On a sweltering night with temperatures on the pitch exceeding 100 degrees, Minnesota United clashed with FC Dallas in a matchup of Western Conference foes. Facing a short turnaround from Wednesday’s Semifinal win over the Portland Timbers and with a pair of home games coming up next week, MNUFC opted to rotate heavily, making eight changes in all from Wednesday’s game. Although they would jump out to an early lead on an Ethan Finlay goal, the Loons would ultimately fall 5-3 to the home side, ending their unbeaten streak at 11 games across all competitions.
"A big week is coming up with a game Wednesday and Saturday," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "Two home games which we think are going to be huge for us. We have four games in like 13 days, so we had to do something. In the first half we were very passive, it’s like we were waiting for them to score. We ended up having Ethan [Finlay] get great goals for us. Overall, I just thought in the second half we showed a bit more of belief, more character and a bit more of positiveness. I think the group let themselves down a little bit, because we are better than what we showed even though we made eight changes in the line up from the last game."
With plenty of new or infrequently seen faces in the starting XI — including Carter Manley, Lawrence Olum, Collin Martin, Rasmus Schuller and Brent Kallman — the visitors struggled a bit initially to get on the same page defensively. In the eighth minute, a scramble in from of the Minnesota goal led to goalkeeper Vito Mannone giving up a rebound before defender Michael Boxall eventually cleared it with a header from the ground. That kind of last-ditch defending was required time and again throughout the night — with mixed success.
But it was the Loons who leapt to an early lead in the 11th minute. Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez misplayed the ball, leading to two opportunities for forward Angelo Rodriguez, returning to action after resting on Wednesday. The ball was repelled by a Dallas defender, but only as far as the left wing where it was reentered by Schuller. It pinged from Miguel Ibarra to Rodriguez and finally to Finlay, who buried it to put the Loons on top 1-0.
In the 28th minute, the home side’s ability to get its outside backs — Ryan Hollingshead on the left and Reggie Cannon on the right — involved in the attack paid dividends. Michael Barrios threaded a right-footed pass to the streaking Hollingshead, who struck a rocket that beat Mannone and rocked the underside of the crossbar before going in and pulling Dallas level.
The goal was followed immediately by a water break and straight out of the restart, Santiago Mosquera took an opportunistic strike from the right side beyond the box. Whether it was a pass or a shot, it arced over Mannone and found the far post before ricocheting in to put the home side up 2-1.
With Minnesota on the back foot, Dallas pressed the attack, earning lucky bounces and opportunities through sheer energy as the Loons sought to find their footing. In the 40th minute, Dallas found themselves on a break with the ball squirting ahead and through gaps in the Minnesota defense. It forced Mannone to come off his line and take the ball off Barrios’ feet, but the home side managed a strike that Kallman was forced to head away with Mannone out of position.
But then, against the run of play, Martin sent a lofted through ball over the defense and found Finlay cutting inside of Hollingshead. Gonzalez came way off his line and Finlay deftly chipped it in to give him a brace and put the teams level at 2-2.
FC Dallas were not done with the first half, though. In the 45th minute, Cannon made an incisive run into the box inside of Barrios and picked up Barrios’ pass, firing a shot on the near post that trickled under both Boxall and Mannone’s legs to find the back of the net and send the teams into the locker room with the home side on top 3-2.
"I kept telling the players at halftime that we were at our best when we’ve got eight playing and two watching, not the other way around," said Heath. "In the first half I thought it was very individualist. We didn’t have enough options when people were on the ball, they didn’t have the belief to go on and win the game with the group we put out there. In the second half I thought they showed more belief."
Ten minutes into the second half, Minnesota made the first move to change the texture of the game, putting in Darwin Quintero for Miguel Ibarra in the 56th minute and shifting the formation from a 4-3-3 to the team’s favored 4-2-3-1. Immediately Quintero and Finlay showed productive linkups with multiple opportunities coming from the interchange between them. Unfortunately, the backline continued to look vulnerable, often getting pulled apart by dynamic passing from Paxton Pomykal, who looked more than a match for the likes of Collin Martin and Lawrence Ollum. Rookie Hassani Dotson — playing at left back instead of center mid — was also having a night to forget, at least until the 75th minute.
Dotson found himself with a bit of space on the left wing and took it into the teeth of the defense, cutting the ball inside to beat a pair of Dallas defenders before beating Bressan and ripping a shot off the laces and onto the far post to once again level the game at 3-3.
The difference, though, would end up being Brandon Servania, who came on for Mosquera in the 75th minute. In the 85th minute, it was once again Pomykal driving the ball on a slight angle into the box before cutting it back out to a waiting Barrios, who slid it across the face of goal and onto the feet of a sliding Servania, who beat Manley to the spot and put the home side ahead.
"I said to the players early before the game that we can’t use the weather as an excuse," said Heath. "But it is hot, and it is difficult to play in. I think [FC Dallas] played very well here because they went after it and they weren't on their back foot. They got pace in wide areas and they stretched the game. We did a lot of good stuff in the second half. We at least showed some desire to actually stay in the game, when in the first half I thought we were waiting for the game to pass us by."
In stoppage time, FC Dallas sealed the victory off a short corner from Pomykal. Tapping it in to Barrios, Dallas attempted to hold it up deep in the corner, but unable to shovel it out, Minnesota gave up a lane to Pomykal who danced along the byline and sent another ball across to Servania, who finished it easily to make it 5-3. A bit of a dust-up followed as the Loons tried to get the game going again, leading to a red card for sub Mason Toye. Toye will now miss Wednesday’s game, when Minnesota United faces the Colorado Rapids at Allianz Field, presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. That game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. with pregame 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 Carter Manley, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Hassani Dotson; M Lawrence Olum, Collin Martin, Rasmus Schuller (Abu Danladi 86’), Ethan Finlay, Miguel Ibarra (Darwin Quintero 57’); F Angelo Rodriguez (Mason Toye 68’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Wyatt Omsberg; M Jan Gregus
FC Dallas Starting XI: GK Jesse Gonzalez; D Matt Hedges (Bressan HT), Reggie Cannon, Reto Ziegler, Tyan Hollingshead; M Bryan Acosta, Jesus Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal; F Dominique Badji (Zdenek Ondrasek 79’), Michael Barrios, Santiago Mosquera (Brandon Servania 75’)
FCD Unused Subs: GK Kyle Zobeck; Bryan Reynolds; M Jacori Hayes; F Edwin Gyasi
11’ – Finlay (Ibarra) – MIN
28’ – Hollingshead (Barrios) – FCD
32’ – Mosquera – FCD
41’ – Finlay (Martin) – MIN
45’ – Cannon (Barrios, Pomykal) – MIN
73’ – Dotson (Olum) – MIN
85’ – Servania (Barrios, Pomykal) – FCD
90+3’ – Servania (Pomykal) – FCD
48’ – Ibarra (YC) – MIN
58’ – Dotson (YC) – MIN
69’ – Boxall (YC) – MIN
72’ – Badji (YC) – FCD
90+6’ – Cannon (YC) – FCD
90+6’ – Toye (RC) – MIN