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MNUFC Earn Point on the Road in Houston

September 19, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Minnesota United FC News Release

HOUSTON, Tex. - 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.

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.

BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair

GOAL BREAKDOWN

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

LINEUPS:

Minnesota United: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Chase Gasper, Bakaye Dibassy, Michael Boxall, Romain Metanire; M Jan Gregus, Hassani Dotson, Kevin Molino, Emanuel Reynoso, Robin Lod; F Mason Toye

Houston Dynamo: GK Marko Maric; D Zarek Valentin, Aljaz Struna, Maynor Figueroa, Adam Lundkvist; M Memo Rodriguez, Matias Vera, Darwin Ceren; F Ariel Lassiter, Mauro Manotas, Darwin Quintero

UP NEXT

Minnesota United @ Columbus Crew

MAPFRE Stadium | Columbus, OH

09.23.20 | MLS Week No. 11 | MLS Game 13

6:30 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North+, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

MINNESOTA UNITED QUOTE SHEET

MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On if he had entered the game knowing he could get a point, and if he would be satisfied with that result...

"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."

On what changed from the first half to the second half for his squad in the attacking third and defensively...

"Well, you know, Dayne [St. Clair] makes a great save on Darwin's [Quintero] free kick, and then we don't follow it up. But, no, we knew, said at halftime. We've all played in these games when we've been on the receiving end. You know, the next goal is going to be the crucial goal, especially on the road. And, you know, I said to them, if they get the first goal, we've got to dig in because they're going to keep coming. As I said, they're in a rich vein of form, they're very good at home, and I knew the next goal was going to be huge. So, I didn't think at halftime the game was won by any stretch of imagination. What I did know, that, if we had some quality on the counterattack, because, I knew they would keep pushing on, that we would have opportunities. And, we did. Kevin [Molino] has hit the post, [Emanuel] Reynoso has hit the post. So, we did have a few opportunities. But, as I said, I'm looking at some positives tonight because there hasn't been too many on the road the last few weeks, and there was some positives tonight."

On Dayne St. Clair facing his first MLS penalty kick and familiar face Darwin Quintero lining up against him...

"Well, we did say that, you know, at the time, we're obviously watching Darwin [Quintero], as we've done for a couple of years, every time after training take his penalties. That is his favorite side. His right foot. Keeper's left. Middle of the goal. And, he guessed the right way and he came up with a big save. I knew it was only fitting that he did, because I thought he was excellent tonight. You know, he'll be disappointed for Darwin's first goal because, I think between him and Jose [Aja] a little more communication could have maybe stopped the goal, stopped the opportunity, shall we say, but, overall, he's come up big on three or four occasions, which is what you need from your goalkeeper on the road."

On the free kick that Dayne St. Clair saved, but the Loons didn't cover the rebound, resulting in a Houston goal ...

"Great save and we didn't make the most of the save. You know, their center back or whoever it was reacts first. That's down to us. You know, it was Kev's [Molino] man, probably, and, you know, obviously an unnatural defender. And, you always think, you should always think the worst, the keeper might save it, or does it come back into play. And, that's what happened. But, you know, these things happen."

On the acquisition of Kei Kamara and his role with the team and if he can be a mentor for Mason Toye ...

"Listening to Stewart Kerr, the goalkeeper coach, who had Kei [Kamara] and was working with Kei in Vancouver, said that Kei had a real big influence on Alphonso Davies there, mentally and off the field. I've known Kei for a long time. My son played with him in England. In Norwich. And, so, this goes back a long way. And, as he said to me yesterday, when I rang him, only eight years too late, gaffer. So, it's been... I have tried a few times to bring him into the club. A couple of his older coaches have rang me today and said, you'll be amazed at his fitness levels for his age. What I won't be amazed about is if we get quality balls in the box, I think he will score goals. I think the last two years, I think he's got nearly 30 in 60 games. What is he, fifth highest goal scorer within the league? So, we know what we're getting. And, I also know that we're getting a big personality. And, I think at this moment in time, you know, on the road and when we've got, at one stage, we're going to have plenty of home games, I think he's going to be a huge threat for us in both boxes."

On this being the team's fourth game in Texas in the last month of time, and if he still had his house in Austin to visit ...

"No, I didn't. But, as Tab [Ramos] said to me after the game, probably see you in a couple of weeks, here, with a bit of luck. I don't know who is doing the fixtures, but, my God, hopefully this is the last time we have to visit Texas, because it doesn't get any cooler. That's one thing I do know. And, it's a difficult place to come and play. There and Dallas. So, you know, hopefully in a few weeks we'll start to get some home games."

On what role he sees new signing Kei Kamara filling when everyone is healthy ...

"I see him playing center forward for us. He's a goal-scoring center forward. And, at this moment in time, that's what we're lacking. You know, I think we've had a lot of good opportunities on the break this evening, especially in the first half, and, as you say, I'm hoping that a little bit of mentorship and a little bit of understudy from Mason [Toye] watching a guy that has scored goals consistently within the league. And, not only that, his strength and personality is something that people have spoke to us about over the last week or so since this has been going on. So, delighted that we've done the deal. We felt it was something that we couldn't turn down in the current circumstances. And, we think he'll be a big, big asset for us."

On the 88th minute red card to Jan Gregus, and what the process looks like for appealing that decision if they were to do so ...

"Jan [Gregus] doesn't know what he's got it for, so, that's the starting point. I haven't seen it, no. I didn't know what it was for. I actually thought it was for something that [Emanuel] Reynoso had done. And not Jan. So, we'll have a look at it. We'll see where that leaves us. I never hold my breath about these things. But, if we feel as though we could appeal it, then we will."

On Greg Ranjitsingh's injury status and his surgery yesterday ...

"Yeah, it wasn't as bad as first feared. So, that's a bit of a booster for the kid. I think he thought the worst and the season would have been over, so we feel as though it wasn't as bad as first feared."

On another two-game week coming up ahead and how he approaches the Columbus Crew game, the last meeting going into penalties ...

"Well, recovery now. We won't get back until, what, 2 or 3 in the morning. And then, you know, the next couple of days, the next 36 hours you're just hoping you can get some recovery into the guys, get some energy back into them and then come up with another big performance against... are they leading the Supporters Shield, I think? Spent an awful lot of money. Well coached. Good pieces all over the field. So, doesn't get any easier for us. That's a fact."

On Kevin Molino's status ...

"He felt his hamstring was tight. You know, obviously, when you get a little bit of fatigue, that can happen. He felt it when he stretched when he hit the post late on. And, same again, we'll have a better idea tomorrow or Monday to see where we are. But, certainly, the way that he's playing, we will not be risking him on Wednesday if that's the case."

MINNESOTA UNITED GOALKEEPER DAYNE ST. CLAIR

On being familiar with Darwin Quintero and his penalty kick 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."

On being a few games in starting for MNUFC and playing with Chase Gasper...

"I think connection and chemistry is everything. I think when you feel comfortable with your teammates it allows you to raise your game in yourself and then you know that you can rely on someone. So I mean, playing with Chase and being so familiar, but also being with the guys last year, and things like that, I think has been great for me."

On the initial save of the two goals allowed...

"I haven't had the chance to look back at it yet, but maybe it's a ball that's put across that I don't have to come out for. Then the second one, maybe tipping that over the bar instead of it allowing to touch the bar."

On the center back substitution...

"I think Jose [Aja] came in and did well. I mean, he's someone I've started gamed with and I feel comfortable with him on. I think he's comfortable with the back line. So, nothing really changed for us it was just trying to manage the game."

On Michael Boxall's reaction to the Quintero penalty kick save...

"I couldn't tell you what he said. After I made the save it was a quick second of celebration, but then they were throwing it in our area, so it was just switching onto that because you don't want to come and concede right after."

On getting one point from the game...

"I think anytime you have a two-goal lead and you give it up, you're never happy. I think it's disappointing, but we will take it and we'll move forward."

On seeing Houston the past few weeks...

"Yeah, being on loan in Texas...Texas is very familiar for me these days."


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