In the words of the great Callum Williams, Bongokuhle Hlongwane’s flirtation with superiority goes on! The South African international fired Minnesota United to a dramatic 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers with a stoppage-time stunner, sucking the air out of Providence Park at the death of what was an enthralling match.
From the very start, this was a match that demanded attention. Portland came out strong, establishing quickly that they wouldn’t be sitting back or feeling out their opposition. Minnesota United responded in kind, alerting fans that this could very well have turned into another goalfest that we’ve become accustomed to seeing between these sides.
The Timbers were insistent, bringing numbers forward every time they were on the ball. With their fullbacks pulled up the pitch, the home side left just enough space in behind for the Loons to exploit, leading to some effective counters and allowing the visitors to press forward on their own terms.
The Black and Blue had the better chances, finding space and quality when cutting across the top of the box from the right side. Shots from Hassani Dotson (25’) and Joseph Rosales (28’) tested Aljaž Ivačič, but the keeper stood tall and came up with the needed saves.
MNUFC’s compact shape forced Evander to drop deeper to get on the ball, shifting seamlessly between the number 10 and number 8 roles in the Portland midfield. His quality on the ball was evident all night long, with an incisive pass over the top in the 27th cutting the Loons’ backline wide open for a brief moment.
Neither side found the quality they needed to get the edge in the first 45, but both managers likely went into the locker room pleased with their team’s performance.
The second half started far slower than the first, with both teams losing a bit of the quality that made this an end-to-end affair early on. The Timbers found their feet around the hour mark, though, putting pressure on and moving the ball more quickly and fluidly in the attacking third.
Despite their flurry of action, Portland’s attack proved dull on the night, with Evander’s moments of magic either hitting the post or failing to beat Dayne St. Clair. Likewise, the Loons failed to find the finishing touch, with a corner in the 77th minute producing their only chance of note in the second half.
Or was it?
In the dying moments of stoppage time, a ball over the top released Ménder García, who chased the ball down to set up one final scoring opportunity. His pass found the late-arriving Kervin Arriaga, who in turn worked the ball across the box to Bongokuhle Hlongwane. Bongi’s shot from the top of the box was perfectly slotted between the Timbers defenders in front of him, nestling into the far corner and stealing all three points at the death of the match.
The final statistics paint the picture exactly as it played out—an even affair that could have easily gone either way. The visitors had more quality shots but fewer attempts. Portland will rue the chances they let go begging, while the Loons will be absolutely ecstatic that they managed to turn one point into three.
Late wins are both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. The goals are great, but match-winners like that aren’t possible without the hard work of all 11 players on the pitch. Standout performances from Kemar Lawrence, Wil Trapp, and Dayne St. Clair kept the Loons in the game, helping them to weather Portland’s dangerous attack for the entire 90 minutes.
Minnesota United will be hoping to turn two consecutive wins into three next Saturday, May 20, when they return to Allianz Field to take on Real Salt Lake.
Minnesota United FC vs. Real Salt Lake
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
05.27.23 | MLS Game 14
7:30 pm CT (Watch free on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)