Minnesota United welcomed Real Salt Lake to TCF Bank Stadium on a toasty Saturday night for the start of a three-game homestand that will ultimately go a long way to determining whether the team will be able to make its way above the red line and into the playoffs. To that end, they got off to a good start, taking all three points in a win that nonetheless had them sweating down the stretch as Real Salt Lake scored two late to make it 3-2.
Over the first 15 minutes of the first half, MNUFC successfully dominated possession and certainly looked like the team most likely. Whenever Real Salt Lake got the ball, they rarely had the time or space to do anything with it and when the Loons got it, they repeatedly got it into dangerous positions on the wing. Nevertheless, the home side couldn’t get a ball all the way through for a look at the net. The closest they came early was an outside of the boot shot by midfielder Darwin Quintero in the 13th minute that goalkeeper Nick Rimando couldn’t fully contain but managed to scoop up.
Although RSL stepped up the pressure, threatening in the 17th minute when forward Jefferson Savarino got clear enough on the right side to send in a hard, low cross that was cleared by defender Michael Boxall, the Loons stayed patient. They seemed content to work the ball around the midfield and find their way into the game, despite RSL’s high press, which was a major part of keeping MNUFC from finding a goal.
In the meantime, the Claret-and-Cobalt were doing their best to take what the game was giving them, and they ended up with just two shots on goal in the first half. Those two looks, though, were better than any shots that Minnesota got. In the 31st minute, forward Corey Baird got loose and fired a low shot that went wide left and then in the 45th minute, forward Damir Kreilach went unmarked in the box and fired a right-footed shot that Bobby Shuttleworth gobbled up.
Although by halftime the Loons’ possession had dwindled to 48%, they had to like their chances heading into the break. The home side had looked more in control and had only wanted for chances they could actually finish off.
The second half quickly turned into the Darwin Quintero show. In the 51nd minute, Francisco Calvo found Quintero on the right side where he controlled the long pass into the box. He cut it back to the middle, holding it long enough for forward Christian Ramirez and midfielder Ibson to get into the box and then he hit Ibson with a low pass that Ibson finished smoothly with his right foot to give MNUFC a 1-0 lead.
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Mike Petke was livid at the referee’s decision not to review the goal and found himself sent off by the 53rd minute. In the 62nd minute, Calvo won the ball back and turned quickly upfield before finding Quintero in space on the right side. Much as he did against Toronto, he sized up the keeper and chipped him, sending a ball over Rimando — who had pulled up with what looked like a hamstring issue minutes earlier — that didn’t touch his fingers but found the upper left corner of the net to double the Loons’ lead.
Six minutes later, it was Miguel Ibarra who would be the beneficiary of Quintero’s work, with Quintero once again getting free down the right side before sending it across to Ibarra. Ibarra floated from right to left through the box and finished it past an outstretched Rimando and into the left side of the net to make it 3-0. Interesting note: Against RSL last year at TCF Bank Stadium, Rimando gave up goals in the 52nd, 62nd and 68th minutes. This year, he did the same in the 51st, 62nd and 68th minutes.
“Offensively, we keep the ball well,” said Ibarra. “We move it around. We create a lot of opportunities. And I think that’s been throughout the entire season. And ever since Darwin [Quintero] got here, it’s been even more. I think we just gotta continue doing that.”
MNUFC had to withstand a late push by RSL, who were energized by the substitution of forward Joao Plata in the 66th minute for Baird. Plata got to work quickly, scoring a goal in the 77th minute off a free kick just outside the box. Plata nudged the free kick to midfielder Albert Rusnak who teed it up for him, allowing him strike a hard ball past Shuttleworth on the keeper’s left. It was Plata again in the 85th minute when Lennon sent in a long diagonal cross early that the forward struck with a pretty header and into the back of the net to make it 3-2.
It was no surprise that Head Coach Adrian Heath was none too happy with the team letting it get that close when asked about how he viewed the game.
“Three points,” he said. “Did our best to throw it away. Tried to throw away 75 minutes of good work by people deciding that they know best. They’ll do what they want rather than doing what we know is right.”
In the end, though, it was too little too late for the visitors and MNUFC hung on for three desperately needed points at home and now have to quickly prepare themselves for the arrival of the New England Revolution on Wednesday, July 18. That match is presented by Target and kicks off at 7:00 p.m. with pre-match coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Shuttleworth; D Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Francisco Calvo; M Miguel Ibarra, Alexi Gomez, Rasmus Schuller (Maximiano 79’), Collen Warner, Ibson (Collin Martin 72’); F Darwin Quintero, Christian Ramirez (Mason Toye 87’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Eric Miller, Wyatt Omsberg; M Frantz Pango
Real Salt Lake Starting XI: GK Nick Rimando; D Domino Acosta, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Brooks Lennon; M Kyle Beckerman, Sunday Stephen (Pablo Ruiz 85’), Albert Rusnak; F Damir Kreilach (Luis Silva 79’), Jefferson Savarino, Corey Baird (Joao Plata 66’)
RSL Unused Subs: GK Andrew Putana; D Aaron Herrera, Nick Besler; M Sebastian Saucedo
51’ – Ibson (Quintero, Calvo) – MIN
62’ – Quintero (Calvo) – MIN
68’ – Ibarra (Quintero, Ramirez) – MIN
77’ – Plata (Rusnak) – RSL
85’ – Plata (Lennon) – RSL
21’ – Schuller (YC) – MIN
34’ – M. Silva (YC) – RSL
47’ – Warner (YC) – MIN