Opara vs. Galaxy

MNUFC Battles Back but Can't Overcome Early Deficit Against LA

With two wins in two games, Minnesota United came into their game against the Los Angeles Galaxy in California confident in their approach and optimistic about taking advantage of a Galaxy team lacking both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini. It took a while, though, for MNUFC to find their way into the game and by that point, an excellent second half that saw them score two goals was not enough to overcome an early deficit and the Loons fell 3-2 to the hosts.

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“We didn’t have a good start and when you play against good teams away from home, you usually get punished for it,” said Assistant Coach Mark Watson, filling in for Adrian Heath who stayed in Minnesota following dental surgery. “Our message at halftime was that it wasn’t good enough, we didn’t have enough aggression in our play and that’s never going to be good enough on the road. 2-0 at halftime is rarely a winning score so we knew if we came out with a little more aggression that we would have a chance in the game. And it turned out like that. Even the last couple minutes of the game, we were pushing forward and had good opportunities.”

The Galaxy came out of the gates hungry and aggressive. On offense, they strung together passes down the wings and on defense, they kept Minnesota from getting comfortable enough to do the same. Although the Loons occasionally had opportunities on the counterattack, they were unable to put together the kind of possession they did in their first two road games. The result was a 66% advantage in possession for the home side through the first 15 minutes.

With catalysts like midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Darwin Quintero unable to get enough time on the ball to dictate the tempo, the Galaxy were able to send their fullbacks charging up the field to overlap, which in turn forced defenders Romain Metanire and Francisco Calvo to stay home. This effectively bottled Minnesota up, leaving them to weather the storm.

In the 36th minute, LA forward Uriel Antuna got loose in the box and wound up for a shot from close range, only to find himself caught up with Alonso, who was called for the foul. Midfielder Jonathan dos Santos stepped to the spot and drilled it past goalkeeper Vito Mannone to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead.

Five minutes later, a beautiful bit of interplay in Minnesota’s box found defenders wrongfooted, allowing Feltscher to push up the right wing unmarked. After the ball went wide to him, he pinged a cross in to an onrushing Chris Pontius, who fired it into the back of the net off his chest to double the home side’s lead, 2-0 — a lead they would carry into the halftime break.

“Credit to the Galaxy tonight,” said Watson. “They had a lot of energy and were pretty sharp. They moved around in some good spots that caused us some difficulty, but I was really proud of our guys in the second half for fighting back and showed that we’ve got a good spirit and character in the group.”

The second half began with MNUFC ratcheting up its attack a degree or two, but it also saw the Galaxy refusing to give any quarter. Minnesota, though, showed more desire to muck it up and play ugly, plus got a shot of energy when midfielder Ethan Finaly replaced Rasmus Schuller in the 65th minute. The next ten minutes found the Loons bringing on forward Angelo Rodriguez for Romario Ibarra and forward Abu Danladi for midfielder Miguel Ibarra. This effectively shifted the formation from Minnesota’s favored 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 designed to put more attacking pressure on Los Angeles.

In the 75th minute, the strategy paid off when midfielder Jan Gregus blasted a shot past goalkeeper David Bingham from 20 yards out. In training, Gregus has shown off his skill from distance and he displayed it here, assessing the options in front of him and instead squaring up and firing it in to cut the Galaxy’s lead in half.

“We’ve got goals in a lot of areas of the field and we haven’t seen them yet,” said Watson. “We know Jan’s got goals in him. We’ll come away disappointed but also encouraged that when we apply ourselves the right way and are aggressive and have energy, we’re a good team. That’s where we need to set the bar.”

Following a big save from Mannone on a shot from defender Diego Polenta generated from a corner kick, it was Los Angeles’ turn once again as midfielder Sebastian Lletget beat Mannone off a cross from Antuna delivered from the right wing in the 81st minute.

Facing a 3-1 deficit, MNUFC refused to go gently into that good night. In the 87th minute, Metanire sent in a cross from the right win that found Danladi in the box. Danladi’s header beat Bingham, but rebounded off the post and — fortunately — into the path of an onrushing Rodriguez who buried it to make it 3-2.

Ultimately, though, Minnesota’s improved play in the second half and the inspiring work of Danladi and Rodriguez could not overcome the early deficit. The Galaxy came out with their foot on the pedal and never let up, forcing Minnesota into uncomfortable spots and keeping them from getting what they wanted for much of the game and winning, 3-2.

Minnesota United has a bye next week before heading east to face New England Revolution on Saturday, March 30 at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North at 12:30 p.m.

Lineups

Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Michael Boxall, Ike Opara, Francisco Calvo; M Osvaldo Alonso, Jan Gregus, Miguel Ibarra (Abu Danladi 74’), Rasmus Schuller (Ethan Finlay 65’), Darwin Quintero; F Romario Ibarra (Angelo Rodriguez 70’)

MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Brent Kallman, Chase Gasper; M Hassani Dotson

LA Galaxy Starting XI: GK David Bingham; D Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta, Jorgen Skjelvik, Rolf Feltscher; M Chris Pontius (Julian Araujo 85’), Emmanuel Boateng (Servando Carrasco 90+4’), Joe Corona, Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget; F Uriel Antuna

LA Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Dave Romney; M Efrain Alvarez, Emil Cuello; F Ethan Zubak

Game Events

Goals
36’ – dos Santos (Penalty Kick) – LA
41’ – Pontius (Feltscher, Boateng) – LA
75’ – Gregus (Metanire) – MIN
81’ – Lletget (Antuna) – LA
87’ – Rodriguez – MIN

Discipline
60’ – Ibarra (YC) – MIN
82’ – Corona (YC) – LA
90+2’ – Danladi (YC) – MIN