristan Blackmon, who had made a run largely unmarked from the top of the box and was able to nod it into the far corner of the goal for LAFC.
With the Loons chasing an equalizer late into the game, LAFC attempted to kill the game with time wasting tactics in stoppage. That strategy backfired, when center official Baldomero Toledo extended stoppage time from three minutes to six minutes and allowed the Loons an opportunity to score at the death. The dagger came in the 90+5 minute, when Jan Gregus played a knuckling ball toward the top of the box that was met by Dotson. The ball took one bounce before Dotson struck it sweetly on the half volley, banging it into the left side of the goal beyond the outstretched hand of Tomas Romero who managed to get a fingertip on the shot.
It was a dramatic way to pick up a point on the road, stealing a draw from the clutch of defeat. Despite the result, Minnesota United remains sixth in the Western Conference, with 22 points and a second road game to contend this Saturday as the Loons travel to Utah to kick off against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Rio Tinto Stadium | Salt Lake City, Utah
07.31.21 | MLS Week No. 15 | MLS Game No. 16
9:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North, CW Twin Cities, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)