ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United FC returned to its winning ways Wednesday night with a gritty 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids. A 39th-minute goal from Darwin Quintero proved to be the difference on the evening.
A calf injury to goalkeeper Tim Howard reunited Quintero with Rapids keeper Clint Irwin. When Irwin visited Minnesota on July 4, 2018 as a member of Toronto FC, the Loons’ danger-man chipped him thrice en route to a spectacular hat trick. In their rematch Wednesday, things started well for Irwin.
In the 36th minute, the Rapids’ Danny Wilson extended his arm when jockeying for position with Chase Gasper as both raced to get on the end of a Romain Métanire cross. The contact was deemed significant enough to warrant a foul and it occurred inside Colorado’s 18-yard-box, prompting referee Drew Fischer to whistle for a penalty.
Quintero stepped forward, looking to open scoring on the night.
“I told already, if he tried to Panenka and chip the keeper to do it in the middle,” Minnesota goalkeeper Vito Mannone said of Quintero. “We tend to choose a side. It’s difficult that a keeper is standing still in the middle. Very difficult, but it happens.”
And it happened. Irwin didn’t over-commit to either side, and comfortably collected Quintero’s penalty attempt. In that moment, Irwin had taken a small bit of revenge for the pair’s previous’ meeting in Minnesota.
But three minutes later, Quintero once again got the better of Irwin.
Kevin Molino played a ball into space in front of Quintero, which Irwin initially came off his line to intercept. Correctly judging that Quintero was going to win the footrace, Irwin stopped and retreated, but was ultimately caught with his weight on his heels. Though Irwin got a piece of the ball with his leg, it wasn’t enough to stop Quintero from rolling the ball into the goal.
Aug 14, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United forward Darwin Quintero (25) shoots past Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin (31) to score in the first half at Allianz Field. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Molino was credited with an assist for the second time in as many home games from a ball played in behind the opposition’s back line on what would prove to be the game-winner. Molino also put Mason Toye in on goal for the latter’s 64th-minute goal against Portland in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal Aug. 7.
The Loons finished the night with nine shots on target, but that figure was deceiving since not all of those attempts seriously threatened Colorado’s goal. Holding the Rapids to just three shots on target earned Minnesota three points.
The victory was Minnesota United’s 12th of the season — a high watermark for the team since joining MLS in 2017. It was also the Loons’ sixth 1-0 home victory.
“I knew this game was going to be tough for a lot of reasons,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said. “And I said to the players, ‘Was I pleased with our performance? Not 100-percent.’ But I would have taken a scrappy one-nil win before the game.”
Heath praised his team’s defense in his postgame interview. On attack, a lack of movement in the final third combined with too much comfort possessing the ball in the middle of the field and a few good chances that went wanting held the Loons’ back on the evening, according to Heath.
“You cannot leave teams hanging around,” Heath said. “And with the quality of chances that we created this evening, the game should have been home-and-dry.”
Both Heath and Mannone praised the announced crowd of 19,629 at Allianz Field.
“The crowd were magnificent again. They’ve been unbelievable since we’ve opened this place,” Heath said.
“I love to play in this stadium,” Mannone said. “Either side is fantastic, I feel like it’s an extra man. It’s an extra man in front of goal that doesn’t want us to concede. It’s fantastic, they want that clean sheet and they shout as much when we score. That’s a brilliant connection that we have and we need to carry on like this. It’s been a key factor at home that they are with us all the way, from top to bottom.”
The victory pushed Minnesota United back into second place in the Western Conference at the final whistle, with results from West Coast games pending. With nine games left in its regular season — only four of which will come at home — Saturday’s meeting with Orlando City in St. Paul is another important opportunity for the Loons to pick up three points.
For Heath, the game will also be personal.
“I put 6 1/2 years working every single day to make that club what it was. From nothing, arriving when people said, ‘Football will never work in Orlando,’ to having 62,000 there a few years later. I take a lot of pride and satisfaction in that,” Heath said. “After that, this is my life now, here, trying to do exactly the same here. I think everybody who knows me in Orlando knows that I would like nothing more than to win this game at the weekend.”