As snow flurries blanketed an anxious Allianz Field, the 2023 MLS season officially arrived in Minnesota. A home opener without snow is hardly a home opener at all, and this season’s match didn’t disappoint. After a solid performance in difficult conditions, Minnesota United earned a 1-1 draw with Eastern Conference foes, New York Red Bulls.
Straight from kickoff, energy-drink soccer was on full display. Per usual, NYRB pressed high, forcing uncomfortable situations for the Loons and firing off five shots in the opening 15 minutes of the match. Red Bulls’ number ten Lewis Morgan came out of the gate particularly hot, narrowly missing a few cheeky chip attempts early on.
Though the attacking tandem of Corey Burke and Morgan caused problems initially, the MNUFC backline adjusted quickly, helping the rest of the team settle into the match after ten minutes. Michael Boxall’s solid performance and leadership brought the squad together, providing a solid foundation from which everything could build from.
After a period of back-and-forth attacks, Mother Nature proved once and for all that she is a Loons fan. When a NYRB defender slipped on the snow in the 18th minute, Franco Fragapane took advantage of the gift he was given, earning an MNUFC corner. The ensuing service found the head of center back Miguel Tapias, redirecting the ball toward the ever-vigilant Bongokuhle Hlongwane for the go-ahead tap-in.
The following eruption from the Loon-faithful seemed to spur the team on, providing the energy they needed to finally take the game to New Jersey’s MLS team. Minnesota was certainly more dynamic following the goal, but their flurry of action ultimately proved unfruitful. The final 15 minutes of the half ticked past without much of note, ending with the home team up 1-0.
The Red Bulls must have drank their namesake in the locker room, as they started the second half even faster than the first. John Tolkin’s corner in the 49th minute found the head of Colombian center back Andrés Reyes, leveling the scores and raising the tempo once more.
The second half followed a similar cadence to the first from there: an early barrage from the visitors, followed by a resurgent push from the Loons. It wasn’t until the 65th minute substitutions that the game began to deviate from the established script. With the addition of Luis Amarilla and Hassani Dotson’s fresh legs, MNUFC seemed to find a new gear.
Some bright play from Minnesota’s team saw several chances come and go, with a Robin Lod run nearly breaking the tie in the 70th minute. Nothing found its way through in the end, as the game fizzled out without a defining moment.
While the second half was cleaner than the first for both teams, they’ll be left wanting more than the draw they settled for. A mere two shots on target for the Loons highlighted their relative lack of true chances created, a problem that carried over from their win against Dallas two weeks ago.
The defensive solidity of Michael Boxall and Miguel Tapias was another, more positive carryover from the last match. Boxall in particular was everywhere in the first half, shutting Corey Burke down completely and cleaning up nearly every errant ball in the back. Lewis Morgan remained a nuisance until he was subbed off, but never produced anything concrete.
Though there were encouraging signs and achievements for both teams, neither was clearly superior to the other. A draw is a fair result, no matter how anybody feels about it. Moving forward, the Loons will begin to prepare for their road match against the Colorado Rapids next weekend.
Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United FC
DICK’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
03.18.22 | MLS Game 3
8:30 pm CT (Watch free on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)