In the opening game of the 2020 MLS season, Minnesota United needed a little time to settle down and grow into the game against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. After a first half where the Loons overcame some early nerves to put up a strong fight, the second half opened with a great deal more action and a 1-1 scoreline after the first 10 or so minutes. But Minnesota would pull ahead late with two goals nearly back-to-back that Portland could not find an answer for. Luis Amarilla opened his MLS account with the go-ahead goal while Kevin Molino bagged a brace and Ethan Finlay figured in all three, ending up with two assists on the night.
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The opening 15 minutes of the game saw the Loons working to put defensive pressure on the Timbers, but also turning the ball over and playing a bit nervy. The result was an overall advantage for the home side, who got the first decent chance of the game in the fourth minute when midfielder Sebastian Blanco served up a cross to Cristhian Paredes low to the ground that went begging. Minnesota, meanwhile, struggled to turn the ball upfield as aggressively as Head Coach Adrian Heath would have liked and the result was a 4-0 advantage in shots for the home side through the first 15.
But as MNUFC grew into the game, the pace and possession leveled out some and the visitors started to show some teeth, earning the first corner kick of the night in the 25th minute. The action got a chippy as well with two yellow cards getting handed out to Osvaldo Alonso and Romain Metanire for rugged challenges and one to Paredes for the same on Alonso. MNUFC ended the half with a flurry of balls into the box without finding a finisher, but in all, the Loons built confidence over the course of the half and the teams headed into the tunnel deadlocked at 0-0.
The second half began with much the same tenor as the first ended, with both teams pressing to regain possession before looking to break off deep runs on the counterattack. The Loons were the first to draw blood with this approach when Ethan Finlay got out ahead on the break down the right wing in the 51st minute. He sent the ball across to Robin Lod who challenged goalkeeper Steve Clark high in the box. Although Lod couldn’t escape Clark with the ball at his feet, Clark couldn’t secure the ball and rolled out to a waiting Kevin Molino who skipped ahead and tapped it in gently to put Minnesota up 1-0.
Barely three minutes later, though, Portland’s Felipe Mora would find himself working the ball through the box before holding it up in the top right corner. Challenged by Ike Opara, Mora went down and drew the penalty, which Diego Valeri calmly finished going right when Tyler Miller guessed left. But in the 76th minute, Finlay would once again find himself with space on the right wing after Portland had pushed deep into Minnesota’s half. Charging forward, he picked out Luis Amarilla floating off the far post and pinged a picture-perfect pass onto the Paraguayan’s forehead. Amarilla nodded the ball into the ground and just under Clark for his first MLS goal and a 2-1 lead.
Moments later, a wild sequence of passes in Portland’s box found Amarilla tapping a long pass from Miller back to Molino, who tapped it forward to Finlay, who flicked the ball over his head to find Molino wide open. Molino drilled the volley past Clark for his second goal of the night and a 3-1 lead.
At the death, it appeared that Portland might have snatched one back when Mora nudged in front of defender Michael Boxall for a goal but the flag went up and the Timbers were denied the consolation goal, leaving on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline that gives Minnesota United its first win of the 2020 MLS season and its first-ever win at Providence Park.
"Pleased for the couple hundred fans we had up in the corner there, Minnesota fans, always great to give them something to cheer. I thank them for their support and now we dust ourselves down and go again on Monday, and let’s see where we are next week in San Jose."
"Great team win tonight. We weathered the storm in the first 15 minutes, settled in, and we knew what this game was going to be about. It’s early in the season, things aren’t always the prettiest sometimes. We had some sloppy moments maybe in the first half and then we kinda figured it out and started to really settle in and take advantage of them on the counterattack and were very clinical. Really happy with the start from all phases."
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH
- 51’ | Ethan Finlay breaks off of the attack by POR and sends it to Robin Lod in the middle, who challenges Steve Clark. Clark can’t secure the ball and it’s loose to Molino who finishes it with a tap. 1-0
- 56’ | After Minnesota concedes a penalty when Ike Opara takes down Felipe Mora in the corner of the box, Diego Valeri goes right from the spot while Tyler Miller goes left. 1-1
- 76’ | Finlay gets out on the break again down the right wing and crosses it high across the box and finds Amarilla on the far post, who nods it past Clark easily. 2-1
- 78’ | Miller clears it to Amarilla, who taps it back to Molino, who taps it up to Finlay who flicks it over his head and Molino drills it into the back of the net with the volley. 3-1
Minnesota United at San Jose Earthquakes
Earthquakes Stadium | San Jose, California
03.07.2020 | MLS Week No. 1 | MLS Game No. 2
7:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)