Minnesota United came into the night's matchup with the San Jose Earthquakes riding a six-game unbeaten streak and with their sights set firmly on another three points. But the Quakes came out full of energy and forced an error that had the visitors on top early. In first half stoppage time, Brent Kallman — who came in for Michael Boxall early — ripped in a shot off a rebound from a tight angle to draw the home side level. While the Loons would pull ahead on a penalty goal from Ramon Abila, the visitors would get a late equalizer to spoil the win. Nevertheless, the Loons kept the fifth spot in the West.
Right away, the visitors put the screws to Minnesota’s defense. San Jose’s man-marking scheme can make it tough to play the ball through the middle or find space, but they also came aggressively at Minnesota’s centerbacks, Bakaye Dibassy and Michael Boxall. In previous matchups, the Loons often exploited the Quakes’ scheme by sending a center back up through the middle, but tonight, forward Cade Cowell was all over the backline, harassing constantly, as the wingers pushed up to provide support.
It paid off early for the Quakes. In the 15th minute, Cristian Espinoza closed hard on Dibassy on the right side of the pitch and turned him over. Spying Cowell in the middle of the field and with goalkeeper Tyler Miller already coming out of goal aggressively, Espinoza sent it to the middle and Cowell finished smoothly past the outstretched leg of defender Michael Boxall to make it 1-0.
In the wake of the goal, MNUFC stepped up their ball movement and started finding lanes through the defense. In the 23rd minute, Boxall ranged up the field unimpeded but couldn’t generate a look, but less than a minute later, aggressive defense from midfielder Franco Fragapane forced a turnover before finding forward Adrien Hunou in space in the box. It was only a timely tackle from behind by a San Jose defender that speared the ball away and shut down the attack.
In the 26th minute, Boxall came up lame on the right side of the pitch, but stayed in the game until defender Brent Kallman could finish warming up. In the 29th minute, the New Zealander made way for Kallman, marking the first time this season that the Loons would be without the centerback on the pitch.
As the first half drew to a close, the home side had still not managed to do much to crack the Quakes’ defensive scheme. Space in the channels — where MNUFC had feasted in recent games — was hard to come by. But into stoppage time, the equalizer came from an unexpected place. Midfielder Emanuel Reynoso dipped and ducked his way into the box on the left side, keeping possession long enough to open up an opportunity that turned into a corner kick. The initial corner was cleared, but only as far as Fragapane, who went for the bicycle kick, driving the ball into Kallman’s chest. The defender chased the ball down and ripped in a left-footed shot from a tight angle that found the back of the net and pulled the Loons back into it just before the halftime whistle.
At the start of the second half, Heath went to his bench and brought in DJ Taylor for Jukka Raitala at the right back position and Ramon Abila for Niko Hansen, who had started out wide on the right. Abila slotted into the forward position and Adrien Hunou slid out wide to take Hansen’s spot. The moves brought a little more edge to the proceedings and the Loons started building some momentum.
In the 52nd minute, Abila found himself open from short range, but his shot was denied by goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, who laid out to stop it. The rebound came to him, but he whiffed the shot before midfielder Hassani Dotson rifled a right-footed shot that went just wide of the goal on the right side. Barely a minute later, Abila found Chase Gasper on the left, and the defender centered it to a wide open Fragapane, whose shot caromed off the left post and out.
In the 65th minute, Gasper tousled with Judson in the box and went down hard. Although a foul was not called initially, a video review had the referee awarding a penalty kick to MNUFC. Abila stepped to the spot and aimed the shot low and to the right. Marcinkowski stopped it, but left the rebound in front of him and Abila pounced on it and finished the follow-up to make it 2-1.
The game was far from over, though. Moments later, it looked like a miscue by Kallman similar to Dibassy’s in the first half would lead to a goal, but sub Chris Wondolowski’s one-man counterattack was broken up by a timely intervention from Dibassy. And then in the 82nd minute, the Quakes grabbed one back as substitute Benji Kikanovic muscled his way into the box and ripped a shot that beat Miller to draw the Quakes level at 2-2.
With San Jose looking to hold the line long enough to preserve the point on the road and Minnesota piling forward in hopes of getting all three, the game’s final minutes went by fast and furious. But while the Loons would open up a few chances down the stretch and through six minutes of stoppage time, they ultimately could not pull ahead and would have to settle for a point at home and extended their unbeaten streak to seven.
MAN OF THE MATCH
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Dick's Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
07.07.21 | MLS Week No. 12 | MLS Game No. 12
8:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)