On Sunday, October 21, Minnesota United hosted the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy and set a new record for a Minnesota soccer team as they welcomed 52,242 fans to TCF Bank Stadium. The University of Minnesota venue has been the team’s home for the last two years, and they closed out their stint there before opening Allianz Field in 2019 with a 3-1 loss to a Galaxy side playing for their playoff lives.
Minnesota United began the game — as they have in several recent contests — on the front foot. Just 33 seconds in, midfielder Darwin Quintero got a good look off a pass from midfielder Collen Warner that he fired in on goal, but which goalkeeper David Bingham easily swallowed. The opening minutes overall, though, featured a Loons team playing with a bit of an edge, building up possession effectively. Defensively, every player was trying and largely succeeding in closing out his man and getting a foot or head on every ball that came their way.
"It gave a little bit of extra adrenaline in the beginning and that showed a little bit," said defender Brent Kallman, referring to the record-setting crowd. "We seemed to be a little nervy and a little jumpy in the first half. It took us longer than usual to settle into the game and that could have had a little bit to do with it. Everyone was just so fired up. It was an experience for sure."
Quintero and forward Angelo Rodriguez rang up more chances early on from pressing high and making the most of Galaxy turnovers, but all it took was a momentary slip in focus to let Los Angeles get the upper hand. In the 30th minute — after largely managing to keep Galaxy players from getting a head on any ball served into the box — the defense relaxed just a bit on defender Rolf Feltscher’s cross from the right wing and forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic pounced on the opportunity, placing a header into the back of the goal and putting LA on top 1-0.
"He’s been an outstanding player," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "I think we all know how big and strong he is, but people forget he’s all talent. The ball he plays for their third goal, you know, a yard further forward, a year behind, it’s no chance. Now, for some younger people who had probably been at the game for the first time, they got a chance to witness one of the great players in the last 20 years in European and world football."
To their credit, Minnesota didn’t fold down the stretch of the first half. In the 39th minute, defender Francisco Calvo caught the backline napping and made a long run from the left back position all the way to the front as the ball moved down the right sideline, but the cross into him that resulted in a goal came in a hair late and he was called offside. In the final five minutes of the first half, the Loons did their best to draw level but had to head into the locker room down a goal.
After the break, the Galaxy came out with a vengeance and a real hunger to push get a more comfortable lead. In the 49th minute, defender Michael Boxall made a dramatic goalline save after a run through the left side of the box pulled goalkeeper Matt Lampson out of net. Boxall barely got a toe on a ball headed for the back of the net and cleared it out. But on the next attack, the Loons would not be so fortunate. Ashley Cole picked up a long lead pass in the 50th minute and dinked it over to forward Ola Kamara who finished it easily to double the visitors’ lead.
Barely a minute later, it was the Galaxy again as Ibrahimovic struck a long, curving pass across the top of the box and found midfielder Romain Alessandrini, who fired in a volley and give Los Angeles a 3-0 lead.
"I think we have moments in games – we have lapses in games – that cost us dearly. You know, we make a mistake for the second goal, then we go and make another one two seconds later. Now the game is over. Up until then, the game was very much alive for us. We started well. I thought the first two or three better chances were for us. I thought our marking in the box was poor for Zlatan’s first goal. And two poor mistakes from us after that. I can’t fault the effort to the guys to get back in it when we did. But, it’s the mistakes that we make that prove costly for us. It’s something that we have to irradiate because it costs us dearly in most games."
The Loons showed some life in the 54th minute when Quintero found Rodriguez with a long pass from the right wing. Rodriguez headed it in and got the game to 3-1, but that was as close as the home side would get, despite a few promising efforts that were called back for offside or came up short.
"We always try to do well during the week to give [the fans] joy on the weekend," said Rodriguez. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but truthfully I’m amazed [by their support]. I came from a team that was just crowned champion, finishes in first place and doesn’t fill the stadium. Here, every weekend you see a full stadium."
Minnesota United will close out its 2018 season next week on the road against Columbus Crew SC in a game that kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 28. Pregame coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Matt Lampson; D Eric Miller (Abu Danladi 63’), Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Francisco Calvo; M Collen Warner (Romario Ibarra 54’), Fernando Bob, Rasmus Schuller, Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero F Angelo Rodriguez
MIN Unused Subs: D Jerome Thiesson, Wyatt Omsberg, Marc Burch; M Collin Martin, Maximiano
LA Galaxy Starting XI: GK David Bingham; D Ashley Cole, Daniel Steres, Dave Romney, Rolf Feltscher; M Emmanuel Boateng, Jonathan Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini (Jorgen Skjelvik 88’), Sebastian Lletget; F Ola Kamara (Perry Kitchen 90+1’), Zlatan Ibrahimovic
LA Unused Subs: GK Justin Vom Steeg; D Sheanon Williams; M Baggio Husidic, Servando Carrasco; F Ariel Lassiter
30’ – Ibrahimovic (Feltscher) – LA
50’ – Kamara (Cole, Lletget) – LA
51’ – Alessandrini (Ibrahimovic) – LA
53’ – Rodriguez (Quintero) – MIN
65’ – Boxall (YC) – MIN
70’ – Fernando Bob (YC) – MIN
70’ – Alessandrini (YC) – LA