Minnesota United came into their game against Sporting Kansas City hoping for a bit of the mojo that helped them trounce SKC 3-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals last season, but after letting some early chances go begging in front of goal, Minnesota allowed four goals to a Sporting team that looked every bit the part as they climbed to the top spot in the Western Conference with the win.
The game began brightly for the visitors, with MNUFC putting together a plethora of opportunities inside of the first 10 minutes. Midfielder Ethan Finlay blasted a shot from distance off a deflected ball that struck the upper left corner of the woodwork in the fourth minute. Moments later, defender Romain Metanire sent a cross all the way across the box that midfielder Franco Fragapane — recently returned from injury — redirected to the head of forward Adrien Hunou, whose strike missed wide right.
But Sporting KC regrouped and managed to tilt the game in their direction. In the 14th minute leading goalscorer and MVP candidate Dániel Sallói smashed a hard shot that goalkeeper Tyler Miller knocked down but couldn’t hold onto. The rebound came to forward Khiry Shelton who nodded it into the back of the net to give the home side an early 1-0 lead.
MNUFC hardly skipped a beat, though, and went right back to work, sending the ball on long diagonals down the right side to Metanire and creating some more opportunities they couldn’t capitalize on. And then, in the 36th minute, midfielder Johnny Russell evading the defense down the right wing and cut into the box before chipping a ball to the far side where Sallói fired it through Metanire’s legs and past Miller to double the lead.
The Loons were hoping to cut into that lead by the half, but instead they found themselves faced with a penalty kick in the 43rd minute after Tyler Miller clipped Khiry Shelton’s legs near the right edge of the box. Initially called a goal kick, the play went to review and gave the home side a penalty. Russell lined it up and drove it into the right corner as Miller guessed left and Minnesota headed into the locker room down 3-0.
The second half began much the way the first ended, with SKC defending downhill and consistently forcing MNUFC to fall back and rely on long balls for openings. Before long, they found themselves falling further behind as Cameron Duke converted a Johnny Russell cross from the right wing to make it 4-0.
With the home side rolling, MNUFC had precious little chance to work their way back into the game. The rest of the 90 minutes featured a first appearance for Joseph Rosales in a Loons uniform and also saw the return of leading goalscorer Robin Lod from injury late, but ultimately, there was little to take from the game beyond the chance to move past it and get back to Allianz Field to face the LA Galaxy on Saturday.
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
09.18.21 | MLS Week No. 23 | MLS Game No. 24
7:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)