MN United remains unbeaten; beats San Jose 1-0

SAINT PAUL, Minn. (March 19, 2022) — After standing on his head and making eight saves in a spectacular performance to help the Loons take all three points last week against the New York Red Bulls, Dayne St. Clair made a second consecutive start in net for Minnesota United FC as the Loons hosted the San Jose Earthquakes at Allianz Field. The game marked the first time St. Clair has ever faced San Jose, but he’ll need to wait for another day to make his first save against the Earthquakes since the visitors were unable to register a single shot on goal to test the young Canadian. 

Luis Amarilla celebrates his game winning goal for MN United

Luis Amarilla’s 36th minute tap-in proved to be the difference on the night and just over an hour later the Loons had three more points in the standings and Wonderwall was sung at Allianz Field for the first time this season. 

Despite not registering a shot on goal, the Earthquakes generated several dangerous opportunities and the first chance of the night did belong to San Jose. Cristian Espinoza got behind the MNUFC backline in the 8th minute and took a perfectly weighted chip pass from Jamiro Monteiro on the right flank. Espinoza blasted a shot with his right foot, but it sailed wide of the upper right corner.

It didn’t take long for things to get spicy in the midfield between the two clubs. Minnesota captain Wil Trapp was shown a yellow card from referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere for a tough challenge in the 8th minute, and Marcos López went into the book for his foul on Hassani Dotson two minutes later. 

In the middle of one of those spicy interactions was Francisco Calvo, one of two former Minnesota skippers on the field for San Jose tonight, was also shown a yellow card for his challenge on Robin Lod in the waning minutes of the first half. It was an aggressive first 45 minutes that saw the Loons whistled for 10 fouls against seven for the Earthquakes.  

Minnesota’s first real threat on goal came in the 10th minute. Hassani Dotson won a freekick from Marcos Lopez deep on the right flank. Emanuel Reynoso unleashed a corking shot towards the far post on the free kick attempt, but the ball sailed just over the crossbar. 

The Quakes made a few attempts to notch their first goal from the run of play in 2022, but couldn’t place a shot on goal in the first 45. Minnesota native Jackson Yueill tried to open the scoring in the 19th minute with a hopeful blast from outside the box, but sent the ball well over the crossbar. 

San Jose also won the first corner of the evening, which then turned into one of Minnesota’s best chances in the early going. Bongokuhle Hlongwane defended the corner perfectly, getting a strong header on the ball, which sparked a dangerous counter attack for the Loons. Hlongwane ignited the fast break and got the ball to Amarilla with plenty of space outside the box, but couldn’t get a shot on frame to test Marcinkowski. 

Minnesota finally broke through with a nice team goal from the run of play in the 32nd minute. It all started with Dotson, who forced a turnover in San Jose’s attacking third and immediately fed Reynoso in the midfield. Reynoso found Lod alone on the right flank without a Quakes shirt within 10 yards of him. Lod took two touches with the ball before sending it into the center of the box where Amarilla was waiting to smoothly tap it past JT Marcinkowski with his left foot.  

The goal marked Amarilla’s second tally in as many career games against the Earthquakes and the second time the Paraguayan international has scored in consecutive matches in a Loons kit. 

Amarilla had a couple of chances to pick up a brace moments later. Reynoso fed him the ball in the center of the box in the 36th minute, but Amarilla’s right-footed shot went straight into the mitts of Marcinkowski. Less than two minutes went by before the ball found the dangerous feet of Amarilla outside of the box again, but he again missed high. 

San Jose threatened to equal the scoring in the 56th minute. Espinoza and Benji Kikanovic had a nice exchange up the right flank, which led to a wide open shot for Kikanovic in the center of the box, but his right-footed attempt went just left of goal. 

Hlongwane found himself at the forefront of Minnesota’s scoring opportunities in the first 20 minutes of the second half. The South African came within inches of opening his Major League Soccer account in the 64th minute, but Marcinkowski got a hand on it, steering the ball clear of the right corner.

Lod came close to scoring his first 2022 goal in front of the Wonderwall on the ensuing corner. The ball deflected to Lod at the top of the box, who put a dangerous looping shot on goal, but Marcinkowski was able to punch it over the crossbar.  

Hlongwane’s first start in black and blue came to an end a minute later when he was subbed out for Franco Fragapane. DJ Taylor also checked into the game in the 65th minute, replacing Wil Trapp. 

Kervin Arriaga, who made his Allianz Field debut tonight, went down in the 75th minute after a hard challenge, but walked off the field under his own power and quickly re-entered the match. 

Abu Danladi made his 2022 debut by checking into the game for Amarilla in the 78th minute. Danladi nearly picked up his first assist of the season after a clever exchange between himself and Lod off a throw-in in the 81st minute. Lod found Danladi unmarked in the right side, who one-timed back to the Fin, who nearly beat Marcinkowski with his left foot, but sent the shot just a hair too far to the right.   

Jacori Hayes also made his first appearance of the season, coming on for Reynoso in stoppage time. 

The stoppage time fireworks belonged to the Loons and Fragapane, who had a golden opportunity to open his 2022 scoring account. Fragapane had the ball and ocean of space after San Jose’s last ditch effort to find a shot, but he took one too many touches to try and get around Marcinkowski and the Quakes keeper shutdown the threat before he could get a shot on goal. 

Earthquakes Head Coach Matías Almeyda falls to 0-5-2 against the Loons since he took over in San Jose in 2019. 

Minnesota didn’t have a point to its name through four games last season, now has eight on the season. Good enough for second place in the west at the time of this writing and a strong average of two points per contest through a stretch that included two road contests against playoff teams from last season. 

Up next for the Loons is a home date with the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, April 2 after the upcoming international break. It will be interesting to see how Seattle approaches the fixture, with Leg One of the CONCACAF Champions League Semi Final with New York City FC looming on April 6.

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