Just as Dolly couldn’t compete with Jolene, Nashville SC proved to be no match for the Loons tonight. However, instead of taking anyone’s man, MNUFC was happy to leave with three points instead. A final scoreline of 2-1 gave the visiting Minnesota United a hard-earned victory late on Sunday night
A wide-open, high-energy first half proved that there was no All-Star hangover at GEODIS park tonight. Though it took a few minutes for everyone to settle in, boy, was it exciting when they did.
After the first 10 minutes of play, both teams had finished feeling one another out and were ready to bring it. A nice shot from Randall Leal in the 12th minute turned the temperature up, forcing a save and sparking a surge of end-to-end attacks.
Immediately after Leal’s shot threatened the Loons, Luis Amarilla’s outside-of-the-boot shot at the other end clanged off the crossbar, showing Nashville that anything they can do, the Loons can do at least slightly better.
Following these warning shots, the game never really fell into a rhythm — instead, chaos ensued. 11 fouls in the half were filled with controversy and ratcheted up the intensity even more. In the 27th minute, the tension finally broke.
When Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman played a poor ball out of the back, Kervin Arriaga recovered it just past midfield for the Loons. His header found Emanuel Reynoso, whose subsequent beauty of a pass put Franco Fragapane in on goal. With a low, driven shot across the face of the goal, Fragapane put MNUFC up 1-0.
Nashville fired 12 shots in the half, five of which called MLS All-Star MVP Dayne St. Clair into action. No matter how tall the order, St. Clair was up to the task, putting on a show-stopping shot-stopping display. Despite a wild ending to the half, St. Clair’s play kept his team up 1-0 at the break.
The start of the second half picked up right where the first had left off. An increasingly chippy game saw chances at both ends, but Nashville began to take a slight edge. Cross after cross failed to beat the MNUFC defense, but the pressure was mounting. St. Clair continued to impress, but a crazy set-piece sequence in the 61st minute scrambled the Loons, allowing Hany Mukhtar to slot the ball across the mouth of goal for the leveler.
For the next 15 minutes, it was a nonstop onslaught from Nashville. They kept their foot on the gas, desperately searching for the go-ahead goal, but to no avail. Though they could do no more than weather the storm for a while, the Loons never lost their own attacking edge.
As the home team began to visibly tire, MNUFC started taking their chances. After pulling the strings all night, Rey found another gear in the 75th minute, when his silky moves released Joseph Rosales on the left side of the box. Rosales’ cross flashed across the six, finding Alan Benítez at a tight angle on the right side. Benítez’s inch-perfect finish put his team up 2-1.
From that point on, the Loons appeared to be in control. While both teams had their half-chances, nothing more materialized. The fiery edge remained in the game until the final whistle, but it couldn’t change the result.
Despite outshooting MNUFC 21-10 and maintaining more than 60% possession of the ball, Nashville couldn’t find the final product tonight. A dominant display saw them probing and testing the Loons defense all night long, but the return of Michael Boxall to the lineup made all the difference. This game saw Minnesota United’s back line return to their typical look, restoring solidity and confidence to the team’s style of play.
The only song playing in Music City tonight was a 1995 piece by a group called Oasis. As the chorus of Wonderwall echoes through the streets of Tennessee’s capital, the Loons will be flying home to prepare for Austin FC next weekend.
Minnesota United FC vs. Austin FC
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
08.20.22 | MLS Game 26
7:00 pm CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, 1500 ESPN)