Well, shiver me timbers — Portland didn’t deserve those points. Despite a dominant performance, Minnesota United fell to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park tonight by a score of 1-0. A promising start failed to bear fruit for the visitors, who will leave the Rose City empty handed and frustrated.
From the start, there appeared to be no hangover whatsoever from MNUFC’s disappointing loss to FC Dallas, as the Loons came out strong and fast. Right away, Minnesota United were on the front foot, putting Portland under the cosh for the majority of the first 45.
Calm and composed play from the Loons helped to create 13 shots in the first half. Several fantastic passages of enterprising attacking play from the visitors ended with unfinished crosses or near-misses, seemingly promising that a goal was on its way. Ménder García in particular looked like he was in the mood for a goal, though he was unable to find the back of the net.
In their own 18-yard box, Minnesota United’s 5-back was strong, keeping Portland from registering more than a single shot on goal. The center back combination of Kemar Lawrence, Michael Boxall and Brent Kallman seemed natural and right, displaying near-flawless interchanging and cover for one another. A good defense bends without breaking, but this Loons defense didn’t seem interested in bending.
MNUFC’s high-octane play lasted the entire half, as the Loons refused to let frustration stop their onslaught. Time and time again, they only managed to get close, ultimately unable to find a cigar. All things considered, an encouraging half for the visitors.
In any game, it is important to score when you’re out-playing your opponent, lest you will rue your missed chances when a late goal steals points away from you. MNUFC dominated Portland in the first 45 minutes, no question. At the half, Adrian Heath was likely the happier of the two managers, though maybe disappointed that his team wasn’t ahead.
While they didn’t come out quite as strongly in the second half, the Loons never looked scared or disorganized. They continued to play calmly, not allowing the Timbers to overwhelm them at any point. The hosts definitely turned it up in the second 45, but they never looked like the better side.
But the beautiful game is a cruel mistress indeed.
In the 61st minute, Portland earned a corner. An impressive leap from Dairon Asprilla at the front post proved enough to put his team ahead, completely against the run of play. With just under 30 minutes remaining, the Loons found themselves down 1-0.
Around this time in the match, evidence of tired legs began to show. Players were staying down longer, tackles were flying more clumsily, and play slowed down just a touch. Despite their evident weariness, Minnesota United pushed for the equalizer. Several golden opportunities went begging, as their finishing struggles continued. Though they outshot the Timbers 21-11, it simply wasn’t meant to be for MNUFC tonight.
When analyzing the performance, there was more good than bad in this one. The 3-5-2 worked. Two strikers made for a constant threat, the midfield trio of Arriaga, Trapp, and Lod was solid and tireless, and the presence of three center backs allowed the fullbacks to provide width and solidity at all times. Heath made the most of a thin squad, and should be proud of the shift put in by his team.
That was a tough one to swallow, but there were steps in the right direction. With this result, Portland has risen to fifth in the Western Conference, moving MNUFC down into sixth. The Loons will be heading home to take on LAFC this Tuesday at Allianz Field in yet another massive game that will require a finer finishing touch.
Minnesota United FC vs. LAFC
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
09.13.22 | MLS Game 31
7:00 pm CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+,Bally Sports North EXTRA,The CW - Twin Cities,1500 ESPN)