ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United used a controversial goal from Abu Danladi to salvage a late 2-2 draw against visiting C.F. Pachuca in the last of three midseason friendlies MNUFC will host in 2019. While the fiercely-contested game was friendly only in name, and was worth the price of admission on its own, much of the crowd’s attention was focused on the 19-year-old wearing the No. 11 jersey for the Loons.
Getting his first minutes at Allianz Field since joining Minnesota from Uruguayan side Danubio FC early August, young designated player Thomás Chacón made his first start for the Loons.
“He’ll be better for that,” MNUFC coach Adrian Heath said. “It’s been a while since he played a full 90. We saw some nice little touches, some nice combination play, getting in nice spots, and he’ll get better.”
Chacón was tested, working his way back into playing form against a Pachuca side that saw coach Martín Palermo pick about as strong a team as possible given international call-ups.
Heath said Chacón has been working on set pieces in training and was asked to take them against Pachuca. In the first 10 minutes alone, the attacking midfielder swung in a trio of dangerous corners and narrowly missed putting a free kick on frame from about 30 yards out.
Chacón also impressed with his skill on the ball, looking dangerous on the dribble and dealing well with the physicality of a large Los Tuzos’ back line.
The Loons took the first lead of the game on a free kick from left back Wilfried Moimbé-Tahrat. The Frenchman scored his 44th-minute goal by curling the ball around the outside of a three-man wall and inside keeper Alfonso Blanco’s near post from 25 yards out.
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) September 8, 2019
Heath praised Moimbé-Tahrat’s strike, but reserved criticism for the defender’s enthusiastic celebration.
“That might be the worst one I’ve ever seen,” Heath said. “For the quality of the goal, to come up with that afterwards? Nah. He’s going to have to do some work on that.”
Second-half goals from Luis Chávez and Franco Jara in the 62nd and 68th minutes, respectively, fell well within the run of play, and Pachuca came out of halftime on its front foot.
In the 71st minute, Chacón looked to respond.
Pushing the ball through a pair of Los Tuzos defenders and drawing contact, the Uruguayan drew a penalty. Looking to finish what he started, Chacón found he had competition to take the spot kick in teammate Ethan Finlay.
“I wasn’t able to understand him too much,” Chacón said later via an interpreter. “I told him if he would let me take it, I really wanted to take it. So he did.”
Finlay said he was impressed by Chacón’s confidence, noting not many 19 year olds would call their own number in that moment.
In taking the penalty, Chacón said he placed the ball where he wanted to — low and to Pachuca keeper Alfonso Blaco’s right. Unfortunately for the Loons, that is also where Blanco went, saving the penalty.
72' | Chacon's first goal for #MNUFC will have to wait…
— Kyle Eliason (@kreliason) September 8, 2019
While the miss denied Chacón an ideal home debt, it did not derail his evening.
“Most importantly for me, his reaction over the next 12 minutes was fantastic,” Finlay said of Chacón. “He stayed in the game, continued to try and fight and find another one for us. That’s the kind of mentality you want, whichever way it goes.”
Pressing as Pachuca circulated the ball through its back line, Chacón dispossessed centerback Stiven Barreiro to spring Abu Danladi for a one-on-one with Blanco. The Loons forward calmly slotted the ball into the net, leveling the game at 2-2 in the 78th minute.
There were questions for the referee from Los Tuzos about whether Chacón’s tackle had gotten the ball or Barreiro, but with no video review available, the call on the field stood.
Heath said Pachuca lived up to the reputation Liga MX teams have for turning up for every game they play, including friendlies, and that he was very pleased with what his team got out of the night. Noting the announced crowd of 19,498, Heath told his players before the game they owed the fans in Minnesota a performance.
“Seventeen, 18,000 — whatever the crowd was — they’ve paid to come watch a game of football, so let’s make sure we put something on for them,” Heath said. “And I thought we did.
“It looks like everybody’s come through unscathed, which is always important at this stage. We know we’ve got a huge couple of weeks coming up, four games in 14 days after when we get to Wednesday, that are probably gonna shape the rest of the season.”