Apr 28, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota United midfielder Sam Nicholson (12) and Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis (17) play the ball in the first half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS — A Houston Dynamo handball by Alejandro Fuenmayor led to a 40th-minute Darwin Quintero penalty kick goal, getting Minnesota United out of jail in the first half. A backheel from Ibson gave the Loons the go-ahead score in the 70th minute for a 2-1 result at TCF Bank Stadium.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Minnesota (3-5-0, 9 points), which jumped one place above Houston (2-3-2, 8 points) to seventh in the Western Conference standings.
Quintero’s penalty, curled between outstretched goalkeeper Joe Willis and the left post, proved talismanic for Minnesota. All nine of the Loons’ points came from games that were even at halftime, and in all five losses they trailed after 45 minutes.
Houston’s Alberth Elis scored the opening goal 10 minutes into the match as Romell Quioto notched his third assist in two games.
Minnesota’s victory kicks off a stretch hosting five of the club’s next six matches. Loons winger Miguel Ibarra — who notched the game-winning assist — spoke to the confidence provided by returning to Minneapolis.
“At home, we’re hard to beat,” Ibarra said. “We knew that if we put a performance in, we were going to be able to get three points out of it.”
Listen: Miguel Ibarra interview
The win didn’t come easy, and the Dynamo’s dangerman, Quioto, provided the hosts with a number of scares.
In the 43rd minute, Quioto found space to shoot from the wide edge of the 18-yard box and rattled the frame of Minnesota’s goal. In the 59th minute, he flashed a low, driven shot past Bobby Shuttleworth and wide of the far post. Later, in the 66th, Quioto picked out the head of forward Mauro Mantoas, forcing a diving reaction save from Shuttleworth.
“Goals change games and, you know, you need keepers to make big saves at appropriate times,” Minnesota coach Adrian Heath said.
Listen: Adrian Heath interview
Opposing coach Wilmer Cabrera noted the impact Quioto had.
“I think Romell had a great game,” Cabrera said. “He went after the defenders, crossed the ball and was able to get an assist early in the game. He was very dangerous, but we didn’t finish those clear opportunities that we created.”
Marking Quioto was rookie right back Carter Manley. Heath described his evening as “another trial by fire.”
Minnesota did not come by three points easily. Starting forward Christian Ramirez left the field under his own power after injury but had to be replaced by rookie Mason Toye in the 30th minute.
“It’s another big blow on the back of [losing] Ethan [Finlay] and [Kevin] Molino and [Sam] Cronin,” Heath said. “We think it’s a hamstring strain. We’ll know more tomorrow when it settles down a little bit.”
Toye, taken seventh overall in the 2018 SuperDraft, may find himself in line for his first professional start if ailing hamstrings keep Ramirez and Abu Danladi out of Minnesota’s starting XI against Vancouver next Saturday.
Heath appraised the 19-year-old’s evening after the game, saying he had “some good little pieces, some good little moments.”
“He’s still a project,” Heath said. “He’s still got an awful lot of work to do. But you know, the way the game turns around, he’s maybe going to get an opportunity now — sometimes quicker than you think. And it’s up to him to keep working hard, listening and hopefully taking what he’s doing Monday through Friday onto the field with him.”
Said Toye: “I kind of found my feet. In the begging I was a little shaky — lost some balls. But as the game progressed, I thought I did well.
“I was trying to break into the team. It’s unfortunate Abu and Christian are out with injuries, but now that I have an opportunity I’m going to try to take it.”
Listen: Mason Toye interview
On missed opportunities, Cabrera rued the Dynamo’s defeat.
“We knew that they were going to be receiving the ball and try to cross it,” Cabrera said. “We gave up two goals because of two crosses. That’s concentration and we’ll have to work on that. That’s something we need to fix because that’s unacceptable. We have experienced guys, we don’t have boys, we have experienced guys.
“And from the other side, we created too many options, too many possibilities — and we have to finish the game. It’s disappointing because we were the better team on the field. That’s for sure, no doubt. We were creating options, but in soccer, this is poor football. You need to score goals.”
Midfielder Darwin Cerén echoed his coach’s thoughts.
“I think we are sad about the result tonight, because we were looking for our first away win,” Cerén said. “Every minute we were trying to put pressure on Minnesota. We had two or three chances, then they scored that’s what made the difference.”
Some credit in keeping Houston off the scoresheet in the second half is due to Heath. With the Dynamo’s midfield triangle asserting itself, the Englishman moved from his preferred 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3, pushing Quintero out wide and flanking Rasmus Schüller with substitutes Collin Martin and later Alexi Gomez in the center of the field.
The change in shape led both to Ibson’s game-winner and helped Minnesota keep more possession as it nursed a one-goal lead.
After the final whistle, the announced crowd of 21,574 offered two a cappella choruses of “Wonderwall” by Oasis — a club anthem brought over from its North American Soccer League days — in support of the victory, and an end to the Loons’ losing streak.