On a rain-slicked night in Northern California, Minnesota United tangled with the San Jose Earthquakes and came out on top, riding a combination of aggressive passing and off-the-ball running along with clinical finishing on set pieces to a resounding 5-2 win, despite having way less of the ball. Defender Ike Opara opened the scoring early with a header off of a corner kick, and he would later earn a penalty off a corner and get his brace to close out the scoring on another header off yet another corner. In between, midfielder Kevin Molino found Luis Amarilla for his second goal and header of the season and Robin Lod would clean up a missed penalty from Amarilla for his first goal in MLS. Jan Gregus would finish the night with two assists and a goal.
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MNUFC started where it left off against the Portland Timbers in Week 1, getting forward and putting the opponent on the back foot. Just 12 minutes in, the Loons earned a corner kick with Jan Gregus taking it from the right corner. Defender Ike Opara skied in from the right side to catch the ball and deliver an authoritative header into the back of the net to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
But in the 19th minute, the Quakes struck back as defender Tommy Thompson drew a foul right on the edge of the penalty box as Chase Gasper challenged him. San Jose captain Magnus Eriksson stepped to the spot and sent it low and hard to goalkeeper Tyler Miller’s left as he guessed right.
Minnesota, though, would not be cowed, instead redoubling its commitment to run on every possession with its fullbacks racing ahead on the flanks and its midfielders flying up the pitch to push San Jose’s man-marking scheme to the breaking point. In the 26th minute, Luis Amarilla picked up the ball in space before tapping it out wide with the outside of his right foot. Gregus ran onto the ball and zeroed in on the near post, blasting it low past Vega to put the Loons back on top, 2-1. Minutes later, with the rain really pouring down, the visitors doubled the lead after Kevin Molino picked out Amarilla alone in the middle of the box. For the second time in two weeks, the Paraguayan rose up and fired a header into the back of the net.
Ten minutes later, Molino would have to leave the game with what appeared to be a leg issue, making way for second-year player Hassani Dotson. Not satisfied with going into the locker room up by two goals, MNUFC continued to press the issue, earning a corner kick in stoppage time. Opara once again aimed to work his way loose and get up for Gregus’ delivery, but he went down in the box, earning a penalty. Amarilla lined it up, but his shot went straight at Vega, who guessed correctly but couldn’t secure the ball. As it bounced loose, Robin Lod pounced on it and drilled it with a left-footed shot past a recovering Vega to open his goal-scoring account in MLS.
The second half opened with the Loons in control 4-1 and working to shift down the tempo and control more of the ball. The result was more opportunities for San Jose almost immediately, and the Quakes took advantage of the Loons’ deeper lines off a short corner in the 53rd minute. The initial cross into the box was cleared, but only as far as midfielder Vako, who loosed a low shot that beat Miller and pulled the home side back within two goals.
San Jose, though, was unable to capitalize on the goal, instead spinning its wheels while MNUFC applied more pressure. In the 71st minute, the visitors put the game to bed off yet another corner kick, and it was once again Ike Opara who elevated and buried it, earning his brace and pushing the score to a 5-2 final.
Everywhere you look— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) March 8, 2020
Everywhere you look
LOONS WINNNNNNNNNNNNNN pic.twitter.com/c8Afw77vDD
"The great thing about Ike is that what you see is what you get. He gives you everything he’s got, he’s a great competitor, he’s not as quiet as people think — he has an opinion in the locker room. But the best thing about this group — the best I’ve had since I’ve been in Minnesota — there’s a great collective spirit. They do what’s asked of them and they hold each other accountable, which is always important. It doesn’t surprise me, the start we’ve had. Maybe didn’t think we’d score eight goals in two away games, but I knew that we’d be competitive, and we will be all season."
"We have a lot of guys who have a high IQ, and we will take what the game gives us. If we have a game plan and it’s not working, we have guys who can adjust on the fly and we all fall in sync really quickly. That’s a credit to all the guys on this team. We’re pretty fluid and adaptable and this was one of those games where everything was clicking. Unfortunately we gave up two goals — I’m not happy about that — but I think we took a lot of positives out of tonight."
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH
- 12’ | Ike Opara nails the header off the corner kick in the right corner, skying into the box and putting it past Daniel Vega on the far post. Jan Gregus with the assist. 1-0
- 19’ | Magnus Eriksson drills the PK after Tommy Thompson draws the foul near the right edge of the box. 1-1
- 26’ | Jan Gregus picks up the ball on the right wing off a tap ahead from Luis Amarilla. Gregus zeroes in on the near post and blasts it low past Vega. 2-1
- 32’ | No one picks up Kevin Molino and Molino hits the early cross into the center of the box to find Luis Amarila, who heads it confidently into the back of the net. 3-1
- 47’ | Ike Opara gets taken down in the box on the corner kick as he tries to get to the far post. Penalty is awarded. Amarilla shoots left and Vega gets in front of it, but Lod is there to blast it with his left foot straight through the hands of Vega. 4-1
- 53’ | Short corner for SJ leads eventually to a cross that’s cleared, but only as far as the edge of the box where Vako finds it and puts it on the ground past Miller. 4-2
- 71’ | Opara gets his brace. Off of the corner kick from the left side, Opara again elevates and taps it into the far corner. 5-2
Minnesota United vs. New York Red Bulls
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
03.15.2020 | MLS Week No. 3 | MLS Game No. 3
6:00 p.m. CT (FS1, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)