Storylines is buzzing with anticipation and, admittedly, a little nervous to host Portland at Allianz Field this weekend. Last time the Timbers came to town, the ensuing match produced an instant classic that took fans on a rollercoaster of emotions, but I’m not sure my heart can handle another game like that.
Right from the whistle, this game was bonkers. Portland turned their kickoff into one of the fastest goals in MLS history, with Sebastian Blanco finding the back of the net after just 14 seconds. 14 seconds! Not a great start for the Loons, but hope is never lost at Allianz Field.
The Black and Blue played on, sticking to their game plan and taking more than a few pages out of Ted Lasso’s motivational coaching routine. Sometimes, you just gotta be a goldfish first and a Loon second.
Just before the ten-minute mark, maté-enthusiast Franco Fragapane headed home the equalizer from Emanuel Reynoso’s corner kick, nullifying Portland’s advantage and swinging momentum firmly back to the home side.
On level pegging once more, the Loons appeared to have found their groove. Beautiful passages of play produced wonderful chances and pleased the eye, assuring onlookers that the go-ahead goal was only moments away at any given time. When the moment came, it was glorious indeed.
In the 21st minute, Bongi bagged his first MLS goal at Allianz Field to put MNUFC ahead. The crowd erupted with unbridled joy, reflecting the emotions of the man himself. Admittedly, I nearly shed a tear at the sight.
However, neither the story nor the goals were anywhere near finished. Luis Amarilla’s late first-half goal gave the Loons a 3-1 lead just before halftime, but Portland never says die. The visitors came out of the locker room with a vengeance, pressing and working their hosts right away.
In the 50th minute, Blanco reminded the Loon-faithful why we aren’t his biggest fans. His goal flipped the flow of the game on its head, allowing Portland to find their way back in and draw level just three minutes later. First-half euphoria had quite unceremoniously turned into anxiety and dread.
The Timbers completed the comeback with an unfortunate Kemar Lawrence own goal in the 65th minute, and whatever air remained in my lungs was fully sucked out. Hope was waning, and time seemed to slow down for a moment. As Allianz Field held its collective breath, the final stretch of the game acquired an even greater sense of urgency.
Miraculously, momentum swung once more, if only for a moment. Luis Amarilla finished off a wonderful passage of cross-field play in the 69th minute, evening the score and sending every MNUFC fan into frenzied celebrations.
Chances came for a winner on either side, but eight goals proved to be all that this game had to offer. Candidly, I’m not sure I would’ve survived a ninth goal, no matter which team it came for. Though a win is always nice, that match was one of the most thrilling MNUFC games I’ve had the pleasure of watching; if this Saturday is anything like it, I may need to have a doctor on standby.
Minnesota United FC vs. Portland Timbers
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
07.01.2023 | MLS Game #19
7:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN)