Minnesota began the evening looking much more aggressive and engaged than they appeared in both the FC Dallas and Houston games. When Real Salt Lake was in possession, the Loons stepped aggressively to them and spent a lot more time working the ball themselves, thanks in large part to the efforts of returning captain Osvaldo Alonso, who did his usually excellent job of corralling and cycling the ball out of the back and into the attacking half.
Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair — making his first MLS appearance and start — nearly had a heart attack of a howler early on when he blocked a shot in the 13th minute near the edge of the six-yard box. The ball popped up into the air, headed towards goal, but St. Clair narrowly snatched it back to keep the game scoreless. Minutes later, Alonso would be forced from the game with a leg issue, making way for midfielder Hassani Dotson in the 17th minute.
In the 26th minute, it looked briefly as if the visitors had seized the momentum. A free kick closer to the center circle than the penalty box for RSL offered up a long curving ball from Giuseppe Rossi that found Nedum Onuoha on the far post. Onuoha nodded the ball into the goal, but the celebration was cut short when video review overturned the goal. Onuoha had strayed just offside as the pass was delivered.
As the first half wore on and the teams settled into the game, the play got physical as the two sides jockeyed for position. MNUFC began to start putting together combinations in the final third over the final 10 minutes, with midfielder Robin Lod getting the ball on the left and bringing it out towards the left wing before sending it in for midfielder Kevin Molino, who got off the home side’s most promising shot of the night to that point, a wormburner that went just outside of the left post.
Meanwhile, the defense — led by Michael Boxall, who took on the captain’s duties following Alonso’s exit — held firm, frustrating RSL’s attack and keeping St. Clair from having to deal with too much on his first night between the sticks. The teams headed into the locker room deadlocked at 0-0.
Shortly after halftime, the floodgates opened for the Loons. In the 53rd minute, Jan Gregus karate kicked the ball forward to Emanuel Reynoso, who had just enough time to nick it ahead to Molino in the middle of the park before getting laid out by an RSL defender. Molino spotted defender Chase Gasper rushing up the left wing and got him the ball with enough space to beat defender Justen Glad to it. Gasper blasted it past goalkeeper Zac MacMath to open the scoring and notch his first MLS goal.
Less than 10 minutes later, it was Lod’s turn to get in on the action. Reynoso delivered a perfectly weighted ball to the Finnish winger on the left wing and Lod controlled it long enough to let Molino make an effective dummy run up the middle that left MacMath flatfooted, eventually dropping him with a smooth left-footed shot for his second on the season. It also gave the Argentine midfielder his first MLS assist.
With two goals in hand, Head Coach Adrian Heath opted to go to his bench and rotate some of the players out. In the 63rd minute, he brought on midfielder Jacori Hayes for Mason Toye, effectively shifting Reynoso to the forward role in the 4-2-3-1. Reynoso, though, would make way in the 72nd minute for Raheem Edwards, who would play more of a false 9 role.
As RSL became increasingly desperate to get back into the game, they left themselves exposed at the back. In the 75th minute, Molino found himself with the ball in the box after a turnover and he held it up long enough for Edwards to cross behind him. Molino deftly dished it to Edwards along the baseline, and he in turn found an unmarked Hayes in front of goal to give the sub the ball on the platter for a smooth finish and a 3-0 lead. The Loons put the cherry on top in the 90th minute with Molino once again providing the spark. The winger stayed onside on an outlet pass to the left side, then began to work the ball back to the middle along the top of the box. Eventually, it found Lod on the right side and the Fin unleashed a gently curling shot with his left foot that found the far post and gave him a brace, plus a satisfying 4-0 win for MNUFC.
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Emanuel Reynoso
- 53’ | Reynoso tracks the ball down off a pass from the wing and gets it over to Molino who spots Chase Gasper running free down the left wing. Chase beats Justen Glad to the spot and fires it past MacMath for his first MLS goal. 1-0
- 62’ | Robin Lod is out ahead of the pack and drops the easiest left-footed shot you’re ever likely to see past MacMath as Molino runs down the middle, splitting his attention. Assist to Reynoso. 2-0
- 75′ | Clinic. Molino is clear in the box with the ball on the left side after a turnover. Slides it over to Raheem Edwards who centers it to Jacori Hayes to give the sub an easy finish. 3-0
- 90’ | RSL has thrown everyone forward trying to get a consolation and instead they open themselves up at the back, where Kevin Molino stays onside on an outlet pass down the left side. The team works the ball through the middle of the field along the top of the box until they find Robin Lod on the right side, where he drills a shot inside the far post. 4-0