COLUMBUS, Ohio (Sept. 23, 2020) — Minnesota United headed into its game against the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield leading Columbus Crew SC with reinforcements in the form of forward Kei Kamara and backup goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas but still missing a wide swathe of regular starters. Without Jan Gregus (red card) and Osvaldo Alonso (injury), Head Coach Adrian Heath opted for Jacori Hayes and Hassani Dotson in midfield, plus Thomas Chacon getting the start on the left wing with Kevin Molino unavailable. While MNUFC made a game of it late with a clutch goal in the 88th minute and another in stoppage time that was ultimately called back for offside, the Loons could not overcome an early goal deficit, ultimately falling 2-1 as Columbus remained perfect at home.

Minnesota United began the game doing their best to press the issue against Columbus Crew SC on their home turf, putting balls into the box and getting it back when dispossessed. Before long, though, the Crew began to assert themselves, building up possession and before long, the home side was holding over 60% possession as the game approached the half-hour mark.

Columbus opened the scoring in the 31st minute as midfielder Pedro Santos sent in a curling cross from the left side, finding a diving Lucas Zelarayan who snaked his way inside of left back Chase Gasper and headed it home past goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.

It looked like that 1-0 lead would stand heading into the half, but then Gasper took down Luis Diaz just inside the penalty box. Zelarayan stepped to the spot in front of St. Clair, facing his second penalty in two games. The Argentine lined it up and stutter-stepped before driving the ball well over the bar and the Loons breathed a sigh of relief, heading into the locker room down just a single goal.

MNUFC began the second half with a bit more focus, doing their best to earn free kicks and nearly making something of them. In the 63rd minute, midfielder Emanuel Reynoso sent in a high arcing free kick from the left side that found the head of defender Jose Aja, but Aja couldn’t get it down and sent the ball over the crossbar.

On the other end, St. Clair did his best to keep Minnesota in the game with solid defensive work, including a sequence begun by a long shot from Zelarayan that pinged off the right post as St. Clair dove for it. The ball bounced straight out to Diaz, but St. Clair popped up and blocked the follow up to keep it 1-0.

But in the 70th minute, Columbus would push the advantage. Santos picked up the ball on the left side and worked it nimbly around several Minnesota defenders before lining up a shot on a tight angle and driving it hard directly at St. Clair. The ball caromed off the keeper’s hands and into the net to give the home side some breathing room.

Minnesota would make it interesting down the stretch, however. In the 88th minute, Gasper found room to run down the left wing and had enough time to pick out a well-weighted cross directly to the penalty spot. Midfielder Robin Lod lunged for it and hit a side-booted shot past goalkeeper Eloy Room to bring the visitors back within one.

In stoppage time, MNUFC very nearly stole a road point as Reynoso charged up the field on the break before getting taken down in a good spot for a free kick. The Argentine sent the long pass into the box and found the head of Aja, who tapped it ahead to defender Michael Boxall to nod into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the referee’s determination was that Aja had been offside on the initial pass, negating the goal as time expired and sending Minnesota home without a result.
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Midfielder Emanuel Reynoso

GOAL BREAKDOWN 

  • 31’ | Santos sends in a curling cross from the left side and Zelarayan gets inside of Gasper before drilling it past St. Clair. 1-0
  • 70’ | Santos pushes deep into the box and then just rips a shot on an ultra-acute angle and buries it. It goes off St. Clair’s hands and into the goal. 2-0
  • 88’ | Chase finds space on the left wing and crosses it to the penalty spot and Lod extends his left foot and hits a side-booted shot in to pull MNUFC back within one. 2-1
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