ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United FC entered Sunday’s game with the Philadelphia Union having scored just four goals in its previous seven games. Against Philadelphia, 11 Loons combined to take a season-high 29 shots as the home side placed the visitors under 90-plus minutes worth of pressure in what would stunningly prove a losing effort. Rising ― or perhaps stretching — themselves to the occasion, the Union tallied 11 blocks inside their 18-yard box alone.
Of the Loons’ six shots on target, their last two produced goals. The problem was that those two strikes came in the 28th and 77th minutes, and neither gave Minnesota (6-6-3, 21 points) a lead. When Auston Trusty poked in the game winner in the 86th minute, it pushed Philadelphia (8-4-4, 28 points) into first place in the Eastern Conference.
On Trusty’s goal, the defender got onto the end of a Ilsinho cross that was sent in the direction of Loons centerback Brent Kallman. After the game, Kallman raised his hand.
As Philly recirculated the ball following a corner, Kallman found himself without help at the back post and elected to stand his ground inside the 18-yard box.
“Their forward that was in front of me jumped like he could nod [the ball] on,” Kallman said. “So I was kind of stuck, in case he got something on it and I had to react. So when it barely went over his head, and I went to get my head on it, [Trusty] cut in front of me last-second, took it down and scored.
“It’s obviously one I’d like to have back. If I keep my feet moving and I can attack it, it’s not a problem.”
In spite of a late goal earning all three points for the visitors, MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath praised his charges.
“We’ve been talking about taking our opportunities when the come,” Heath said. “Somebody just said it’s the most shots in 10 years in MLS. A little bit of the percentage of that and we would have probably been clear. But I’m not going let down my squad. It was an outstanding performance on the back of the shift that the guys did on Wednesday in Atlanta.
“There’s been a lot of positives tonight. And it doesn’t seem like many for me at this minute, but I’m sure that when I watch the game back again this evening or tomorrow, no doubt there’ll be a lot of stuff that I can be really, really pleased about.”
Heath, asked specifically about Philadelphia blocking an incredible 15 shots on the day, called the Union’s performance “last ditch defending of the highest order.” Heath also, in a measured manner, complimented the Union’s game management.
Starting with Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybyłko in the first half needing only the briefest amount of time following direction by referee Allen Chapman to shake off discomfort incurred during the run of play, Philadelphia made opportunistic use of contact to try and clam what was often a high-energy game. As Union players returned to their feet after injury stoppages, Allianz Field’s Wonderwall greeted each with refrains of, “It’s a miracle.”
“I thought they were very, very good — shall we say professional — at knowing when to stay down,” offered Heath. “I thought it broke the flow of the game when we had the energy of the crowd going, and suddenly, every time the ball went into the box somebody was down. And it doesn’t really help you when the goalkeeper gets booked in the 94th, 95th minute.”
The end result surely disappointed the announced crowd of 19,738, but the action on the field was often thrilling. Both Loons goals were firsts of a kind.
Putting his laces through a half-volley outside the penalty area in the 28th minute, left back Hassani Dotson sent a skipping shot past an otherwise stellar Andre Blake and inside the near post. It was Dotson’s first MLS shot and also his first league goal.
Public address announcer Tony DeLorenzo shouted only “Hassani” after the goal, leaving “Dotson” for a packed stadium to answer in response as teammates surrounded the rookie.
“It was like, ‘Oh my God, you scored.’ ― that kind of moment. It was nice to get greeted by the guys and all that,” Dotson said. “It was a nice moment, but it doesn’t feel good since we lost, today.”
Forty-nine minutes later, a pair of substitutes produced Minnesota’s only shot on target of the second half.
Abu Danladi found Kevin Molino inside the penalty area and the attacking midfielder slipped a low shot past Blake from a narrow angle. For Molino, it was his first goal since returning from an ACL injury ―the second of his career.
Molino likened his recovery to the Loons’ recent struggles to find the back of the net.
“Tough, mentally. You know, what won’t kill you makes you stronger,” Molino said. “Like anything, every dream has its obstacle, and in football you have to overcome it, and when you overcome it, it becomes a story. Happy to be part of the team and back in the squad.
“It’s a difficult time, you know, and that’s when you see your true mentality — when the attackers go through a difficult time. Now we have to stay focused and keep grinding each training session and continue working. It’s going to change soon.”