Second-Half Comeback Extends Loons Unbeaten Run

Everyone loves a comeback, right? YOU’RE DANG RIGHT! Minnesota United kept the Portland Timbers from chopping down our trees tonight, earning a 2-1 win in dramatic fashion. Fantastic efforts across the pitch saw the Black and Blue rally in the second half to extend their unbeaten streak to five matches.

A fiery first half saw the Loons dominate the game, whether you were checking the stats or relying strictly on the eye-test. 60% possession, eight more shots, an xG of 1.4 compared to Portland’s 0.5 should’ve put the hosts on top before the break, but it wasn’t meant to be. Not yet, at least.

The shift back to MNUFC’s tried-and-true 4-2-3-1 was a bit different than what the Loons’ faithful were used to in the past. In possession, it was very similar to a traditional 4-2-3-1, but while defending, the squad settled into a more solid 5-2-3 shape. The movement of Joseph Rosales and Franco Fragapane made this tactical adjustment work, and the partnership of Wil Trapp and Carlos Harvey in the double pivot made sure nothing got through the middle of the pitch. It was, in many ways, wonderful to watch.

Despite producing better soccer in the first quarter of an hour, the Loons went down a goal in the 17th minute, when, against the run of play, Jonathan Rodriguez found himself unmarked and on the end of a perfect through ball. His neat finish was all but certain once the chance cropped up, and the veteran striker cashed in as expected.

The Black and Blue continued to be the better side after the goal, though Portland did look slightly invigorated by their unexpected lead. Their vigor was largely fruitless, though, as the visitors, while talented, seemed to have very little direction or plan guiding their play. Direct and disjointed attacks proved easy enough for the Loons to bat away, but nothing was going quite their way at the other end of the pitch.

From the outset of the second half, a Loons’ goal felt inevitable. Caden Clark continued to get forward from right back, finding dangerous spaces and creating quality chances. The Timbers had a few odd chances, including a strike that clanged off the crossbar in the 51st minute, but the hosts were knocking on the door.

In the 56th minute, a flurry of four substitutions at once saw MNUFC shift strategies, with Robin Lod, Sang Bin Jeong, Kervin Arriaga, and Tani Oluwaseyi replacing Carlos Harvey, Caden Clark, Franco Fragapane, and Bongokuhle Hlongwane. This personnel overhaul meant a change in shape as well, seeing the Loons operate in more of a 5-2-1-2 while defending and almost a 3-2-3-2 in possession. More attacking minded, and ultimately, more effective.

Just nine minutes later, the shift and resulting pressure paid dividends. Joseph Rosales’ cross from the left side found the perfectly-timed run of Robin Lod, who’s cheeky flick leveled the game and separated him as the club’s all-time leading scorer in all competitions, breaking his tie with Emanuel Reynoso and Darwin Quintero. Truly a legendary Loon.

The chances kept coming, and a winner felt like it was in the cards. A questionable VAR decision in the 70th minute saw a potential penalty called back, but the Loons wouldn’t be denied. In the 82nd minute, the Finnish Messi started pulling strings again, as Lod’s brilliant through ball found the end of DJ Taylor’s run. The ensuing cross went straight to the feet of Sang Bin at the top of the box, where he slotted the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal to take the deserved lead.

While there were outstanding performances across the pitch, it was the absolutely massive performance of Dayne St. Clair between the sticks that caught the eye the most. Canada’s best goalkeeper (sorry Crépeau) made five official saves on the night, and he didn’t put a foot wrong all match long. He was huge at the end of both halves, and nullified all but one of the sporadic chances that Portland managed to create. He wasn’t always busy, but he was more than ready whenever he was needed. Bravo, DSC. Jesse Marsch, you taking notes?

In addition to Dayne’s huge shift, the Loons saw several more exceptional performances. Joseph Rosales was everywhere, and the ball-winning ability of Wil Trapp completely shut down anything Portland tried to create in the middle of the field. Caden Clark was fantastic in his first start at right back, and the impact of both Sang Bin and Robin Lod off the bench was nothing short of a revelation. While the scoreline wasn’t as comfortable as they might’ve deserved, the Loons’ performance was comprehensive and convincing.

Just like that, MNUFC’s homestand comes to a close. The Loons are now second in the Western Conference, with 24 points from 12 games. They’ll be on the road for their next match, as they head to Commerce City, Colorado to take on the new-look Rapids. Tune in for FREE on MLS Season Pass on AppleTV, with kickoff scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT.