Upon returning back to Minnesota following an entire month of road matches, MNUFC2 looked to rebound from two consecutive losses. Hosting Whitecaps FC 2 at the National Sports Center Stadium Saturday night, the Loons found their winning ways again in front of the home crowd, defeating their Western Conference foes 2-0 on the backs of Emmanuel Iwe and Aziel Jackson goals, along with an Alec Smir clean-sheet win.
The first half was all in favor of the Loons. If there was one stat to prove it, it was shots. MNUFC2 pressed nine shots against Whitecaps FC 2, with five of them directly on target. On the other hand, the ‘Caps only put three shots, one on target against Loons’ goalkeeper Alec Smir.
Adding to the first-half dominance, MNUFC2 held much of its possession in Whitecaps FC’s half of the pitch, connecting passes and creating plenty of chances in the first 45 minutes. Midfielder Emmanuel Iwe was the beneficiary of finding space in between the ‘Caps defenders, connecting crosses inside the box and fighting for possession in front of the goal.
Whitecaps FC 2 found an early moment of promise in the sixth minute Smir left the box, leaving the net open. But defender Callum Montgomery rushed back to clear the ball just yards from the goal line.
Amidst the many chances MNUFC2 had, the big break came in the 23rd minute when midfielder Aziel Jackson connected with Iwe once again, but this time Iwe’s shot from just inside the box squeaked between the legs of the ‘Caps keeper on the near post, giving the Loons the 1-0 lead.
Iwe then, in nearly the same spot as his goal, drew a foul and therefore a penalty kick in the 42nd minute. Jackson went to the spot to take the penalty, but the shot was saved and the score remained at 1-0 at half.
Following the break, the Loons gave more of the same strong energy as they had in the previous half. Jackson had yet another shot on target that was saved in the 50th minute, while forward Tommy Williamson added another scoring opportunity from a set-piece free kick, missing just left of the far post.
In the 75th minute, midfielder Diogo Pacheco nearly scored a few yards from the goal, but the rebound landed at the boots of Jackson, where he netted the second goal of the night (his sixth regular-season tally), giving the Loons the 2-0 advantage.
The MNUFC2 back line held firm throughout the remainder of the contest, giving goalkeeper Alec Smir little work from the net. But Smir’s night wasn’t lifeless, as the ‘Caps notched four shots (one on target), with Smir earning his first MLS Next Pro win and shutout.
With the win, MNUFC2 moves to the sixth spot in the MLS Next Pro Western Conference standings (6-4-3, 24 points).
MNUFC2 is home again, facing St. Louis CITY2 on Sunday, July 10 at the National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine, Minnesota. Kick is set for 8:00 p.m. CT, and tickets for the match are still available and can be purchased here. The contest will also be streamed live at www.mlsnextpro.com.
1-0 MNUFC2 – Emmanuel Iwe (23’)
2-0 MNUFC2 – Aziel Jackson (75’)
Yellow, MIN – Jason Ramos (44’)
Yellow, VAN – Jay Herdman (65’)
23-4 – MNUFC2 outshot Whitecaps FC 2 by 23 to four, including an impressive 12-1 on goal
95.5% – Midfielder Nick Mendonca led both sides in passing accuracy, connecting 95.5% of his passes
2 – Midfielder Emmanuel Iwe netted his second goal of 2022 for MNUFC2 in the 23rd minute
TEAM LEADERS (Updated through July 2)
Goals – Aziel Jackson (6)
Assists – Aziel Jackson (4)
Saves – Fred Emmings (33)
Wins – Fred Emmings (3)
Shutouts – Eric Dick (2)