Returning to Houston just 17 days after losing 3-0 to the Dynamo, Minnesota United came in with a rested but still injury-ravaged squad, hoping to make trouble for the home side. Early on, MNUFC took advantage of their opportunities, going up 2-0 before the break on the strength of goals by Kevin Molino and Robin Lod plus a clutch penalty save from Dayne St. Clair on Darwin Quintero to keep Houston scoreless. The scene shifted in the second half, with the Dynamo pouncing on a pair of unsecured rebounds from shots to pull level at 2-2. MNUFC were forced to defend with just 10 men after Jan Gregus was given a red card late and a game that at one point looked like a rare road win turned into a tough draw that nonetheless got the Loons a point and kept them in fourth place in the Western Conference.
Initially, Minnesota United struggled to gain control of the ball — not an uncommon problem for teams on the road. But the Loons showed a strong defensive presence in the midfield, doing a good job of forcing Houston out wide or out on the counter, rather than building through the middle. While both teams had their share of shots early on, it was Minnesota who would open the scoring. In the 11th minute, a turnover in midfield led to midfielder Jan Gregus sending the ball ahead to Kevin Molino, charging down the left wing. Molino pushed into the box and fired the shot between Matias Vera’s legs and past Marko Maric to put the visitors on top 1-0.
At first, the Loons, brimming with confidence, began mounting follow-up attacks in quick succession, but before long, defender Romain Metanire found himself penned in in Minnesota’s own end. Pestered by Memo Rodriguez, the fullback eventually gave it up forcing defender Michael Boxall to challenge him in the box, conceding a penalty in the process.
Former Loon and birthday boy Darwin Quintero stepped to the spot in the 18th minute, no doubt with both of those things swirling in his mind. The Colombian fired a shot just right of center, but goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair dove and stopped it with his foot, knocking out of danger for the first penalty save of his MLS career.
Although the home side would continue to dominate possession through the remainder of the first half, MNUFC did not want for opportunities and continued to blow up Houston’s possession early in the midfield. Although the Loons occasionally left themselves exposed, strong defensive showings by Hassani Dotson and Chase Gasper to deflect balls in the box kept St. Clair from taking on too much pressure.
Then, in stoppage time, the Loons got their own opportunity to take advantage of a stretched defense. In the 46th minute, Robin Lod dished the ball to midfielder Emanuel Reynoso along the right wing, who played it back to the Finn one-time. Lod cut in towards the box and spotted Kevin Molino on the left wing, trailing Mason Toye into the box. Molino drilled a right footed shot directly at Maric, who couldn’t control it. The ball bounced out into the path of Lod and Lod sent it back on goal, scooting it under Maric to double the lead to 2-0 as the teams headed into the tunnel.
If the first half ended with the visitors in the driver’s seat, the second half began with a reinvigorated Houston Dynamo who sought to get out on the front foot. St. Clair opened the second half with several clutch saves on short range shots by Quintero and Mauro Manotas, but with Minnesota pinned back in its own end, it was only a matter of time before the home side would find a crack. In the 58th minute, an early cross headed towards the face of goal and the head of Mauro Manotas. St. Clair came out to punch it out aggressively, but his aggression also carried him forward far enough that when Quintero got a hold of the ball on the edge of the box, you knew he would go for the chip. The Colombian didn’t disappoint, lofting the ball over St. Clair to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
A little over 10 minutes later, Houston drew level. Off a set piece, Quintero sent in a free kick from the left side that looked bound for the top left corner of the goal, but St. Clair was there. Unfortunately, the Loons couldn’t lock down the rebound and gave up a header to an unmarked Maynor Figueroa, who scored his first goal for the Houston Dynamo to make it 2-2.
At that point, Minnesota’s mission was split evenly between trying to sneak in a goal to snatch all three on the road and holding strong at the back to keep from losing the point from the draw. When they had the chances, the Loons took them, with excellent looks going begging from Emanuel Reynoso on a free kick, Hassani Dotson on a shot from outside the box and — most painfully — a pair of strikes from Kevin Molino that came powerfully close to pulling the Loons back in front. On the second one, a diving strike set up by a gorgeous curling early cross from Lod, Molino came up lame and had to leave the game, making way for Aaron Schoenfeld.
🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫 pic.twitter.com/OnTBDbIcqz— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) September 20, 2020
With just a few minutes and stoppage to play, it seemed like it was going to come down to the wire, with the result up for grabs. But then, in the 88th minute, Jan Gregus was shown a red card for an off-the-ball incident the ref deemed dangerous enough to justify sending him off. At that point, MNUFC shifted into survival mode and managed to hang on for roughly seven minutes as Houston threw everything they had forward. In the end, the teams would split the points and Minnesota escape with a hard-won road result.
ADRIAN HEATH ON BEING SATISFIED WITH A POINT
"Yeah, I think that, the way that we’ve been playing on the road. And, with the injury situation that we’ve had. And, the amount of games that we’ve had on the road. Probably. We know it’s a difficult place to come and play. They’re playing with a lot of confidence for a re-settled team. So, yeah, maybe we would have done. Obviously, when you’re 2-nil at halftime, it seems a huge disappointment. But, for the first time on the road in a few weeks, I thought there was quite a lot of positives to take something from.”
DAYNE ST. CLAIR ON THE PENALTY SAVE
“Penalties, I think, are mental battles. So, I was just trying to delay to build the pressure up for the moment and then of course we both are familiar with each other, so I kind of wanted that to play in his head the longer things went on. And then, just make a decision and hopefully save it.”
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH
- 11’ | Turnover in midfield ends with the ball at Jan Gregus’ feet and Gregus gets it ahead to Molino on the left wing and he sends it through Matias Vera’s diving legs to give MNUFC the early lead. 1-0
- 46’ | Reynoso gets the ball from Lod, plays it back to Lod who crosses it wide to Molino. Molino fires the ball with his right foot and Maric deflects it but directly into the path of Lod, who sends it back on goal and it scoots under Maric to double Minnesota’s lead. 2-0
- 58’ | St. Clair gets aggressive to punch the ball away after Manotas threatens with the header, but then Quintero gets it at the edge of the box and he chips it in to cut the lead in half. 2-1
- 69’ | Darwin Quintero takes the FK and curls it in well, but St. Clair is there to save it, yet the ball bounces out to Maynor Figueroa unmarked and Figueroa heads it in. 2-2
COLUMBUS CREW SC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED
MAPFRE Stadium | Columbus, Ohio
09.23.2020 | MLS Week No. 13 | MLS Game No. 13
6:30 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North+, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)