Despite a shortage of goals, there was no shortage of fireworks (i.e. fouls) at Allianz Field on Saturday night when Minnesota United FC hosted two former captains and the San Jose Earthquakes. The Loons’ 1-0 win punctuated what seems to be the club’s identity in 2022: Gutsy play emphasizing results over goals, with a touch of flare.
There were plenty of storylines ahead of Minnesota United FC’s Saturday night primetime matchup with San Jose: The return of former Loons captains Francisco Calvo and Jan Gregus; Luis Amarilla facing Calvo; Minnesota-native Jackson Yueill returning home on his birthday; the possibility of a Bongokuhle Hlongwane start. Each of those narratives had legs when the first whistle blew. Calvo, Gregus, Yueill, and Bongi all started. Amarilla was the game’s lone goal scorer. And it was just as chippy as you’d expect.
With Franco Fragapane nursing an injury on the bench, Bongi Hlongwane made his first start for the Loons on the left wing – the only change to a fairly concrete front four. Despite fears that Wil Trapp would be sidelined with a bug (the same one that kept goalkeeper Tyler Miller out of action last week and that seems to be working its way through camp), he was back alongside Kervin Arriaga for the second consecutive match.
It is unfortunate that this midfield consistency carried over into the turnover column, with the first ten minutes of the match being a series of both picked pockets and cheap giveaways. However, while the same problem last weekend required goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair to stand on his head for 90 minutes and make eight saves, San Jose was held to just four shots all night with none on target – a bonus training session with an audience for DSC.
With giveaway frustration comes yellow cards. Trapp was the first to be booked, a tame jersey tug enough for referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere to reach into his pocket in the 8′. He did the same minutes later for San Jose left back Marcos López and the pattern was set: A foul was a yellow, even if it was a red. Lauziere issued five yellow cards on the night. The third, issued to Calvo in the 43′ for a [very] late and dangerous challenge on Robin Lod, was reviewed and judged not to be a clear and obvious error, but it may well be addressed in this week’s disciplinary review.
Also up for review this week is Calvo’s marking of Luis Amarilla about ten minutes earlier. The striker easily split Calvo and Eric Remedi to put a beautiful finish on a cross from Lod in the 32′. Amarilla’s first goal at Allianz Field was worth the long, two year wait.
Despite a chippy second half, full of shots (by Minnesota), fouls, and subs, Minnesota held on to another shutout and three big points that put them, however briefly, at the top of the West. If the Loons hope to retain this position at the top end of the table, they’ll need to start scoring more goals. But two 1-0 finishes are a reminder that two things can be true:
With a handful of players headed out for international duty, the Loons head into the short break on a high but will need to regroup quickly before returning to Allianz Field on April 2 to face the Seattle Sounders.
- A speedy attack takes an edge off of the turnover problem. When this squad is able to regain possession, even after cheap giveaways, a united press forward makes the most of it. (The final ball is still an issue, but the fact that there are more final balls to complain about is a newfound luxury.)
- Arriaga and Hlongwane are game changers. See above: “The fact that there are more final balls to complain about is a newfound luxury.”
- Amarilla looked significantly more dangerous following his goal last week. With his first goal at Allianz on the books against San Jose, Western Conference center backs are on notice.
- “Stay Strong, Chase.” Minnesota fans showed their support for left back Chase Gasper who voluntarily entered MLS’ Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health treatment program this past week. The Wonderwall held up a tifo display before kickoff. This included a banner with Gasper’s number, 77, inside a heart with the words Stay strong, Chase.
MLS Regular Season Game 4
MNUFC 1: Amarilla 32′
MNUFC (4231): Dayne St Clair; Bakaye Dibassy, Brent Kallman, Michael Boxall, Hassani Dotson; Kervin Arriaga, Wil Trapp (DJ Taylor 66′); Bongokuhle Hlongwane (Franco Fragapane 66′), Emanuel Reynoso (Jacori Hayes 92′), Robin Lod; Luis Amarilla (Abu Danladi 78′)
SJE (4231): JT Marcinkowski ; Marcos López (Paul Marie 56′), Francisco Calvo, Eric Remedi (Tommy Thompson 69′), Tanner Beason; Jackson Yueill, Jan Gregus; Jamiro Monteiro, Benjamin Kikanović, Cristian Espinoza (William Richmond 69;); Jeremy Ebobisse (Cade Cowell 68′)
MNUFC: Trapp 8′, Amarilla 70′
SJE: Lopez 10′, Calvo 43′, Cowell 83′
Featured Image: MNUFC
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @bcmcdowell