Injuries have taken a toll on Minnesota United recently, with the absences of key pieces like assist leader Emanuel Reynoso and scoring leader Robin Lod hurting them badly in recent games against Sporting KC and the Seattle Sounders. Those results pushed them out of playoff position and they came into Saturday night’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy desperate to get right. The only problem was they would have to do it against a team they’d never beaten before in MLS. But after Reynoso opened the scoring in the fourth minute, the Loons never looked back and went on to post a 3-0 shutout against a tough Galaxy squad.
It did not take long for the Loons to assert their dominance and for midfielder Emanuel Reynoso to show he was fully ready to return to the pitch. Twelve seconds in, midfielder Franco Fragapane was taken down about 25 yards out from the goal, giving Reynoso a chance to get an early look at a shot. While the ball struck the wall, minutes later, the reconnaissance paid off. A long lead pass down the right side to Finlay was sent back towards midfielder Robin Lod, getting his first start in a while after subbing on against Seattle late. Lod dropped it off to Reynoso who made one move to get some space and then unleashed a left-footed effort towards the right post and in, easily beating goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann to make it 1-0.
With the visitors reeling early, the home side ramped up the pressure defensively and then exploited it by looking to play direct and do it quickly. Despite playing their third game in eight days, the Loons looked energized and ready to leverage their advantage. In the 20th minute, Reynoso once again got enough separation to line up a left-footed strike that curled perfectly before flicking off the fingertips of Klinsmann and into the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Minnesota continued to do their best to test Klinsmann while the Galaxy looked for some way into the game. Eventually, they began to make inroads down the stretch of the first half. In the 38th minute, goalkeeper Tyler Miller had to get aggressive as forward Dejan Joveljic pressed the issue near the right edge of the six-yard box. Joveljic shot the ball directly into Miller and he popped it up before snatching it down and then, in the 47th minute, the visitors got a clear cross from the right side that sailed all the way through the box without finding a target. Shortly after, the whistle blew and Los Angeles headed into the lockers looking for answers.
Miller had some more early heroics in the 52nd minute as he charged out to deflect another shot and then had the awareness to find the ball in space and jump on it. Seeking something different, LA Head Coach Greg Vanney went to his bench in the 59th minute, bringing in seasoned veterans Javier Hernandez, Jonathan dos Santos and Victor Vazquez. Their experience and confidence gave the Galaxy an immediate lift, but MNUFC had clearly grasped the tilt of the game and fell back into a defensive shape that kept the visitors frustrated.
The waiting game paid dividends in the 66th minute as the Galaxy’s emphasis on attacking left the open to a counterattack by midfielder Ethan Finlay. Finlay timed his break exquisitely, received the pass from midfielder Franco Fragapane and delivered a confident strike with his right that once again beat Klinsmann, who faced three shots on goal and saved none of them.
MAN OF THE MATCH
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
09.25.21 | MLS Week No. 27 | MLS Game No. 25
7:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North+, The CW Twin Cities, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)