SAINT PAUL, Minn. (Nov. 4, 2020) — It was yet another game where Minnesota United had to cope with a plethora of injuries and absences — nine in total — and it was up to Head Coach Adrian Heath to make adjustments and face down a Chicago Fire FC side badly in need of a win. While the visitors would claw their way to a 2-0 lead early in the second half, a late burst fueled by Emanuel Reynoso off the bench drew the Loons level. A late Chicago goal was called back for offside and the teams would end up splitting the points, with Minnesota extending their unbeaten streak to seven games
Desperately in need of three points to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Fire came out hot and ready to put Minnesota on the back foot. In the opening minutes, Chicago midfielder Djordje Mihailovic got open in the box, forcing defender Brent Kallman — starting alongside Jose Aja with Michael Boxall unavailable and Bakaye Dibassy shifted out to cover for Chase Gasper at left back — to clear the ball over the crossbar.
Minnesota were not without teeth early on when it came to the offense, pelting balls into the box from the wings but not connecting with attackers in the box. But in the 14th minute, former Loon Bobby Shuttleworth had to make a pair of bang-bang saves on a header by Jose Aja and then a strike by Kei Kamara after the ball could not be cleared.
In the 17th minute, Chicago took advantage of a disorganized Minnesota defense when former Loon Francisco Calvo sent a long diagonal ball ahead to Przemyslaw Frankowski on the right wing. Frankowski shed Dibassy before lining up a cross to Robert Beric that Beric directed expertly past goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair to make it 1-0 in favor of the visitors.
Moments later, the Fire missed a golden opportunity to double the lead after Mihailovic missed a wide open shot from six feet out, skying it over the crossbar after Dayne St. Clair had come off his line to trouble the attack. It nearly happened again in the 25th minute when only a last ditch slide by Kallman kept the ball out of the net. In the 37th minute, defender Boris Sekulic got deep down the right wing before sending a cross along the ground that rolled untouched through the entire six-yard box, a chance that only went begging because no Fire player got on the end of it. In total, Chicago’s midfield had their way in the first half as Minnesota’s defense struggled to contain threats and shut down lanes.
MNUFC generated the best opportunity of the night to that point in the 38th minute as Kamara turned his defender on an outlet near midfield and got on his bike, rocketing up the pitch before finding midfielder Ethan Finlay on the right side of the box. The ball was delivered directly to Finlay’s feet, but his finish lacked conviction and Shuttleworth bottled it up easily. The teams headed into the tunnel with Chicago up a goal.
The second half began much as the first, with Chicago pressing the issue. In the 52nd minute, defender Romain Metanire found himself with the ball deep in Minnesota’s half after forcing a turnover. His attempt to get the ball downfield was rebuffed and the ball rolled back towards the touchline. Midfielder Alvaro Medran tracked it down and crossed it back into the box where Kallman attempted to clear it but instead it fell to Pineda who did not miss from close range, doubling the lead.
Seeing that something would have to change if the Loons were to take something from the game, Heath went to the bench in the 60th minute, bringing in forward Aaron Schoenfeld for Kamara and midfielder Emanuel Reynoso for Finlay. Immediately, the attack sprung to life and in the 64th minute, MNUFC earned a free kick on the right side of the pitch. Reynoso launched a curling ball that found Aja’s outstretched right leg and he tapped it in with the outside of his foot to cut the lead in half.
In the 81st minute, Metanire found space down the right wing and delivered an inch-perfect cross to the head of midfielder Robin Lod, who had shifted over to his favored right side after Reynoso’s entrance. Lod flicked it onto the far post for his seventh goal in MLS play this season as the home side drew level at 2-2.
Both teams looked occasionally dangerous down the stretch, but it was Chicago who appeared initially to make the most of it. In the 92nd minute, the Fire lined up a corner kick and after the ball was sent in, confusion reigned for a moment as the ball pinged around in the box and appeared to go in. Chicago began to celebrate, but the referee went to video review. The review showed that the ball had initially come off Pineda before striking Beric on the endline in his thigh and going in. When Beric played the ball, he was past St. Clair and thus offside. The goal was called back and the teams would settle for the 2-2 draw as they looked ahead to Decision Day on Sunday.
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Midfielder Emanuel Reynoso GOAL BREAKDOWN
- 17’ | Calvo’s long outlet finds Frankowski on the right wing. Frankowski sheds Dibassy and then Aja gives Beric too much space and he finishes with a header. 1-0
- 52’ | Medran tracked down the ball after Metanire can’t clear it and then Medran crosses it, Kallman can’t clear the ball and Pineda finishes it. 2-0
- 64’ | Off the free kick, Reynoso launches a curling ball that finds Aja’s outstretched right leg and he taps it in with the outside of the right foot. 2-1
- 81’ | Metanire sends in a lovely, inch-perfect cross to Lod’s head and Lod flicks it onto the far post and in. 2-2