With an essential 1-0 win over Austin FC last weekend, Minnesota United pulled through and earned themselves three points on the road, keeping them above the playoff line.
The Loons left the cold behind and flew south for their match against Austin and it only took 16 minutes for MNUFC to put one in the back of the net. Midfielder Emanuel Reynoso took a shot on goal that was knocked down by Brad Stuver. Hassani Dotson recovered the rebound and found a pass toward the far post, where Franco Fragapane secured the Loons win over Austin.
“Well, it’s important for us, but in light of all of the other results there and around us, everybody won,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “So we are as we were but with a game less. We’re that much closer to fulfilling what we’ve set out to do at the beginning of the year but certainly, there’s no room for error, that’s for sure.”
Minnesota United’s victory over Austin not only gave them three points, but helped goalkeeper Tyler Miller. The New Jersey goalkeeper saved all eight of Austin FC’s shots en route to his 11th clean sheet of the season. That total broke the personal record set by the New Jersey-born keeper with LAFC in 2018 of 10 shutouts, and ties the MNUFC record of 11 shutouts set by Vito Mannone in 2019.
“I’m very proud of them. But it’s not just me. It’s a collective effort,” said Miller. “It’s a testament to our defense and our defensive mentality that we’ve embodied throughout this entire season. To be able to hit the personal best for me and tie the club record is something that I’m proud of because of the amount of work that I’ve put into to come back after last season’s injury. But it’s not just me. It’s the entire team. The entire goalkeeper group, I do my best to represent us well, as well as I can. It really is a collective team award.”
After the Loons matchup against Austin, the team had a quick turnaround. On Wednesday night, MNUFC faced the Philadelphia Union, one of the top Eastern Conference teams.
“I think down the stretch and the position we kind of put ourselves in now, whoever comes into our place, we can’t be having them leave with anything,” said defender Michael Boxall. “And I think looking back to the last time they came here, they won that game, so we shouldn’t be letting anyone come in here for a win, let alone back-to-back. So we got to take care of it.”
Minnesota made sure Philadelphia knew their place as the Loons made a spectacular comeback and won the match 3-2. In the 41st minute the Loons would get the game going by scoring the first goal of the match. Reynoso provided a heel pass to Fragapane who sent a through ball to Adrien Hunou and put the Loons up 1-0. However, before the first half could end, Philadelphia sent one into the back of the net, tying the game 1-1. Nine minutes into the second half, Philadelphia notched another goal, putting them ahead, 2-1. With plenty of time left, in the 61st minute MNUFC substituted Rob Lod in and two minutes later he scored the tying goal. In the 67th minute, Hunou found himself with an opportunity to put the Loons ahead. His shot was unfortunately blocked by Blake but rebounded toward the far post, where Fragapane headed the ball in making the final score 3-2 — his second game-winning goal in as many games.
“It’s a good result for us,” said Hunou. “You have to keep going because we know that there are four games [left], four finals to reach the playoffs. It’s important to stay focused. It’s four games and we have to keep going. It was a good game against a good team that is third in the other conference. We have to keep going and take every game after tonight’s.”
A midweek victory was what the Loons needed as they now have another quick turnaround to prepare for Saturday’s match against LAFC.