After Rodriguez’s first MLS goal granted MNUFC a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute, Minnesota was undone twice in a three-minute span and that shift in momentum proved to be too much to come back from in its first-ever visit to D.C. and Audi Field.
“I thought our game plan was good and I thought we set up well,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “The disappointment was the goals were soft, from our point of view. We concede too many of them. We are not nasty enough at times. We probably did not make the most of the opportunities we had on the counter attack as well. We had some really good opportunities tonight. Overall I am disappointed we did not take something from the game.”
With defenders Michael Boxall and Francisco both suspended for accumulation, the Minnesota back line featured a new look. Rookie Wyatt Omsberg made just his fifth appearance of the season, Marc Burch returned after a five-month injury absence and midfielder Fernando Bob made his MNUFC debut alongside Maximiano to provide defensive support in midfield. The already shorthanded back line was dealt another dose of adversity in the 14th minute when defender Jerome Thiesson was subbed off with an injury, but backed by four saves from goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, did well to keep DCU forward Wayne Rooney and company off the scoreboard in a back-and-forth first half.
“On the whole, I thought we defended very well,” Heath said. “In the first half, they had one or two bits of combination play around the penalty area, but that is what you expect at home against really good players.”
The combination play between Rooney and midfielder Luciano Acosta created arguably the most dangerous moments of the first 45 minutes. A give-and-go between the two in the 26th minute ended with Acosta putting the ball just over the bar and both Acosta and Rooney were turned away by Shuttleworth saves in the 38th and 40th minutes, respectively.
Though missing key pieces on defense, the MNUFC attack was boosted by the return of forward Darwin Quintero after a two-game injury absence and the Colombian Designated Player made his presence felt. He helped the Loons get forward early, including chances for Rodriguez and midfielder Miguel Ibarra within the first five minutes. Quintero had the best first half opportunity for the away side in the 32nd minute, creating space for himself and uncorking a shot that forced a tremendous diving save from D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
The Loons’ attack finally broke the deadlock early in the second half as Quinteo combined with Rodriguez in the 47th minute for the latter’s milestone moment. Quintero burst through midfield on the break and dished to Rodriguez off the left post. Rodriguez had his initial shot blocked, but he followed it up and coolly converted to give MNUFC the game’s first lead.
“Confidence breeds with strikers when they get a goal,” Heath said. “Everybody knows that goals come in bunches for strikers. Hopefully now this will set him off on a little run.”
The one-goal advantage lasted until the 66th minute when D.C. United midfielder Ulises Segura repaired a broken play, turned with the ball in the box and snuck a shot past Shuttleworth inside of the right post to draw the home team level.
Quintero nearly provided an immediate answer in the 67th minute, but was turned away by Hamid and DCU took the lead shortly thereafter in the 69th minute. On the play, D.C. sent a long ball down the left side, which found defender Joseph Mora. Mora’s ensuing cross into the box connected with forward Darren Mattocks for the game-winning goal as Minnesota was unable to generate a response.
“I am disappointed because I thought there was something there for us in the game tonight,” Heath said. “I honestly thought we would catch them on the break again at some stage. At times our final ball was not good enough. I was pleased with some of our play. I thought we set up well, but in general we have to do better.”
Minnesota United concludes its five-game road trip on Saturday, September 15 at Real Salt Lake. Kick off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.