In front of another sellout crowd, Minnesota United took the opportunity of its second game at Allianz Field to settle in a bit more against the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy. In place of the wild energy of their 3-3 draw against NYCFC, the team locked down the back and held Zlatan Ibrahimovic in check, but couldn’t breakthrough for a go-ahead goal. They would content themselves with a point and a goalless draw on the night.
"I thought we were the better team," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "Took us about, maybe the first 10 minutes to adjust to the way their shape was. But after we made one or two little adjustments, I thought we were the most dominant team, against a very good team, and I thought that it’s two points that we’ve lost tonight. But, when I look back, I’m really, really proud of the players. I thought they gave everything that they could. You know, the crowd were great. We kept the crowd in the game with our play in the second half. And I thought we were unfortunate not to win the game."
The opening minutes of the game set a pattern that would bear out over the distance: the Galaxy would build up possession just inside their half before finding a seam — most often down the wing (26 crosses for the game) — but then Minnesota would stand tall with a timely block or clearance and then break out in attack. In the 8th minute, the home side would get their first good opportunity when midfielder Darwin Quintero pinged the ball ahead and onto the feet of forward Angelo Rodriguez, who fired it into the side netting.
For his part, Quintero still looked a hair slow and not quite up to form yet as he works his way back from an early season injury. Heath, though, felt his contributions were perhaps the best they’d been so far this season, despite a few turnovers.
"He looked more dangerous tonight," said Heath of the attacker. "He obviously had his moments where he turned over. He’s still not what we need. You know, but he’s getting there. He’s getting better. There were a couple of occasions where it was turned over, but I feel that he’s getting back to where we want him to be, because when he is, he’s the game changer."
Through the first 10 minutes, similar issues dogged the team’s deeper midfielders, Osvaldo Alonso and Rasmus Schuller — stepping in for the suspended Jan Gregus. Time and again they were dispossessed as they tried to move the ball through a packed Galaxy midfield. The backline, though, led by the returning Ike Opara, held strong and moved cohesively up and back, led by Opara’s outstretched arms keeping them all together.
"I thought the two midfield players after the first 10 minutes actually quite controlled the game," said Heath. "Romain [Metanire], again, was incredible. Outstanding. And I thought Brent [Kallman] and Ike [Opara] did a really good job on someone who is very difficult to play."
As the clock ticked up toward the 20-minute mark, it became apparent that the visitors sensed a vulnerability down the right wing where defender Eric Miller was in for the suspended Francisco Calvo at fullback. Time and again, Galaxy midfielder Uriel Antuna torched Miller, but the Galaxy couldn’t take advantage and eventually Minnesota began shading Alonso out wide to provide some extra armor and Miller stepped up as well.
The Galaxy’s best chance of the first half — and perhaps game — came in the 24th minute when a cross from the right wing found forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the far post. Towering over fullback Romain Metanire, the big Swede got his head on the ball and sent it past goalkeeper Vito Mannone but also past the far post. Overall, the Loons kept him in check and he hardly sniffed the goal again for the rest of the game.
"We handled Zlatan quite well," said Heath. "He had the header first half, you know. I think we better make the most of him, he’s going to be like Frank Sinatra. He’s going to be dead before we realize how good he was."
As the teams settled into a back and forth with each showing strong passages of play and a capacity to build pressure but an inability to relieve it, the chances kept racking up. In the 30th and 32nd minutes, Opara had headers blocked directly in front of goal and those both came off corner kicks shortly after Rodriguez had his shot blocked. In the end, the teams headed into the tunnel deadlocked at 0-0 with the Galaxy getting the better of the possession stat, 60.3% to 39.7%.
The second half wasn’t precisely more of the same, but it was definitely similar. While certain avenues like the right wing for the Galaxy and the concept, generally, of possession for Minnesota fell by the wayside, the Loons’ counterattack picked up steam with players pinging decisive passes in the final third but coming up just short in the end. On defense, strong efforts by Opara and Brent Kallman in the box kept things level whenever the Galaxy threatened.
Starting in his first game since going down with an ACL injury last season, Kevin Molino acquitted himself well on the left wing, although he would make way for Miguel Ibarra in the 60th minute. On the other side of the field, Abu Danladi made his mark on the game once he settled down. Early on, his touch let him down a few times but in the second half he had several strong dribbles around and sometimes through defenders, showing off both his speed and a willingness to fire the ball on goal when the opportunity arose.
"They did terrific," said Heath. "Obviously, Kevin [Molino] was getting tired. He hasn’t played for a long time. I thought Abu [Danladi] was very, very good. He was dangerous all evening down this right side."
When the rain rolled in, the crowd almost seemed to go up another notch, pushing for the Loons to reach out and grab the win, but in the end, there was nothing between the teams. Although they’ll rue missing the chance at that first “Wonderwall” at Allianz Field, MNUFC will likely find much positive to build off of their second clean sheet of the year and the single point in a 0-0 draw.
Minnesota United’s next game is on Sunday, April 28 at 12:30 p.m. against D.C. United at Allianz Field. Pre-game coverage begins at 12:00 p.m. on FS1, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Brent Kallman, Eric Miller; M Osvaldo Alonso, Rasmus Schuller, Kevin Molino (Miguel Ibarra 61’), Abu Danladi (Ethan Finlay 87’), Darwin Quintero; F Angelo Rodriguez (Romario Ibarra 78’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Michael Boxall; M Lawrence Olum, Hassani Dotson
LA Galaxy Starting XI: GK David Bingham; D Julian Araujo (Giancarlo Gonzalez 79’), Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta, Morgen Skjelvik; M Jonathan dos Santos, Joe Corona, Emmanuel Boateng (Chris Pontius 64’), Sebastian Lletget, Uriel Antuna (Servando Carrasco 82’); F Zlatan Ibrahimovic
LA Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson; D Dave Romney; M Juninho Pereira, Emil Cuello
40’ – Metanire (YC) – MIN
84’ – Bingham (YC) – LA
90+6’ – Skjelvik (YC) – LA