A full 90 minutes wasn’t enough to separate Minnesota United and Vancouver Whitecaps FC as the two sides battled to a scoreless draw at Allianz Field. Vancouver’s resolute, well-organized defense fought off a first-half attacking onslaught from the Loons that stood in the end for the visitors. Making his return to Allianz Field from the African Cup of Nations, Romain Metanire fired in dozens of crosses that were dealt with by Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and his defense. The Loons will value the point but also leave feeling they should have connected on one of their more than three dozen crosses.
"We spoke about it in the week: This was gonna be one of them games and I was worried about it," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "But the things that I was worried about didn't come to fruition this evening. The energy from the players was terrific. The only thing lacking was the final ball in the final third. What did we have, 30 crosses? 37 crosses? I can't remember the last time I was involved in a team that got 37 crosses off and probably didn't get on the end of more than two or three. That's an issue."
Minnesota United came flying out of the blocks in the early stages of the game as it came close to opening the scoring inside of three minutes. A clever dummy from Angelo Rodriguez opened a pocket of space for Darwin Quintero on the edge of the penalty area. A piece of good fortune then saw Quintero’s deflected shot fall to the feet of Ethan Finlay who fired a low shot to the Vancouver back post. While Finlay’s shot rolled inches wide of the post, a lunging Angelo Rodriguez arrived seconds too late as he attempted to slide and knock the ball home.
The Loons controlled the tempo of the game after their early chance – holding just under 60% of the possession in the first half. While the visitors struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the opening 45 minutes, their best chance of the match came from an unfortunate Minnesotan deflection. In the 19th minute Romain Metanire failed to deal with a Vancouver set piece that was swung into the Minnesota penalty area from out wide. Fortunately for Metanire, the fullback’s scuffed clearance smacked against the crossbar and rolled to safety.
Relieved as the scores remained knotted at zeros, Minnesota began to heap pressure on Vancouver. With five minutes to play in the first half, the Loons rode a wave of energy – spurred on by the roars of the Wonderwall – and created two golden opportunities to take the lead. In the 40th minute, a skillfully played give-and-go from Darwin Quintero to Metanire found the fullback with space in the Vancouver penalty area. Crossing first time with an inside-of-the-foot volley, Metanire’s pass was deflected which fell to a streaking Quintero. Showing his composure in tight spaces, Quintero feinted past a Vancouver defender and blasted a goal-bound shot that was blocked off the line.
The chance sent the Whitecaps reeling as they almost conceded again, minutes later. In the 41st minute Angelo Rodriguez showed off his guile as he tiptoed past Vancouver’s centerback Erik Godoy to make his way to the byline. Spotting an opening in the Vancouver goal, Rodriguez rifled a knifing shot from a tight angle but the ball again smacked the post. Miguel Ibarra was nearly on hand to tap the rebound home but the ball careened back with such pace that the midfielder couldn’t adjust his feet in time to capitalize on the chance. Unable to score glorious chances just before halftime, Minnesota and Vancouver entered the break tied 0-0.
"We knew they'd set up and try to take away the middle of the pitch and we said let's switch the play," said Heath. "I thought we did really well in that in spells, but we never really had the great killer ball in. Darwin [Quintero] put a great ball in that bounced through the six-yard box first half and I expect somebody to be on the end of that. That wasn't to be."
Contrary to the first half, the second 45 minutes saw the Loons struggle to string a decisive final pass together and an air of frustration began to creep in around Allianz Field. As play slowed down, Heath deployed a familiar tactic as he subbed on Mason Toye and Abu Danladi in the 65th minute – looking to inject a bit of pace and energy into the game. Just eight minutes later, Miguel Ibarra rose to meet Metanire’s cross and headed down to an open Mason Toye. Just six yards away from goal, Toye leaned back and sent his shot over the bar and out of play, a fantastic chance for the go-ahead-goal.
"They [Mason Toye and Abu Danladi] gave us some energy, which we thought one of them might produce something," said Heath. "I don't know if he was offside, but Mason had the chance, didn't he, after the little knockdown from Miggy. They've earned their opportunity, they've been training well. Especially Mason, you know, he scored seven goals recently. It is what it is, we'll go again."
Looking to push for the winning goal in the final stages of the game, Minnesota United began to throw numbers forward. Vancouver sensed the impending pressure and began to sit back in a deep block, defending wave after wave of Minnesota attack and only looking dangerous on the counter attack. Another chance for the Loons to win the game came in the 84th minute when Ike Opara flicked a header onto the Vancouver crossbar from a Metanire long throw. Bouncing off the crossbar, the ball fell to the feet of Ibarra who fired a volley from close range over the goal.
The final whistle brought an end to a frustrating night for Minnesota United as the home side will rue the chances that they missed and will feel unlucky to have had two attempts bounce off the Vancouver woodwork. While the Loons were unable to take all three points, they remain unbeaten in nine games as they head into a gargantuan clash with the Portland Timbers.
"I thought we had excellent preventative marking when we were attacking so much," said Heath. "Vito's had a save second half but first half, I don't think he had a save to make. We were pleased with a lot of aspects of our play. Our ball movement, circulation — at times — was excellent. Just the final third we couldn't pick a pass tonight. It's another point towards where we're going to try to get to and I've been doing this too long to look down at a point. Points are important and it's another clean sheet and we'll go again next week."
Minnesota United’s next game is back at Allianz Field on Sunday, August 4 at 3:00 p.m. CT. in another Western Conference matchup against a dangerous Portland Timbers side. Pregame coverage will begin at 2:30 p.m. CT 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, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Chase Gasper; M Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso, Ethan Finlay (Abu Danladi 66’), Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero; F Angelo Rodriguez (Mason Toye 66’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Brent Kallman; M Hassani Dotson, Lawrence Olum, Rasmus Schuller
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Starting XI: GK Maxime Crepeau; D Ali Adnan, Derek Cornelius, Doneil Henry (Eric Godoy 14’), Jakov Nerwinski; M Felipe, In-Beom Hwang, Russell Teibert, Theo Bair (Lucas Venuto 73’), Yordy Reyna; F Fredy Montero (Brett Levis 81’)
VAN Unused Subs: GK Zac MacMath; D Scott Sutter; M Andy Rose, Jon Erice
35’ – Finlay (YC) – MIN
37’ – Felipe (YC) – VAN
57’ – Hwang (YC) – VAN
67’ – Quintero (YC) – MIN