For the team’s Hispanic Heritage Game, Minnesota United welcomed the Houston Dynamo to Allianz Field once again. The visitors were no doubt hoping to exorcise some demons and get their first win in Minnesota but it was not to be as the Loons leapt out to an early lead and withstood a flurry of late chances to keep the clean sheet and walk away with a 2-0 win.
Although the game began with Houston making a brief — emphasis on brief — foray into Minnesota United’s final third, it took almost no time at all for the Loons to slice open the Dynamo defense. Just fifty seconds in, a quick attack launched by midfielder Emanuel Reynoso gave midfielder Franco Fragapane an open lane down the left side of the field. Fragapane spied forward Robin Lod cutting across the box and delivered a deft pass that the Finn finished with his left foot to put Minnesota on top 1-0. It was the quickest goal MNUFC have scored in MLS and Lod’s seventh on the year as he continues to lead the team in scoring.
Houston, however, were not about to go gently into that good night. The team from Texas began the game with a high press in an attempt to discomfit the Loons’ backline and they kept it up despite going down early. Their aggressive pressure also left them exposed and in the 17th minute, Lod and Midfielder Ethan Finlay worked a bit of a two-man game, feeding the ball back and forth as they fought for space near the edge of the box. Lod sent a short pass to Finlay who shrugged off centerback Tim Parker and spun before firing in a shot that pinged off a defender and popped over goalkeeper Michael Nelson. The Dynamo flew in to try to keep the ball from going over the line, but the goal was ruled good and the home side doubled the lead to 2-0.
Once again, the visitors were not ready to give up the ghost, though, with the speedy Fafà Picault making life difficult for the Loons all the night with runs down the left side. In the 26th minute, the Brazilian sent in a cross that sailed through the box and just out of goalkeeper Tyler Miller’s reach, but before it could find a Dynamo player, Finlay flew back and laid out to head it safely into touch.
Houston’s best opportunity of the first half came late on in the 35th minute when defender Michael Boxall slid in to stop a through ball for Picault and sent it directly at the goal. Miller was forced to spear it over the crossbar, and there were a handful of similar moments as Houston shifted into looking for direct balls over the top of the defense.
In the second half, Minnesota began to play for possession and clean shots, taking their time to set up the ball and work it around the final third. Eventually, the Dynamo began to pick this approach apart a bit and the Loons got a little loose and a little sloppy, allowing the visitors to work their way back into the game bit by bit.
Ultimately, this meant that Miller was called upon several times through the final 30 minutes to preserve the clean sheet. Time and again, the goalkeeper was there to snuff out danger early with aggressive play out of his box as well as making clutch reaction saves on the goalline — sometimes back-to-back — to not only get the win but the shutout. When the final whistle sounded, it gave Miller his ninth shutout of the season and Minnesota an important three points to push them up to sixth and within striking distance of the fourth-place Galaxy.
D.C. UNITED vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Audi Field | Washington, D.C.
09.29.21 | MLS Week No. 28 | MLS Game No. 26
6:30 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North+, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)