Minnesota United started its five-game road trip with a vital point on Saturday night, using a pair of milestone moments to battle back from two one-goal deficits and earn a 2-2 draw with Los Angeles Galaxy at StubHub Center.
Both defender Michael Boxall and midfielder Romario Ibarra scored their first goals as Loons as MNUFC fought back from down 1-0 and 2-1 to earn its first point on the road since its 2-1 win at Orlando City SC on March 10 and build confidence for what is an all-important stretch away from home over the next month.
“I am so pleased for the players tonight,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “One of the things we spoke about was when we have moments in the game you have to score and tonight we did. For a lot of our good play on the road, sometimes we have not got what we deserved. Tonight we did. Overall it does give us something to build on for another difficult away game next week.”
Minnesota put itself behind the eight ball early, surrendering the opening goal in the seventh minute on a give-and-go play between Los Angeles forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Romain Alessandrini. After receiving the ball from Alessandrini, Ibrahimovic attracted the attention of four MNUFC defenders which allowed Alessandrini to continue his run, receive the ball back, slip through the midfield and into space unmarked and uncork a left-footed effort from 25 yards out that fluttered into the bottom right corner of the net.
After falling behind early, the Loons struggled to get players forward and connect passes or possess the ball in the final third. Their best opportunity, and only shot on target in the opening half, came in the 26th minute on a standout individual effort from forward Angelo Rodriguez. Rodriguez beat a defender and showed his pace and power as he surged forward in on goal and forced a save from Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham.
MNUFC ceded 68 percent of the possession to the home side in the first half and was probably fortunate the deficit was just one at halftime. Moments after Rodriguez’s chance, Los Angeles midfielder Giovani Dos Santos had a pair of chances in the 31st and 32nd minutes that went just wide and, as the Galaxy pressured in the waning moments of the half, Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth shone with a trio of saves in the 46th, 47th and 48th minutes.
“We gave away what I thought was a really poor first goal, but the response was good,” Heath said. “I said at halftime that if we don’t concede anything, I think there is something in the game for us because we had enough of the ball in the first half to actually cause some trouble.”
Rodriguez again created a chance for himself just after half in the 52nd minute, generating space off of his defender to receive the ball and make another charging run, but his shot went just wide of the far left post.
“The big guy has come in, Rodriguez, and gives us a physical presence in their half of the field,” Heath said. “We have more threats now going forward. Darwin is playing so well and now we have Romario to come off the bench and we have Abu to come off of the bench. We have a little bit of strength in depth.”
MNUFC did find an equalizer, though, in the 64th minute courtesy of Boxall and forward Darwin Quintero. After a Loons corner, Quintero picked up the ball off of the left side of goal and, with size still in the box after the set piece, invited a run to the near post. Boxall obliged and flicked a header just out of Bingham’s reach. The goal was not only Boxall’s first for Minnesota, but also the first in 54 career MLS appearances. For Quintero, it was his team-leading ninth assist of the season and his sixth-straight game either scoring or setting up a goal for the Loons.
Undeterred by Boxall’s milestone, midfielder Sebastian Lletget regained the Galaxy’s lead in the 73rd minute. On the play, Lletget ran through the space between two MNUFC defenders created by an overlapping run by defender Dave Romney and after no one stepped up on him, converted an uncontested shot.
Trailing, 2-1, late, Heath opted to bring on Romario in the 75th minute and forward Abu Danladi in the 79th minute, transforming the Loons’ usual 3-5-2 into a more attack-minded 3-4-3 with Danladi joining Rodriguez and Quintero up top and pushing Romario and midfielder Miguel Ibarra higher up the field — a tactical change that soon paid off and brought Minnesota back on level terms.
In the 84th minute, midfielder Ibson started the game-tying play in midfield with a ball down the sideline to Danladi. Danladi received the pass and hit a streaking Romario on the far post with a low cross as both late game subs combined to save a point for the Loons.
“It’s very nice to have scored my first goal here in MLS," Romario said. "I’m very happy about that and even more so for helping the team to earn a draw against a very important rival. Now, we have to keep working, trying to do things well and scoring more goals.”
Defender Francisco Calvo’s red card in the 89th minute after receiving his second yellow of the game made things tenuous for Minnesota in the waning moments, but it held on for a momentum-building point on the road.
Minnesota United continues its five-game road trip on Saturday, August 18 with a visit to the Lone Star State to face FC Dallas. Kick off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North Plus, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Francisco Calvo; M Miguel Ibarra, Collen Warner (Abu Danladi 79’), Rasmus Schuller, Ibson, Eric Miller (Romario Ibarra 76’); F Darwin Quintero, Angleo Rodriguez (Tyrone Mears 87’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Wyatt Omsberg; M Alexi Gomez Collin Martin
LA Galaxy Starting XI: GK David Bingham; D Dave Romney, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik; M Romain Alessandrini (Chris Pontius 24’), Perry Kitchen, Jonathan dos Santos, Ashley Cole (Emmanuel Boateng 90’); F Giovanni dos Santos (Sebastian Lletget 46’), Ola Kamara, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
LA Unused Subs: GK Justin vom Steeg; D Rolf Fletscher, Daniel Steres; M Servando Carrasco
7’ – Alessandrini (Ibrahimovic) – LA
64’ – Boxall (Quintero) – MIN
73’ – Lletget (J. dos Santos) – LA
84’ – Romario (Danladi, Ibson) – MIN
55’ – Boxall (YC) – MIN
66’ – Calvo (YC) – MIN
75’ – Warner (YC) – MIN
89’ – Calvo (2YC) – MIN