With the race for playoff spots out West growing tighter by the day, Minnesota United came into its second game of the season against FC Cincinnati in need of three points to edge them up the table. Given Cincy's struggles this year, it seemed like a golden opportunity, and yet MNUFC struggled to find their footing early against an aggressive home side who pushed on offense and pressed on defense. It would take until the very death of the game for the Loons to find the back of the net to pull ahead 1-0 and walk away with a much-needed win on the road.
Despite FC Cincinnati’s spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Orange and Blue came out hot and with good energy, getting the ball deep into Minnesota’s final third almost immediately off the starting whistle. On the other side of the ball, the home side was also aggressive in defense, getting tight on the MNUFC players and not giving them any daylight to work with in the final third.
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Cincy’s hard work resulted in opportunities early on, including a chance for Siem De Jong in the 11th minute as he got a clean look at a header, but goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair was there to defuse the attack, a role he played several times on the night en route to a clean sheet. Minnesota’s defense was stout through the middle overall with the returning Jan Gregus and the recently returned Osvaldo Alonso doing a lot in the double pivot to force the ball out into wide areas. For their part, the home side did well to hit long diagonals to open up spaces down the wing.
Through the first 20 minutes, Minnesota could not muster a shot on goal, despite some flashes of good interplay to open up crack in the final third from time to time. But past the half-hour mark, the Loons began to get better looks more frequently, but time and again, the finishing was not there for the opportunities generated and the teams went into the locker room deadlocked at 0-0.
The second half saw a much tougher and aggressive Minnesota team come out of the tunnel. Outpossessed and outshot eight to four in the first half, the Loons outshot their hosts 14 to four in the second half and it began right away with opportunities coming to midfielders Robin Lod and Jan Gregus and forward Kei Kamara. While Cincinnati continued to make the most of their chances to get out on the break, the visitors slowly worked their way into more of the ball and more creativity in the final third.
It looked for all the world like Minnesota’s defensive solidity and some last-ditch defending from Nick Hagglund and some poor luck would keep the game a scoreless draw, but things got very dramatic at the last moment. Late sub Emanuel Reynoso earned a corner kick for MNUFC in the 92nd minute and then got to deliver the ball in from the left corner. Reynoso went short and found a leaping Michael Boxall, whose header went across the face of goal before pinging off the right post. The ball fell to Aaron Schoenfeld who settled it before rifling it in with his right foot.
It was Schoenfeld’s first goal for Minnesota United and his first MLS goal in almost exactly five years, a testament to staying in the game and gritting it out. The late goal was enough to get the visitors a 1-0 win and all three points and lift Minnesota back up into the top half of the playoff seeding in the Western Conference, leapfrogging LAFC to take the fourth spot on the evening.
Big Freakin' Celery pic.twitter.com/493bXf7owd— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 25, 2020
ADRIAN HEATH ON HOW THE GAME CHANGED 20 MINUTES IN
“I thought we started stepping to the ball with a little bit more aggression. I thought we started to actually put people out of their comfort zone. You know, I always say to the players if it was about just having a nice game of football, I could still play. But, you have to make… Whether you play a high-pressing game, you know, a mid-block or a low-block, once it comes into that, you have to be on the front foot. And, I think after the first 15, 20 minutes, we were. And, I thought we were excellent second half. Can’t really remember Dayne [St. Clair] coming up with anything that he shouldn’t have saved. So, it was a good second half performance and a huge win in the context of where we are in the season.”
MICHAEL BOXALL ON HIS HEADER
“Yeah, if my head was a little bit bigger I think it might have gone in. As long as it ends up in the back of the net there from somebody, I’m happy. Happy to take away the three points tonight.”
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH
Man. Of. The. Match. pic.twitter.com/XWYy452qkU— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 25, 2020
- 91’ | Boxall heads the corner across the face of the goal and hits the post before it comes back out to Schoenfeld who settles it before finishing it to put MNUFC up late. 1-0
Tonight’s 𝐗𝐈— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 24, 2020
And welcome back, Jan
MINNESOTA UNITED vs. COLORADO RAPIDS
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
10.28.2020 | MLS Week No. 21 | MLS Game No. 19
7:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)