MNUFC Goes Seven Straight MLS Matches Undefeated Against Houston Dynamo FC in 3-0 Shutout Road Win
HOUSTON, Texas -- An early goal from Bongokuhle Hlongwane followed by Teemu Pukki and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi's first goals for the Loons made all the difference at Shell Energy Stadium as Minnesota United defeated the Houston Dynamo in a 3-0 shutout on Wednesday night.
15': Defender DJ Taylor sent a low-driven cross into the goal area which was cleared by the Houston defense. Midfielder Hassani Dotson trapped the loose ball, firing a shot at net but was deflected by Houston. Bongokuhle Hlongwane intercepted the ball in the center of the box and set up for his shot, chipping the ball into the upper right corner of the net giving the Loons an early 1-0 lead.
20': In his first MNUFC/MLS start, Finnish forward Teemu Pukki extended Minnesota's lead when he ran onto a perfect through ball from Emanuel Reynoso and past the Dynamo back line. Pukki, in a 1v1 with goalkeeper Steve Clark, slipped his shot to the far post, notching his first goal of the season and Minnesota's second goal of the evening.
52': Houston Dynamo FC had its best chance with a long-range shot from Artur to the back post but was denied by an outstretched Dayne St. Clair, punching away the shot with one hand.
87': After clearing a Dynamo throw-in, Mender Garcia began the counterattack with Bongokuhle Hlongwane and midfielder Ismael Tajouri-Shradi joining the attack. After an attempt from Hlongwane, Tajouri-Shradi struck a shot off the volley, netting the third and final goal for MNUFC to take home all three points.
With the victory, Minnesota United improve to a 7-8-6 (W-L-D) record, standing 10th in the Western Conference.
Caution, HOU - Micael (68')
Caution, HOU - Franco Escobar (90'+1')
1-0 MIN - Bongokuhle Hlongwane, unassisted (15')
2-0 MIN - Teemu Pukki, assisted by Emanuel Reynoso (20')
3-0 MIN - Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, unassisted (87')
1 - In his first MNUFC/MLS debut, Teemu Pukki scored his first MNUFC/MLS goal in the 20th minute of the match.
6 - Dayne St. Clair made six saves to earn his sixth shutout of the season.
29 - After entering as a substitute off the bench, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi notched his first MNUFC goal and 29th goal in the MLS.
100 - Tonight's match earned Tajouri-Shradi his 100th career MLS appearance.
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Teemu Pukki
Minnesota United XI: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Zarek Valentin, Miguel Tapias, Michael Boxall (c), DJ Taylor; M Kervin Arriage, Hassani Dotson, Joseph Rosales, Emanuel Reynoso, Bongokuhle Hlongwane; F Teemu Pukki
Bench: GK Clint Irwin, Eric Dick; D Brent Kallman, Bakaye Dibassy, Devin Padelford; M Wil Trapp, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi; F Cameron Dunbar, Mender Garcia
Houston Dynamo XI: Steve Clark; Daniel Steres, Micael, Erik Sviatchenko, Franco Escobar; M Hector Herrera, Artur, Nelson Quiñones, Amine Bassi, Corey Baird; F Aliyu Ibrahim
Bench: GK Xavier Valdez; D Brad Smith, Ethan Bartlow, Chase Gasper; M Ivan Franco, Griffin Dorsey, Luis Caicedo, Brooklyn Raines; F Thor Ulfarsson
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. LAFC
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
07.15.2023 | MLS 2023 Regular Season | Matchday 26
7:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass/1500 ESPN)
MINNESOTA UNITED POST GAME QUOTE SHEET
HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH
On his thoughts of the match...
"Great response from the group. It's very easy to come here and allow the conditions to affect you, give you an excuse. I said to the guys before the game, I think it was 111 [degrees] at kickoff. I don't think people back home realize how warm it was and how uncomfortable the conditions were but we didn't use it as an excuse. Everybody did their job. Dayne [St. Clair] came up with a couple of big saves when we needed [him]. We had the first glimpse of [Emanuel] Reynoso and [Teemu] Pukki playing together: unbelievable turn, timing and weight of the pass and then he [Pukki] finished the opportunity. It makes a big difference. It makes a difference anywhere, home or away, when you get those moments, they change games. Then to go two-nil up gave us a platform from which to build. I thought we defended the box well at times. I did say in the week and I said to Ben [Olsen] tonight - and it's no reflection after the game - I think they're [Houston Dynamo FC] the most improved team in the MLS. I think they're a really good team with some really good individuals. For us to come away and win the game three-nil is huge."
On how the Leagues Cup tournament will change the MLS...
"We've got the game Saturday, we need to get that out of the way. I think a lot will depend on how far you go in the competition. If you don't go after your first two games, you don't go any further, then it's going to be a long two or three weeks to keep the lads sharp. Getting through the first round is crucial. For us, with bringing new players in - [Ismael] Tajouri got a goal today, Teemu's [Pukki] got a goal - we're delighted with the game. But the Leagues Cup will be excellent for some and disappointing for others because if you go out early on, you've got to fill time."
On finishing chances created in the final third...
"As I said, Teemu [Pukki] has had the one chance tonight and he took it really, really well. A great turn and weight of pass from Rey [Emanuel Reynoso]. Bongi [Bongokuhle Hlongwane] showed great composure for his goal as well. It would've been very easy to hit it early with their [Houston Dynamo FC] bodies but he took his time, got himself set and flicked it into the top corner. We looked dangerous on the break. I'm really pleased for Izzy [Ismael Tajouri-Shradi] as well because he's come in, he hasn't played a lot of football. He's training really hard and he showed us some nice touches. We think he'll be a contributor for us between now and the end of the year. The fact that those two have gotten a goal, the fact that we kept a clean sheet, the fact that we won on the road three-nil... it's been a really good evening for us."
On the chemistry between Emanuel Reynoso and Teemu Pukki...
"I think I said to you guys last week; good players like playing with good players. I know that once Rey [Emanuel Reynoso] starts to know that this guy is going to be on the move, making those little runs in behind defenders, putting little straight runs on for balls... it didn't surprise me. He's made a career of this and now he's playing with somebody who's arguably as good as anybody for the final ball. It's encouraging to start. He's [Teemu Pukki] not at 100%, I don't think Rey is at 100% yet. [Ismael] Tajouri-[Shradi] not 100%, so we've got to get them up to match fitness. But as I say, it looked encouraging this evening."
On the difference between success on road and home performances...
"They [goals] change the game. It doesn't matter whether you're home or away like tonight, after we got the first goal, they [Houston Dynamo FC] started to get some momentum and we get a chance and we score, it takes everything back again. It gives our team more encouragement. I'm fed up with saying it about - somebody told me a stat the other day that we've had the fourth most expected goals but we're fifth from the bottom in terms of execution - there lies the issue that we've had this season. If we weren't creating chances, I'd be more worried but we've created chances all season. We have to take a better percentage of them between now and the end. That doesn't matter whether we're at home or whether we're away. If we can convert a fair percentage of the chances we're creating, I believe it'll give us a really good chance of finishing where we want to be."
On what the team needs to do to continue the momentum from the win into Saturday against LAFC...
"Play well, take our opportunities when they arise, don't beat ourselves by giving them opportunities which I thought we did a little bit against Austin [FC]. I don't think we defended well individually and collectively. And then you've got to be completely concentrated because the likes of [Denis] Bouanga, the likes of [Carlos] Vela, it doesn't matter who they play. They paid a lot of money for a lot of attacking pieces. So when you're in possession, sometimes they're at their most dangerous. We have to be completely concentrated when we're attacking. We call it preventative marking: when we're attacking, what happens if we lose it? We'll have to do well at that and if we do, as we've proved the last couple of times we've played them at home, we can match them."
On earning a clean sheet...
"First, it gives you a base to work from. It gives you a chance. I thought we defended, in the first half, really well on the edge of the box. They didn't really create what I would class as a gilt-edged chance in the first half. They were all shots from 30, 25 yards out. Then Dayne [St. Clair] was excellent this evening. A couple of big saves when we needed him, but you know as I said, it's been a really good night for us. You can't take that away. Coming to a really in-form team and winning three-nil, hopefully it'll give us some confidence and something to build on. It's another hour that we got into [Teemu] Pukki, another few minutes that we got into [Ismael] Tajouri-Shradi and then we got another hour out of [Emanuel Reynoso] Rey. Rey felt his hamstring a little bit so we'll have to see how that is in the morning, but hopefully he'll be okay. We have to start working on these pieces that we've brought in and hopefully integrate them a little bit more and work in training to get some nice patterns going, so they understand what they are each capable of. That's what is going to happen in the next few weeks."
On an ideal road win...
"Well on the road, you have to defend well. You have to defend well. Was that the fifth win on the road? [Yes]. Yeah, so we've done well. We should have won the game in Salt Lake as well. We give ourselves a chance with a good defensive block and we do really well with that on the road. Once you keep the clean sheets or you don't give much away, then you always have a chance in games. Teams playing at home generally try to push forward and take more opportunities and more chances and then if your first ball out of defense is good and you can get a hold of it, you can go from there, which is what we did for the goals tonight. You give yourself a chance."
On Miguel Tapias being subbed out...
He was cramping. He felt like a body cramp and didn't want to risk it because as I said to you guys I don't think you realize how humid and hot it was done there this evening. So hats off to the players for playing in it. I think it was just a body cramp and didn't want to risk it even more. So hopefully, get the liquids and the drinks into everybody and get ourselves prepared for a difficult game on the weekend. We won't get back until three in the morning, so it's a night's sleep that is going to be disturbed, but LA[FC] is also going through the same thing. They play now and obviously have to travel as well.
On Emanuel Reynoso's frustration after being subbed off in the 61st minute...
"You know what he's like, he wants to play. [He] never tells you he's injured. The doctor said he had a little twinge in his hamstring so we always want to err on the side of caution especially as the game wore on and he was going to get tired. To get an hour into him in these conditions was good, and he says he feels fine but we'll see how he is tomorrow."
On Kervin Arriaga's performance tonight...
"I thought he was very good. The one thing that we spoke to Kervin [Arriaga] about is on the field discipline and not just by getting cards, kicking the ball away or stopping free kicks, it's actually the discipline of where to be when we're in possession and where we are out of possession. I thought he did a really good job of that this evening. So I'm really pleased because he's been really frustrated these past couple of weeks."
On attributing the defense performance and clean sheet to Michael Boxall's return after suspension...
"He's a big piece for us. We saw late on, got his head on three or four crosses. I have to say I thought [Hector] Herrera's crosses were unbelievable this evening. We had to defend well and they did. The two center backs got some really important headers. I thought Zarek [Valentin] defended the back post really well, as did DJ [Taylor] because you have to when you're under the pressure that we were under at times. You have to defend the box well and we've done it really well this evening."
On keeping in contact with Kemar Lawrence during the Gold Cup tournament and his availability...
"A lot depends after the game. If they [Jamaica] win, it won't be our choice. If they lose, we expect him back tomorrow and then we'll assess and see where he is and see where he is with his fitness. But that will have to be after the game."
On communicating with Kervin Arriaga on the field with his fingers...
"I'm really good with my fingers, [an] excellent translator. He was just getting information. At times I thought we were playing with one or two and I wanted him to play flat so we could fill the holes inside the two wide guys. We got there in the end but it does show and it's something I've spoken to the players about, the importance of learning the language. At times, it's taking us too long to get information to certain players, like it was with Joseph [Rosales] in the first half. It is something that we are actively working with the players, they've got to do a better job of learning the language."
On being back on the sideline after his suspension...
"I'd rather have been down where I was today with this heat and sweating the way I was than sitting up in an air-conditioned box. Hopefully now I've learned my lesson."
MINNESOTA UNITED GOALKEEPER DAYNE ST. CLAIR
On the win tonight...
"To come back into the team and get a positive result - of course we have one more game before Leagues Cup - but we made a standpoint to get as many points as we can leading into Leagues Cup. So to come back into the team after so long and have a performance like that it's definitely a prideful [feeling], especially to finish off with a clean sheet."
On dealing with Houston having the bulk of possession and how the defense helped the team win...
"We wanted to stay compact, so that meant us dropping back, but it was important for us to go out and get pressure on the ball and guys did a good job of blocking shots and dealing with crosses and when I had to make the saves I made them as well. It was more-so just about staying compact and staying in good shape and being hard for them to break down."
On maintaining the lead and the pride for fending off Houston...
"...like I said before, just staying compact and knowing his [Hector Herrera] quality we made a point for the midfielders to go out and close balls down and during the game he started to drift a little bit wide so it was hard for the midfielders to get out there. It was more so just being aware of where he [Hector Herrera] was and knowing that a lot of the passes going to the front men are for layoffs and to track your runners."
On how playing with the Canadian National Team helped your form to come back and play so well...
"Being able to play two games in quick succession; I'd be lying if I said my body felt 100% going into this game. But to get those games in and to have such a good performance in my last game with the national team was definitely a confidence booster and something I know I need to keep building up and I have to capitalize on that and for my club to keep getting minutes there as well."
On preparing for LAFC on Saturday...
"Obviously they have a lot of quality players and so similar to tonight, we need to keep a compact shape and close down the ball. If we get a clean sheet that gives us an opportunity to win the game. So keeping a clean sheet for me, personally and for the team should be a priority."
On what helped to maintain a clean sheet...
"We defended as a team really well. We dealt with things when they came in our path and being able to keep our compact shape, and we didn't beat ourselves. We didn't really give them any opportunities from our giveaways or anything that has hurt us in the past and we defended set pieces really well today."
On any language issues with your teammates...
"Fortunately enough, there are two guys on the back line, in DJ [Taylor] and Zarek are bilingual, so I try my best with my Spanish. It's definitely not that good, but I can help out with a few directional things. But with DJ and Zarek they do a great job of communication and keeping everyone tuned in."
On how the experience with the Canadian National Team has helped you...
"[Adrian Heath] first and foremost asked me how my body felt and if I wanted to travel on this trip and play a part in this game and I said 'for sure'. If we would have beaten USA we would have been playing [tonight] anyways so in my mind it was just shifting back and coming in to support the team. We haven't had the best form recently and I wanted to kind of help the team if I was called upon and Adrian decided to make that decision and I told him I was ready to go. Of course, I had a good performance for the [Canadian] National Team so I wanted to build on that confidence and really push my game to the next level. I've got that taste for the national team now. Of course, Milan [Borjan] was injured and that's why I've gotten a little bit of opportunity, but I wanted to keep pushing and earn that number one spot more often than not.
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