On a rainy evening, Minnesota United faced Toronto FC at BMO Field in a game following close on the team’s 3-3 draw against NYCFC in their home opener. Missing key defender Ike Opara, the Loons would have to adjust in order to try to stop a Toronto FC that’s caught fire since bringing in Alejandro Pozuelo. In the end, despite a three-goal performance including a brace from Darwin Quintero, Minnesota United would be let down by defensive woes and frustration fouls, dropping a tough one on the road 4-3.
“We played against one of the best teams in the league and for large swings of the game, we controlled possession,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “I thought we looked very good going forward, we had a good shape about us, but we’ve conceded poor goals again. It’s another game where we’ve scored three goals and come away with nothing. It’s something we have to address.”
Despite the soaking wet conditions, the teams moved the ball around the pitch well in the early going. Although the early edge would have to go to Toronto, the two sides largely took turns working in possession. In the 12th minute, Minnesota strung together a strong sequence of passes in Toronto’s box with good work from defender Romain Metanire to get the ball in and forward Angelo Rodriguez to hold it up and cause problems.
Nothing would come of it, though, and moments later, it was Toronto’s turn. The Reds worked the ball around the edges of Minnesota’s box, probing for a crack to exploit, but they too would find themselves stymied.
It would be the visitors who would jump on top first. In the 17th minute, midfielder Jan Gregus played a long ball out ahead of the pack as midfielder Darwin Quintero made a break for the goal with defender Richie Laryea draped all over him. Quintero won the header, tapping it over goalkeeper Alex Bono and then he easily toed it in to put the Loons on top 1-0.
Toronto would rally quickly though, tying together enough opportunities to win a corner kick on the other side. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone couldn’t quite control the cross and defender Laurent Ciman fired it back at the net, only to be rebuffed by the Minnesota defense. On the ensuing corner kick, midfielder Michael Bradley snuck in front of Francisco Calvo and headed it onto the far post and nearly in.
Despite the apparent desire for each side to play through possession, it was once again the counterattack that would pay dividends. MNUFC had set up shop in Toronto’s final third in the 28th minute, when a long pass back out of the box found Alejandro Pozuelo open in space after Gregus and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso had pushed up high. With Michael Boxall left to shut him down on his own, Pozuelo got the defender on the wrong foot and struck and right-footed shot that curled into the upper corner of the goal and drew the Reds level at 1-1.
“He finds really good pockets of space and for the first goal, I knew that it was going to drop to him,” said Heath of the Reds’ latest acquistion. “We didn’t heed the lessons and the more time and the more space he got on the ball, the more he caused us problems. He’s a quality player. You play a lot of money, that’s the quality you get.”
Hardly two minutes later, it was once again Pozuelo who would make Minnesota pay for a defensive mistake. Following a turnover down Minnesota’s right wing, defender Justin Morrow found an opening and pushed the ball up the field. He found Pozuelo in the box with space and the Spaniard buried it to put the home side on top 2-1.
Despite a few more chances for Toronto — including Mannone denying Pozuelo a hat trick and Altidore skying a sitter directly in front of goal — the teams would head into the locker room separated by a goal and with Toronto with a slight edge in the stats.
The second half opened up with Minnesota on the front foot, lining up chances but repeatedly frustrated until the 57th minute. Following a long patient string of passing that found the ball moving between Metanire, Finlay, Gregus and Alonso on the right side of the field, a diagonal pass out to Metanire in the corner led to the defender firing in a hard cross that curled away from Bono and directly onto the head of Rodriguez. Rodriguez snapped it in and bounced it off the crossbar and in to level it at 2-2.
It would be Rodriguez’s hard work in the 70th minute that would put the Loons back on top. Quintero fired a low pass into him on the top edge of the box and the forward fought off the Toronto defense well enough before being taken down to earn a penalty. Quintero stepped to the spot and drilled it into the left side of the net when Bono guessed right.
That 3-2 lead, though, would evaporate quickly following Toronto’s decision to sub in Jordan Hamilton in the 73rd minute. The homegrown player provided an adrenaline shot to the Toronto attack, getting in behind the Minnesota defense in the 77th minute and threading the ball past Vito Mannone and then taking advantage of Boxall’s inability to get a head on the ball after Altidore chipped Mannone in the 80th minute. Hamilton snuck past Boxall’s shoulder and got his brace, putting Toronto on top 4-3.
“They changed their shape,” said Heath, “and they started to take a few more chances to push men forward and it was another cheap giveaway from us in the middle of the park after we won possession back and then we’re in that transition mode where people are starting to move forward and then we turn it over cheaply and next minute, it’s in the back of the net. “
From there, Minnesota’s efforts to pull even were eventually frustrated when Gregus was given a red card for a hard tackle on Pozuelo borne of frustration in the 89th minute and then another red card for Calvo after he carelessly kicked defender Auro. Down to nine men, the Loons were powerless to counter and conceded all three points to the home side in a 4-3 loss.
“We’ve had six games on the road, so it’s been a tough start for us,” said Heath. “If we could have taken something out of this game tonight, it would have been a really good start. It’s disappointing now, I know, but I know there’ll be some stuff we can work on and there will be some positives moving forward.”
Minnesota United’s next game is on Wednesday, April 24 against the LA Galaxy at Allianz Field. That game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Brent Kallman, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo; M Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso, Ethan Finlay (Kevin Molino 82’), Rasmus Schuller (Abu Danladi 82’), Darwin Quintero; F Angelo Rodriguez
MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Eric Miller; M Hassani Dotson, Lawrence Olum, Romario Ibarra
Toronto FC Starting XI: GK Ale Bono; D Chris Mavinga, Laurent Ciman, Richie Laryea (Auro 65’); M Jonathan Osorio, Justin Morrow, Marco Delgado, Michael Bradley, Nick DeLeon (Jordan Hamilton 73’); F Jozy Altidore (Eriq Zavaleta 82’), Alejandro Pozuelo
TOR Unused Subs: GK Quentin Westberg; D Ashtone Morgan; M Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser
17’ – Quintero (Gregus) – MIN
28’ – Pozuelo (Mavinga) – TOR
30’ – Pozuelo (Morrow) – TOR
57’ – Rodriguez (Metanire, Alonso) – MIN
70’ – Quintero (Penalty) – MIN
77’ – Hamilton (Osorio) – TOR
79’ – Hamilton (Altidore, Pozuelo) – TOR
51’ – Delgado (YC) – TOR
89’ – Gregus (RC) – MIN
90’ – Calvo (YC) – MIN
90+1’ – Calvo (2YC) – MIN
90+3’ – Quintero (YC) – MIN