The last game of the regular season. A raucous, record-setting home crowd dressed in all black. And, a trip to the MLS Playoffs on the line.
Sunday evening at Allianz Field had everything a sports fan could want in a regular season finale. That’s not to say the Loons faithful wanted the drama of potentially finishing the regular season on the outside looking in at the 2022 MLS Playoffs. But, after going winless over the course of the last six matches, there was no better time for MNUFC to regroup and regain the form they had shown earlier in the season. And, with Vancouver Whitecaps FC homing in on their own playoff spot, this game was the epitome of “do or die."
In the end, the boys weren’t about to bite the dust on this day, pulling out the 2-0 victory and earning themselves a berth in the MLS Playoffs.
This one wasted no time ramping up the drama to eleven when, right away in the 6th minute, Vancouver found themselves in front of the Loons goal. The Whitecaps got a solid boot on three legit shots in succession. But, as he’s done throughout the season, goalkeeper Dayne St Clair masterfully kept his eye on the prize, batting down all three attempts.
Now that everyone in the stadium had their hearts in their throats, the boys were able to get settled in and got in a rhythm on the attack. With Franco Fragapane, Luis Amarilla and Ménder García going on the run and pressing the Vancouver defense, the Loons saw several decent looks on goal. Then, in the 17th minute, Fragapane struck first blood with a line drive shot past Whitecaps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal and into the corner of the net. 1-0, Good guys.
GOAL: Franco Fragapane, Minnesota United FC - 17th minute
From there, both teams' attacks worked their way up and down the pitch, both squads showing the kind of urgency that comes with fighting for your playoff lives. Fortunately for the Loons, the defensive line of Boxall, Kallman, Taylor and Lawrence held strong throughout the rest of the first half, holding the 1-0 lead going into the half.
In the second half, it was Dayne St. Clair doing Dayne St. Clair things again, making several more beautiful saves. The All-Star MVP showed throughout this match just how important he is to this Loons club and the success they’ve had this regular season. For those efforts, he would go on to be the Bell Bank “Man of the Match” while recording MNUFC’s first clean sheet performance since July 16 against DC United.
The nail in the Whitecaps coffin would come in the 77th minute when Jonathan González came off the bench and right into every Loons fans heart when he put boot to ball and slammed home the score. More importantly, the goal put the match out of reach for any sort of miraculous Vancouver comeback.
GOAL: Jonathan González, Minnesota United FC - 77th minute
The Loons proved they could overcome the pressure of the moment and the adversity they had experienced near the end of this MLS regular season. They saved their best for last to clinch the 6th seed in the Western Conference, to earn themselves a date at 3rd seed FC Dallas next weekend.
Congratulations, you Loons! On to the next one…
Western Conference - First Round
3 FC Dallas vs. #6 Minnesota United FC
Toyota Stadium | Frisco, TX
Date & Time: TBD | 2022 MLS Playoffs