After Friday’s 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, Minnesota United rose to 6th place in the Western Conference. Settled into playoff position, MNUFC looked ahead, hoping to keep their winning streak alive. It’s a tight race in the Western conference, and every point makes a difference in who rises and falls amongst the rankings. Wednesday night's game was a slow burn of a battle. The game started lethargically and ramped up evenly on each side as every minute ticked by, ultimately leading to the 1-1 draw.
This was a game of swords and shields. Well, mainly shields. Any decent attempt by either side was thwarted by strong defensive play – and especially in the Loons case – keeper saves. (Thank you, Dayne St. Clair, for proving yourself to be an All-Star once again.) If there was a count of how many crosses were flat-out denied on each end, it would be insanely high.
Overall, it was an interesting game to watch that was also extremely frustrating with the constant quick pass plays that never came to fruition on goal. The first half kicked off with each side passing the ball well, but not adding much urgency behind it. MNUFC had more calculated plays that couldn’t entirely break through. Whereas, Sporting KC had more random breakouts that appeared slightly more dangerous but also fell short.
Most of the game saw a back-and-forth battle that had a dangerous attempt met with a dangerous attempt. In the 6th minute, Sporting KC had a decent shot from the top of the box, but the ball went wide. In the 7th minute, the Loons answered with a nice cross-box ball of their own, but no one got on it.
Kansas City began picking up the pace around the 9th minute, pinging the ball a bit faster and looking more dangerous in the attacking third. A shot attempt around 9:30 gave every Loons fan in Allianz Field heart palpitations. A KC midfielder fired a dart from outside of the box to the left corner, but St. Clair was all over it, making a save that had the crowd shouting “MVP!
”The rest of the half saw much of the same, with some close calls on each end. Finally, in the 42nd minute, the Loons found the net, well, Sporting KC found the net, but it was their own. Kemar Lawrence flew with the ball down the left side of the box before slicing it across the goal line. As Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas went to clear the ball, it deflected off of his keeper and into the goal. Before KC had much of a chance to answer, the whistle blew and the score at half remained 1-0.
The second half kicked off with more pace than the first, and there were many more promising plays from the Loons. However, many of those plays ended with a wave of the flag and an offside call following at its heels. There were six offside calls in the second half, two of which were almost goals.
Much of the half was similar to the first in that quick combinations led to near misses. While the ball pinged up and down the field, fans were getting hungry for another MNUFC goal. However, hunger turned to need when Sporting KC found their equalizer in the 63rd minute. Johnny Russell fired a laser into the net from just outside of the 6-yard box.
The goal Minnesota needed to walk away with a victory, slipped through their fingers. In the 65th minute, Franco Fragapane threaded the ball between the SKC defense. Fragapane crossed the ball across the 6 to Luis Amarilla who buried it in the net. While the crowd was going wild and smoke was filling the air, the referees were making the call to take away the point. Fragapane had been marked offside. In the 80th minute, Robin Lod had a shot attempt that was barely saved by the keeper, but he was also called offside. Minnesota only needed one of their many attempts in the second half to find the net, but each one seemed to just barely elude them.
That’s not to say the only good looks from Minnesota were from negated plays, but if Minnesota would have picked their head up, they could have clenched the dub this round. At least strong defensive plays kept some solid KC attempts at bay. In the 87th minute, St. Clair saved the game from a loss with another great save, and then a rebound save on top of it.
The score rested at 1-1 at the 90th minute, and with 3 minutes of injury time added, there wasn’t much time to find the winning goal. The physicality of each side ramped up to 1000 as the ball was shot back from one side of the field to the other. The Loons nearly walked away with the win when a Reynoso corner kick had the ball bouncing around in the 6, but ultimately no one was able to get a foot on it. The game ended shortly after the near-goal, with the scorecard resting at 1-1.
The draw with Sporting KC extends the Loons unbeaten streak to four. While the boys were looking to add three points instead of one to their season, the disappointing end to the game might light the fire they need to ramp up another winning streak. Looking to climb the rankings in the Western Conference, MNUFC will get another crack at an at-home win this Saturday against D.C. United.
Minnesota United FC vs. DC United
Allianz Field | St. Paul, MN
07.16.22 | MLS regular season game no. 21
7:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)