Compared to last week, tonight’s 40-degree temperatures were warmly welcomed by all in attendance at Allianz Field. And much like the great state of Minnesota, the Loons have only continued to heat up, especially in this showing against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Despite being down seven regular contributors, Minnesota United rose above the challenge and put in a good shift for their home crowd, finishing the game with a 1-1 draw and continuing their unbeaten streak.
Vancouver clearly wanted to test the light Minnesota squad, holding possession and keeping pressure on the Loons back line right from the kickoff. The Whitecaps were nearly successful in their early press attempts when a shot within the first minute went off the crossbar, and a short-range shot was stopped by Clint Irwin in the sixth.
Much of the first half saw a strong effort by Vancouver to break down the Minnesota line, however, the defense held firm. Clint Irwin had some great saves, while Zarek Valentin, Brent Kallman, Miguel Tapias, and DJ Taylor thwarted many Whitecaps attacks – facing them head-on.
The Loons continued to find their legs over the course of the first half. The Minnesota attack ramped up as time ticked by, finding a few golden opportunities from the 28th through the 32nd minutes, and finally, scoring a beauty in the 41st minute. A Valentin cross found a waiting Ménder García who hammered the ball into the upper left corner with his head.
The Whitecaps tried to answer right away, nearly finding the net two minutes later, but the shot went just wide. After that, a little bit of back-and-forth was all that remained for first-half action, and the squads headed into the locker rooms with the score 1-0 Loons.
In the second half, Vancouver came out flying, and, once again, nearly notched a goal within the first minute. Minnesota was right there to match the energy and appeared more sure of themselves – especially in the attacking third.
Clint Irwin proved himself as a great addition to the Loons squad, showing his veteran status as he stayed cool, calm, and collected in the box – a wonderful debut from the new goalkeeper. Another solid debut was showcased by Cameron Dunbar, the 20-year-old midfielder from California. Though a young player, Dunbar added a lot of speed to the offense and showed a lot of confidence in his one-on-one’s.
As the half continued, the Whitecaps continued to pelt Minnesota United with shot after shot – barely missing their mark, and actually putting one into the net in the 78th minute before it was called offside. If there was an extra theme to this game – on top of Healthcare Appreciation Night of course – it would be heart palpitations. Minnesota had a few good looks throughout but nothing close to the feeling of being robbed that Vancouver no doubt had after a few of their missed shots.
Much to the chagrin of Minnesota United fans, the Vancouver effort would be realized when they scored in the 8th minute of added time – there was only supposed to be six minutes, but we're not going to talk about that. The whistle blew right after the Vancouver goal and the final score rested at 1-1.
Though a bit of a salty end to a hopeful result, a draw is a huge accomplishment from a team that was missing many of their regular starters. The unbeaten streak is still alive, MNUFC has earned 8 points out of a possible 12, and the Boys in Black and Blue are ranked fourth in the Western Conference with a game in hand. Next up, the Loons will head to St. Louis to face the newest MLS team, which coincidentally, happens to be one of the only other teams yet to be defeated.
St. Louis City SC vs. Minnesota United FC
CityPark | St. Louis, Missouri
04.01.23 | MLS Game 5
7:30 pm CT (Watch free on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)