An ebullient and full-to-the-brim Allianz Field welcomed Minnesota United back for the team’s annual Pride Game on Wednesday night. Facing Austin FC — who had walked away with a 1-0 win back in May — the Loons were aiming to turn the tables with new additions Adrien Hunou and Franco Fragapane and they did not disappoint. Fragapane bagged his second MLS goal in the 11th minute and Hunou followed with his first in the 17th and from there, the home team held off Austin to earn a 2-0 win and all three points.
Before the whistle even blew to start the game, the visitors had to make an adjustment as captain Alexander Ring was a late scratch following warm-ups. He was replaced by Sebastian Berhalter. In the game’s opening minutes, Minnesota United established dominance in Austin FC’s box with crisp passing and interplay between Emanuel Reynoso, Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou.
Nine minutes in, injury struck again for Austin as defender Nick Lima was forced from the field with a leg issue. Hector Jimenez came on for him, and just two minutes later the Loons opened the scoring. Right back Romain Metanire sliced into the box and received a pass from midfielder Hassani Dotson. Metanire sent it in to Franco Fragapane, who took just enough time to settle it before rifling it into the top netting from close range for a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
The visitors quickly regrouped and forced a tough save from Tyler Miller in the 14th minute, but throwing so much forward left them open to counterattack and in the next minute, forward Adrien Hunou led the break before dishing it off for fullback Chase Gasper, whose shot was deflected for a corner. MNUFC kept up the pressure and in the 17th minute it paid off. With Reynoso temporarily sidelined following a stern challenge that earned defender Jhohan Romana a yellow card, Fragapane lined up the corner kick from the left and delivered a cross that found the head of Hunou. The Frenchman drilled it past goalkeeper Brad Stuver for his first MLS goal and doubled the lead to 2-0.
With a two-goal cushion, MNUFC were not content to sit back, continuing to push and get defensive help from not only their backline but players like Dotson and Fragapane. In the 33rd minute, it looked for a moment like the Loons had added another goal after Hunou got free and buried one, but it was called back for offside. The interplay between Reynoso and Fragapane down the left wing pulled the defense out of shape all night, leaving acres of space for Metanire to attack down the right wing, and the Loons got in between the lines and moved the ball efficiently from side to side.
The first half ended with Minnesota United dominating possession to the tune of 59% of the ball. When the teams came back out for the second half, Austin had lost yet another starter as Cecilio Dominguez — who had looked occasionally dangerous in the first half — made way for midfielder Jared Stroud. In the opening minutes of the second half, Austin brought a renewed sense of purpose and played the hosts on a more even footing. The teams traded blows, with Fragapane hitting the crossbar on a good chance and the post saving a deflection off a Minnesota defender on the other end from becoming an own goal.
Head Coach Adrian Heath went to his bench in the 65th minute, bringing on Jacori Hayes for Hunou, which shifted the formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a more defensive 4-3-3. The move worked to slow down Austin’s attack, and as it ticked over into the 70th minute, it began to look like the visitors were running short of both energy and ideas. Heath brought in subs to for several starters who had put a lot of miles on between the game Saturday and with another one coming in short order. MNUFC held off Austin for the 2-0 win, moving up to eighth in the Western Conference in the process.
Adrian Health on what the atmosphere and energy felt like tonight inside Allianz Field …
“I've always said we got we got a special atmosphere here and you saw it tonight. I thought the supporters were magnificent. And even in them moments when it's two nil, but we've just lost a bit of momentum, and the opposition are having plenty of possession, then they started to up the sing it and, and started to get the players going again. So, it's been a great night, but the one thing it shows you is how important supporters are for this game. It's a completely different game, different sport, when you've got 20,000 people in a building, supporting you, and, you know, just the atmosphere was fantastic. All evening. It really was. So, a big thank you to them. I know they've been waiting for it, and we've been waiting for it for them as well.”
Tyler Miller on the chemistry between Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou …
“I mean, you see the quality that they have. When you come from Argentina, when you come from France, and come from these dynamic leagues, you're going to bring a different element to the game and I think that that they are players that can really bring us a new perspective. We obviously have a dangerous flank and the service that we can put into the box but when you can combine that with the ability to play in tight spaces play quick combinations around the box that just adds another dangerous attack to us so it's only going to help improve us as we go forward.”
MAN OF THE MATCH
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Providence Park | Portland, Oregon
06.26.21 | MLS Week No. 10 | MLS Game No. 10
10:00 p.m. CT (The CW Twin Cities, Bally Sports North, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)