In a big-time matchup that featured the fifth-place Loons visiting the Supporters’ Shield leaders, it was no surprise to see an LAFC squad holding firm in first place. Taking down a giant on the road is a tall order for any club, but for some reason, this match felt like it could be different. It was an opportunity to prove that the Loons could hang with the upper echelon of the league’s elite.
Unfortunately, the Hollywood ending was not in the cards for the Loons on this West Coast swing. And the 2-0 loss stung just a little bit more with the fact that the effort given by the squad was valiant. Specifically, and in a losing effort no less, keeper Dayne St. Clair stood on his head for most of the match.
From the opening kick, the Loons aggressive defensive pursuits and energetic attack created a frenetic pace of play that moved up and down the pitch. This match would even qualify as somewhat straining to one's neck , with both offensive attacks striking and counter-striking for the majority of the tilt.
That’s not to say that opportunity never knocked for either squads’ attack. One of Robin Lod’s oh-so-close attempts on the goal came in the 42nd minute of the first half, controlling the ball and spinning to face the goal and shoot a laser that nearly tagged the bottom corner of the net.
Ultimately, the maximum effort and physicality that was given on both sides led to a 0-0 halftime score. That same in-your-face peskiness shown by the Loons didn’t waver after the break, and the second half whistle started off another highly-energetic pace for MNUFC.
In keeping LAFC on their toes for a majority of the game, the Loons hoped to finally wear down the home side and finally convert one of LAFC’s costly turnovers into paydirt. And once again in the 48th minute, Robin Lod came very close to flipping the script on the Loon’s success out west, but ultimately couldn’t put best opportunities to the side of the goal.
Eventually, the homestretch of the second half of action left the Loons starting to tire. Fighting for nearly every ball, sprinting to every spot and imposing their physical will on the home squad ultimately began to take its toll.
While the offensive onslaught of LAFC was present throughout the match, its attack would prove to have more endurance than the Loons tight defensive unit could bear to withstand. Then, in the 82nd minute of play, the levee that had been building was finally broken by defender Ryan Hollingshead’s right foot, one-timing the ball off a deflected corner kick and turning into either squad’s first lead of the evening.
It was clear the Loons were worthy opponents that wouldn’t allow LAFC to close out the game without a fight. Unfortunately, even when the door was still open for a potential equalizer from Minnesota United, José Cifuentes played the part of “Debbie Downer” in the 90th minute and kicked the door shut on any sort of comeback hope when his left-footed shot from the center of the box banged into the bottom right corner of the net.
In spite of Dayne St Clair’s best outstretched efforts and an aggressive, physical style of play that was taken to the conference leaders, in the end, it proved to not be enough. The Loons will need to move past a heartbreaking loss at Banc of California and look to reestablish the momentum of a now-snapped three game winning streak.
Minnesota United FC vs. FC Cincinnati
Allianz Field | St. Paul, MN
05.07.22 | MLS Game 10
7:00 p.m. CT (MLS Live on ESPN+, Bally Sports North, The CW - Twin Cities, SKOR North)