Loons settle for another draw at home

16 July 2023

On the day when Major League Soccer officially announced the arrival of soccer’s most famous number 10, Lionel Messi, the two number 10s provided the only scoring for Los Angeles FC and Minnesota United FC, in a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field.

Carlos Vela and Emanuel Reynoso scored three minutes apart in the first half, and MNUFC finished its pre-summer break schedule with yet another draw at home – this time, against the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winners from a season ago.

It was the Loons’ sixth draw in 10 home games this year, against just two wins. Even so, manager Adrian Heath was upbeat after the game.

“We’re playing the reigning champions, and we should have won the game,” he said. “I thought some of the football we played in the first half was probably the best we’ve played all season.”

Vela opened the scoring for LAFC on what was practically a broken play. Loons midfielder Kervin Arriaga missed a flick on a bouncing ball in midfield, and Los Angeles wing Stipe Buik was able to let Vela loose behind the defense. Vela ran past Michael Boxall, ran around goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, and slotted the ball home for the game’s first goal in the 21st minute.

Just three minutes later, the Loons answered, and scored one of the prettiest team goals that fans have seen at Allianz Field. Reynoso, Kervin Arriaga, and Bongokuhle Hlongwane formed a one-touch passing triangle at the edge of the LAFC penalty area. Six quick passes later, Arriaga had enough space to scoop the ball over the L.A. defensive line, and Reynoso rushed around the end to get to the scooped ball as it fell, poking it under LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy.

Minnesota, which held the star-studded LAFC offense to only a handful of chances, controlled the play in the early going. Just four minutes into the game, Reynoso beat a defender, and while Dotson got his head on the resulting cross, his effort flashed just past the far post.

A few minutes later, Reynoso let a Teemu Pukki cross from the right side run through to Hlongwane, but the ball was slightly behind the South African winger. Hlongwane could only tap his eight-yard effort softly and into the ground, allowing a leaping McCarthy to palm the shot away.

The Loons’ best second-half chance came in the 79th minute. Sang Bin Jeong let a ball run through in midfield, leaving Reynoso and Hlongwane with a 2-on-1 attack and lots of open field. Reynoso, controlling the ball, chose an unselfish pass to his right instead of a shot from the center of the field, but at full speed, Hlongwane could do no more than blaze his shot wide of the net.

It was a microcosm of Minnesota’s season so far – an excellent offensive chance that ended with the ball in the crowd, instead of in the goal.

The Loons now have a break in the schedule, with no MLS games scheduled until August 20. The reformatted Leagues Cup, which encompasses all the teams from both MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, begins next weekend.

Heading into the break, Heath is looking on the bright side. “We played the best team in the league. They won it last year and nearly went all the way in the Champions League, and there wasn’t a lot between the two teams tonight.”

“Sometimes we have to look at the positives, and today is one of them.”

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