An injury-riddled Minnesota United kept their hot-streak alive on their trip down to Space City this weekend to take on Western Conference foes Houston Dynamo FC. Despite not seeing much of the ball, the Loons were able to take down Texas’ third-best MLS team by a score of 2-1. Though they started slow, MNUFC weathered the storm and took their chances when they came.

Right off the whistle, Houston looked primed and ready for this game. They came out with an energy and composure on the ball that surely encouraged the Dynamo faithful, limiting the Loons to just about 30% possession in the opening 45 minutes.

The energetic dynamo probed and prodded the Minnesota United back line, finding that while it would bend, the Loons refused to break. Any attempt that MNUFC made to counter was smothered quickly, as Houston appeared to be everywhere at once. The absences of both Wil Trapp and Emanuel Reynoso were glaring, as their team struggled to keep possession and build any meaningful momentum.

For large portions of the half, the Dynamo were calm and in control. They isolated opposing attackers and stretched the Loons to great effect, leaving them with nowhere to go and no help to find.

Despite maintaining overwhelming possession of the ball, the home team struggled to find a breakthrough, failing to register a single shot on goal. Hector Herrera’s class was evident throughout, but his playmaking only went so far, as the players on the end of his passes continually ran into a strong MNUFC defense.

The lethargic visitors found their feet in the 30th minute, as they began applying pressure and winning the ball in the attacking third. Houston’s early dominance was fading away, leaving a more competitive match in its wake.

It looked as though the score would be level at the half, but Bongokuhle Hlongwane had other ideas. After picking up the ball past midfield, Hlongwane drove forward, weaving through Houston defenders with speed before slotting a through ball into the 18 for Franco Fragapane. The MNUFC winger’s perfect run saw him ghost behind the Dynamo defense, leave Steve Clark flailing, and finish into an open net during stoppage time. The Loons took an unlikely 1-0 lead into the break after managing just one shot on goal in the half.

When play resumed, Houston found a spark through substitute Sebastián Ferreira. The Paraguayan striker put immediate pressure on MNUFC, but All-Star keeper Dayne St. Clair came up big in the 49th minute to deny the sub. With that save, the Houston onslaught began to slow, as the game settled into a rhythm resembling the end of the first half.

For the next 20 minutes, the most notable occurrences were a Carrasquilla shot that appeared to go into orbit and the pitch seemingly turning into a slip ‘n slide, as players on both teams fell repeatedly.

In the 72nd minute though, lightning finally struck for our favorite South African international.

After receiving the ball on the right side of the box, Bongokuhle Hlongwane faked his defender, cutting in onto his left foot. From there, he unleashed a beautiful shot, finding the bottom left corner of the net for his long-awaited, well-deserved first MLS goal.

With less than 20 minutes remaining and a visibly exhausted opposition, MNUFC appeared to be ready to cruise to victory. But alas, the fat lady had not yet begun to sing.

In the 85th minute, Fafà Picault did his best Bongi impression, firing a laser into the right side-netting of the Minnesota United goal to make it 2-1. As the crowd got back on their feet, the Dynamo appeared to have a pulse after all.

Despite the late drama, there were no more answers to be found for the home side. Picault’s goal turned out to be just a consolation prize, though it did give his side a brief glimmer of hope.

When you’re playing on the road with a laundry list of injured first-team players, sometimes you just have to absorb pressure for stretches of the game. Defensive discipline is the key to success in these situations, and it was evident for the Loons tonight. A wonderful game from both Michael Boxall and Bakaye Dibassy saw them win seemingly every ball in the air, making the six an impenetrable fortress.

With this win, the Loons extended their unbeaten streak to six games, earning 16 out of a possible 18 points in that span. They continue to tighten their grip on their spot in the playoffs, and they don’t appear to be losing any momentum. Hopefully, a week off will give the squad time to rest up and see some players return from injury for the game against Portland next Saturday at Allianz Field.


Minnesota United FC vs. Portland Timbers

Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota

07.30.22 | MLS Game 23

2:00 pm CT (ABC, ESPN Deportes, 1500 ESPN)