Teemu Pukki’s opening goal helps Loons down Houston 3-0

13 July 2023

Minnesota United’s new partnership of Teemu Pukki and Emanuel Reynoso showed their lethal capability on Wednesday at Shell Energy Stadium in Houston.

They can backstab opponents.

Reynoso had his back toward Houston’s goal when Pukki took off running from the halfway line. Reynoso made one of his intuitive turns and fed a pass through two Dynamo defenders to an on-running Pukki for his first MLS goal. The Finnish forward calmly slotted it home.

The Loons sat on the lead, absorbed a ton of pressure in the second half, but added a further insurance goal and won 3-0.

MNUFC (7-8-6, 27 points) haven’t lost to Houston in MLS play since 2020 and narrowed this season’s gap on the Dynamo (8-10-4, 28 points).

The Loons signed Pukki to a Designated Player contract with this type of on-field connection with Reynoso in mind. Pukki and Reynoso provided this early return in their first match together in the starting XI.

Five minutes before Pukki’s goal, MNUFC took a 1-0 lead when Bongi Hlongwane displayed great patience in front of net. The South African pump-faked two shot attempts to force Dynamo defenders to attempt blocks or save attempts and then lift a shot into the upper corner of the net in the 15th minute.

It was Hlongwane’s sixth goal of the season, which extended his team-lead to three over Reynoso’s three.

Reynoso and Pukki exited in the 61st minute, with Reynoso visibly upset. He had grabbed his leg before Adrian Heath made the switch.

New winger Ishmael Tajouri-Shradi subbed in the match and scored his first goal in a Loons shirt on a rebound in the 87th minute.

Every-game center back Micky Tapias picked up an injury in the 70th minute and exited for Bakaye Dibassy.

Heath made four changes to the starting XI, with the headlining move being Pukki coming in after playing 35 minutes in the 4-1 loss to Austin on Saturday.

Kervin Arriaga came in for Wil Trapp in midfield. Michael Boxall returned from suspension and replaced Dibassy. Dayne St. Clair  was back from international duty with Canada and took over for Clint Irwin.

The Loons will host defending MLS Cup champions Los Angeles FC on Saturday at Allianz Field.

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