With fewer than 10 games remaining in what has been an unpredictable and trying season, MNUFC came into tonight’s game against FC Cincinnati knowing that the team needed to get the offense humming without sacrificing defensively if they want to be ready to get to the postseason and make some noise. The Loons did not disappoint, looking dangerous the whole game, but especially so when Kevin Molino — returning from injury — came on and scored, sealing a 2-0 win after an early penalty had put the home side on top.
As befitting a team hungry for a home win, Minnesota United came out of the gates on the front foot in a pressing defense that worked hard to win back the ball after a turnover. The gambit worked early, with much of the opening minutes played in FC Cincinnati’s end of the pitch. The visitors, though, didn’t sit back, instead spraying the ball out wide and packing the midfield near the top of the box and doing their own high pressing to win the ball back.
It wouldn’t take long for the first opening with both teams playing relatively open ball. In the 13th minute, defender Chase Gasper was taken down in the opposing box with a vicious stomp to his shin by defender Mathieu Deplagne. Initially, no call was made, but after a video review, Deplagne was shown a yellow card and the Loons were awarded a penalty. Forward Kei Kamara stepped to the spot and blasted a shot to the left as the goalkeeper guessed the other direction. It was Kamara’s 130th MLS goal and his first for MNUFC, putting the home side up 1-0.
With no let-up, Minnesota began putting pressure on the face of goal directly off the restart. Midfielder Robin Lod led a breakaway up the pitch and sent a ball across the six-yard box but it ended up just out of Kamara’s reach.
As the game approached the half-hour mark, FC Cincinnati began to threaten more consistently, getting most of their opportunities out of free kicks and corner kicks. For their part, the Loons seemed to take their foot off the gas a bit, struggling at times to clear the ball off of the visitors’ set pieces. Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair was more than up to the task, though, making a number of clutch saves over the course of the evening to keep MNUFC in it.
The chances kept coming for the home side as well. In the 36th minute, midfielder Jacori Hayes laid a picture perfect pass at the feet of Lod in the box, but Lod’s first touch was just a bit too heavy, carrying him forward into goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton without getting a clean look at a shot. Then in the 43rd minute, midfielder Jan Gregus spied an opening from distance and loosed a shot from beyond the box that Tyton had to dive for a shove aside for a corner kick.
Nevertheless, Minnesota would head into the halftime break with less of the ball and a one goal lead. FC Cincinnati simply found themselves without much creativity or energy behind the possession they were able to build up.
The second half began much the way the first ended, with the Orange and Blue eating up time on the ball but without much to show for it. In the 50th minute, a challenge from Chase Gasper deep in Minnesota’s half earned him a yellow card, meaning he will sit out Tuesday’s game against Nashville due to yellow card accumulation.
In the 57th minute, St. Clair made his first jaw-dropping save of the evening as forward Jurgen Locadia had an excellent look from directly in front of goal, forcing Minnesota’s keeper into a lightning quick reaction save that kept the clean sheet.
Looking to seal the game, Head Coach Adrian Heath went to his bench in the 61st minute, bringing in midfielder Kevin Molino. The move shifted the formation from a 4-3-3 to the team’s more familiar 4-2-3-1 and the benefits were immediately obvious as the Loons looked more dangerous the instant Molino got on the field.
In the 69th minute, a flawless turn from Emanuel Reynoso in midfield opened up the field and he picked out a long pass to Molino, who was too far ahead for any Cincinnati defender to catch up to. He struck a tight angle left-footed shot that scooted through Tyton’s legs to double the lead to 2-0 for Minnesota.
Welcome back— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 4, 2020
Welcome back pic.twitter.com/qQ9kRMSoJF
FC Cincinnati were not quite ready to give it up for the evening though, as Jurgen Locadia made himself dangerous from the top of the box. He struck a shot in the 81st minute that curled off into the stands, but three minutes later he got another look that forced St. Clair to stretch fully out to knock it over the crossbar.
Minnesota’s consistent offensive pressure down the stretch made it difficult for the visitors to build up their attack, and the Loons came close to making it three goals on the evening a number of times, even in stoppage time. Ultimately though, they would leave Allianz Field with a two-goal clean sheet win that would push them up to fourth in the Western Conference.
ADRIAN HEATH ON PLAYING BETTER AGAINST RSL BUT GETTING 3 POINTS TONIGHT
"Well, that’s football for you. With a clean sheet, we always have a chance. Because I always think we have enough talent on the field to score a goal. I’m thinking back now, Robin [Lod] could have had two or three really good opportunities in the first half. And, then the second half, I thought we were a little sloppy at times. Our final ball wasn’t good enough. But, in the end, a quality finish from Kev [Molino]. But, when we needed him, and, watching the highlights now, Dayne [St. Clair] has come up with a couple of crucial saves, when we’ve needed him. I’ve said it a million times. Goals change games. And, you know, Dayne has come up with two great saves when we’ve needed him to."
KEI KAMARA ON WHETHER HE KEEPS TRACK OF HIS CAREER GOALS
"Thanks, actually as I was walking in the door, Sam, our video guy told me I had 130. It’s great that people keep score for me, but I’m not keeping score. The only score I know is zero MLS Cups. It’s nothing to sound sweet, but that’s what I have been hunting. The goals are going to come, I’ve always said that, it doesn’t matter where I go or what team I play for I am going to work hard and I’m a goalscorer and that’s going to happen, but I’m not counting the goals anymore. If I can score a goal to give us three points, I just want to be in a playoff position so that we can battle for an MLS Cup."
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH
- 16' | Kamara scores his first goal as a Loon, driving the ball left as goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton dives the other way on the penalty kick. 1-0
- 69' | A beautiful turn from Reynoso opens up the left side for Kevin Molino, who is too far ahead for anyone to catch up to him. Molino's left-footed strike nutmegs Tyton and tickles the back of the net. 2-0
⚠️ Starting XI ⚠️— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 3, 2020
MINNESOTA UNITED vs. NASHVILLE SC
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
10.06.2020 | MLS Week No. 16 | MLS Game No. 16
7:30 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)