Minnesota United came into Saturday afternoon's tilt against Sporting Kansas City knowing they had left two points on the table against San Jose after failing to take advantage of going up a man in Tuesday night's game. And then, in the 21st minute, the Loons once again went up a man after midfielder Remi Walter was shown red for an aggressive challenge on Emanuel Reynoso. Sporting KC slowed the game down and made it ugly, and Minnesota — still lacking their leading scorer Robin Lod and without attacking options like Franco Fragapane and Niko Hansen — could not capitalize on their advantage, settling instead for a draw for the second game in a row, this one scoreless.
Sporting Kansas City began the game with a slight edge, winning the early possession battle and getting off the first solid chance in the 10th minute as defender Graham Zusi found forward Khiry Shelton lurking at the edge of the box with a low cross that erupted into a blistering strike. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller was there for the clutch save, though, shoving the ball out wide safely.
Minnesota had their share of chances as well, though. In the 14th minute, a wild flurry of action in SKC’s box eventually ended with midfielder Emanuel Reynoso wheeling and firing a shot that deflected high before getting cleared. Minutes later, forward Adrien Hunou took the ball off goalkeeper Tim Melia as he dribbled near the left post. Hunou drifted wide and tried to drop a cross over Melia’s head but the keeper stretched and pulled it down.
Then, in the 21st minute, the tenor of the game shifted markedly as midfielder Remi Walter collided with Reynoso, striking a flying, studs-up kick that earned him a straight red card. For the second game in a row, MNUFC found themselves up a man in the 21st minute.
It quickly became apparent that Head Coach Peter Vermes’ experienced squad were prepared to play smashmouth, slow-it-down football if that’s what it was going to take to get a point. Amidst scuffles between opposing players over foul calls or the lack thereof, Minnesota put together some quality opportunities. In the 30th minute, Reynoso knocked a pinpoint low cross from the right wing towards Midfielder Ethan Finlay, but Finlay was unable to finish it. Overall, the Loons appeared to learn from their draw against San Jose earlier in the week as they moved the ball wide to both sides and didn’t settle for pushing the counterattack in the first half.
The second half opened promisingly as Reynoso struck an excellent ball in the 48th minute from the edge of the box that beat Melia to the right but couldn’t get inside the post, striking the woodwork and bouncing wide. Melia began holding the ball up on goal kicks, and with little sign that he would be penalized for it, he kept holding it longer and longer as the half wore on. Despite the delaying tactics, MNUFC kept putting together solid offensive opportunities without finding the final ball.
In the 62nd minute, Vermes brought on leading scorer Daniel Salloi and agent provocateur Roger Espinoza, perhaps indicating a desire to push for more than just a draw. They nearly got it in the 64th minute as Salloi combined with Shelton to get Shelton a wide-open look from close range that he mishit wide right before going down in a heap with Miller.
From there, the story became one of frustration for Minnesota, ending the game with seven shots on target out of 23 and an expected goals of 2.7 but not an actual goal to show for it. Heath brought on Juan Agudelo, Patrick Weah and Justin McMaster at various points in the hopes of shaking things up, but SKC stood up to every challenge and mucked the game up enough to hold the 0-0 draw through stoppage time.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
BBVA Park | Houston, Texas
08.28.21 | MLS Week No. 21 | MLS Game No. 21
8:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North+, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)