Both Minnesota Untied and LAFC came into Saturday night's game at Allianz Field badly in need of three points to help them climb up the standings with the playoffs on the horizon. Still without Carlos Vela and Eduard Atuesta, LAFC opted to go with five at the back, and Minnesota encountered early success with possession but couldn't find the first goal before LAFC struck in the 33rd minute on a free kick by Cristian Arango that just snaked through Tyler Miller's hands. In the 65th minute, it was the home side's turn to score off a free kick, although this time it was off the rebound as Osvaldo Alonso rounded on the loose ball and buried it. Neither team could find a game-winner, though, contenting themselves with splitting the points.
Minnesota United came out of the gates with energy and by the fifth minute, had started to wrest control of the game. Los Angeles FC struggled to get the ball out of their own final third, eventually needing to drop midfielder Jose Cifuentes directly in front of the backline to lock things down. Emanuel Reynoso ran rampant regardless, and this gave Minnesota the opportunity to set up in the visitors’ half through the majority of the first 45.
By the 30 minute mark, the Loons had rung up almost 10 shots to LAFC’s zero, but so many had gone begging as forward Adrien Hunou couldn’t find his finishing touch. Midfielder Robin Lod had a golden opportunity in the 17th minute as he muscled a long ball down and had a good look at goal, but on his weaker right foot. He opted to smash it at goalkeeper Jamal Blackman but Blackman was up to the challenge, turning it away for a corner kick.
But then with one strike, LAFC turned the game on its head. The visitors sprung the counterattack quickly in the 32nd minute off a turnover and midfielder Wil Trapp was forced to take down forward Brian Rodriguez or watch him waltz unopposed onto the goal. Trapp was shown a yellow and Cristian Arango set up over the ball. Arango drove the ball straight at the wall and it snuck between Osvaldo Alonso and Chase Gasper, curling down hard towards the ground and squirting through Tyler MIller’s hands and between his legs to put the Black-and-Gold on top 1-0.
Rattled by the goal, the Loons had to regroup and try to find the pressure and energy they began the game with as LAFC shifted into sitting deep in a low block. LAFC’s reticence frustrated the home side, who seemed to struggle with attacking a more or less set defense. Four minute of stoppage time turned into considerably more after a collision near midfield between defender Moonhwan Kim, Alonso and head referee Robert Sibiga. Sibiga in particular bore the brunt of the fender bender, staying down for several minutes. At the very end of stoppage, goalkeeper Tyler Miller came up clutch with a save on a hard shot from Arango after a cross from the left wing by Brian Rodriguez, preserving LAFC’s advantage at just one goal heading into the break.
Although MNUFC continued to win the possession battle, the second half proceeded on more even footing than the first half. The teams parried and thrusted, with Miller coming up big with another save on a shot in the 54th minute.
In the 65th minute, the Loons finally got their breakthrough, and it came on a set piece — a handy means of sidestepping LAFC’s low block. Reynoso lined up the free kick from close range and drove it at Blackman hard enough to force him into punching it wide, where it took a bounce and found Alonso. The captain sent it back to the far post with a high side kick, scoring his first goal of the season at a perfect time.
Looking for the go-ahead goal, Head Coach Adrian Heath brought in Ethan Finlay for Hunou in the 78th minute, shifting Lod to the forward position and putting Finlay on the right wing. The injection of energy did the trick as far as tilting the game in the Loons’ favor down the stretch, but they couldn’t find the final ball to put them over the top. Despite taking 18 shots to LAFC’s six and owning 70.4% of the possession, Minnesota United found themselves settling for splitting the points and turning to a midweek matchup with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
BC Place | Vancouver, British Columbia
10.26.21 | MLS Week No. 31 | MLS Game No. 32
9:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North+, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)