After 49 days on the road, Minnesota United marked its long-awaited homecoming with a thrilling three-goal first half en route to a 3-2 win over the visiting Portland Timbers on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Midfielders Romario Ibarra and Darwin Quintero combined to chart the path to victory for Minnesota, notching two goals and two assists, respectively.
Though the Loons soared to a commanding 3-0 lead early, they had to sweat things out late. Portland scored twice in the second half to draw back within one and midfielder Fernando Bob was shown a red card in the 89th minute to make the final minutes interesting, but MNUFC survived.
“We made it difficult for ourselves,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “But when I look at the overall game, I think it would have been tragic if we had not won, especially with the chances that we created in the first half.”
After Portland midfielder Andy Polo forced goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth into a save in the third minute, Minnesota began pressing higher up the field to keep the action away from its goal. The tactic soon resulted in a flurry of chances — and eventually a sizable breakthrough — for the home side with midfielder Darwin Quintero as its orchestrator.
Quintero forced a save in the sixth minute after showing off hit foot skills to turn the defender and open up space for the shot and played midfielder Miguel Ibarra into the box in the 13th minute for a shot that skipped tantalizingly wide of the far left post. In the 16th minute, with Timbers defenders staying tight to Quintero, midfielder Maximiano found space to run into the box for a saved effort.
The Loons’ pressure paid off in the 18th minute as Quintero ran onto a perfectly lobbed ball from Fernando Bob, got around a defender and — with goalkeeper Steve Clark charging at him — calmly squared the ball to wide open midfielder Romario Ibarra for the goal.
But that combination was not done delivering. In the 36th minute, Quintero again picked out a Romario, this time on a run into the box, and the Ecuadorian coolly slotted home his second marker of the evening, and third of the season, to double Minnesota’s advantage. The assist was Quintero’s team-leading 12th of the campaign.
"There were a few plays where we had a really good understanding between the two of us," Romario said. "He gave me two assists, so that shows the good chemistry we have on the field. And that’s very important, to have a good understanding with an excellent player like him. It helps me and the team."
"It was important to be able to contribute that [brace] to the team," he added. "It’s a very important win. In the end we suffered a bit [to get the result], but the important thing was that we were able to keep the result in our favor and get the three points."
Though the red-hot Romario was injured on the play that culminated with his second goal and replaced by forward Angelo Rodriguez, the Loons had momentum firmly in their favor and did not miss a beat — pushing their lead to three just before halftime in the 43rd minute. On the play, Quintero’s corner service fell right to defender Michael Boxall’s feet and the New Zealand international smashed it into the back of the net for his second goal of the season, which proved to be the game-winner.
“I thought some of our play in the first half was outstanding,” Heath said. “Fernando Bob, Maxi and Rasmus Schuller bossed the midfield and kept getting the ball in toe Darwin. We looked dangerous every time we attacked in the first half. I was delighted with our first half performance. I am pleased for the players.”
Minnesota dominated the opening 45 minutes, but Portland flipped the script in the second half. Soon after halftime, the Timbers opened their account via a wonder strike from defender Alvas Powell in the 55th minute. After a corner, MNUFC defender Francisco Calvo’s attempted clearance fell to Powell at the top of the box and he uncorked a rocket into the top right corner.
Though the Loons often found themselves against the run of play in the second half, they were not without their chances. Quintero nearly set up Ibarra in the 61st minute and had a chipped effort ring the crossbar in the 73rd minute. Those chances would have been the final nail in the Timbers’ coffin, but the visitors managed to hang around and drew within one in the 80th minute courtesy of midfielder Sebastian Blanco.
“They got a fantastic strike from Alvas Powell and the game changes,” Heath said. “Human nature is that the closer you get to your own goal and the more bodies you have back means you’re doing better, but all you’re doing is inviting pressure. We did that too much in the second half. We have had a few of them this year where we’ve tossed them away. Today we did not.”
With the lead cut to one, 3-2, Portland continued to pressure and nearly found an equalizer in the 89th minute. Polo collected the ball in the box and put a curling shot on with the outside of his foot, but Shuttleworth dove to make a tremendous win-saving stop. Moments later, Fernando Bob saw red after he made contact with Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri, but MNUFC proved resilient and closed out the triumph with 10 men.
Minnesota United is back at home on Saturday, September 29 against New York City FC. Kick off for that contest is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium. Pre-game coverage will begin 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 Eric Miller, Brent Kallman, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo; M Maximiano, Fernando Bob, Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero (Collen Warner 90+1'), Rasmus Schuller; F Romario Ibarra (Angelo Rodriguez 39')
MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Marc Burch, Wyatt Omsberg; M Ibson, Frantz Pangop
Portland Timbers Starting XI: GK Steve Clark; D Alvas Powell, Julio Cascante, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana; M Andy Polo, David Guzman, Andre Flores (Diego Valeri 73'), Tomas Conechny (Diego Chara HT), Sebastian Blanco; F Samuel Armenteros (Jeremy Ebobisse 82')
POR Unused Subs: GK Kendall McIntosh; D Zarek Valentin; M Lawrence Olum; F Lucas Melano
18' - Romario Ibarra (Quintero) - MIN
36' - Romario Ibarra (Quintero) - MIN
43' - Michael Boxall (Schuller) - MIN
55' - Alvas Powell - POR
79' - Sebastian Blanco (Villafana) - POR
70' - Maximiano (YC) - MIN
71' - Sebastian Blanco (YC) - POR
89' - Fernando Bob (RC) - MIN