Following a torrid stretch of three games in eight days, Minnesota United took a full week to recover and prepare to welcome the Houston Dynamo to Allianz Field. A rested and ready Loons squad gave the Dynamo precious few chances to find a way into the game, scoring in the 14th minute and then sealing the deal in the 71st with a header from defender Brent Kallman for a 2-0 clean sheet win.
In the very first minute of the game, Minnesota United found themselves with a free kick in a dangerous position as forward Adrien Hunou — returning to the starting lineup after Head Coach Adrian Heath opted for a 4-3-3 against both LAFC and Vancouver last week — was taken down near the edge of the box. Reynoso curled a shot onto the near post that was deflected, but it set the tone for a MNUFC side that would keep Houston in check for most of the night.
Despite coming off a tough 3-2 loss on Wednesday night against Austin FC, the Dynamo nevertheless persisted with a high press that sought to make life difficult for the Loons’ backline. Additionally, they began the game working hard to deny MNUFC access to the deep wings. Both Romain Metanire and Chase Gasper initially found it difficult to overlap and send balls in.
But before long, Minnesota seemed to sniff out Houston’s approach and began to use it against them, pulling the ball back deep and inviting Houston’s attackers to commit to chasing them before sending balls over them into the midfield or across the pitch to switch the field of play. For their part, Houston largely attempted to play direct to the speedy Fafa Picault on the wing, and while he often managed to push forward, he could rarely find a target in the box that wasn’t quickly shut down by centerbacks Brent Kallman and Bakaye Dibassy.
Although he’s more accustomed to scoring late in games, it was midfielder Robin Lod who would open the game up for MNUFC early. In the 14th minute, midfielder Wil Trapp blasted a long shot that struck goalkeeper Marko Maric in the chest and bounced out. With Dynamo defender Tim Parker falling asleep in front of goal, Lod peeled off and pounced on the ball, burying it into the left corner for his sixth of the year and a 1-0 lead for the home side.
The goal allowed Minnesota to shift gears without taking their foot off the gas. They got more patient with the ball and spent a lot of time in possession from that point forward, seeking great-and-not-just-good seams to exploit. Hunou launched several long shots in hopes of testing Maric after he dropped that earlier shot and Houston — one of the most cautioned teams in the league — began to lean into physicality, at one point collecting two yellow cards in less than a minute.
The 31st minute did bring a heart-stopping moment for the home crowd as midfielder Matias Vera attempted to chip the ball over Tyler Miller. The ball hit the crossbar before bouncing back and striking Miller on the head before mercifully going out instead of into the goal. Much as the Loons would have liked another before the half, they had to content themselves with a one goal lead heading into the locker room.
The second half began a bit tentatively for both sides, with each looking to reorient themselves to the gamestate for another 45. Metanire found more success knifing along the sidelines to send in crosses, but an early one in the 51st minute was just a touch too long for Hunou to get his head on it. On the other end, the Loons came perilously close to conceding in the 53rd minute after a cross from the left wing was nearly sent home before the play was blown dead for an offside call against Houston.
In the 58th minute, Lod got the ball onto his favored left foot and whipped a shot along the ground that grazed a defender and just missed the far post before going out for a corner kick — a stat in which the Loons bested the Dynamo 10 to six. Tyler Miller was called upon in the 66th minute with a terrific reaction kick save to preserve Minnesota’s lead, and then in the 71st, MNUFC would get a second goal to put the game to bed.
Midfielder Ethan Finlay brought the ball up the wing and faked a cross before cutting into the box and sending in a pass that was deflected over the endline for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Reynoso send a ball directly into the six-yard box that found Kallman climbing his ladder for a header that pinged directly off the top of his head and into the far corner to make it 2-0.
Down the stretch, the Loons stayed engaged defensively to hold off a Houston side that fought hard despite obviously tired legs. All night, the Minnesota wingers put in strong work tracking back and standing up on defense, and the team as a whole did not afford Houston much room on the attack at all. The win stretched Minnesota’s unbeaten streak to five, and they’ve now lost just once in their last 13 games as they climb up to fifth in the Western Conference for the time being.
MAN OF THE MATCH
MINNESOTA UNITED vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
08.14.21 | MLS Week No. 19 | MLS Game No. 18
5:00 p.m. CT (FOX 9+, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)