Prior to gametime, it was announced that both Robin Lod and Luis Amarillia would both be unavailable against FC Cincinnati due to illness. In a tragic twist of irony, it’s the home crowd filtering out of Allianz Field that would feel even sicker, as a stoppage time goal from FCC found its way into the net, and the visitors snuck out of Saint Paul with the franchise’s first win against MNUFC since entering MLS in 2019. 

Optimism was high for the Loons to revitalize themselves and bounce back from their previous late-game loss to LAFC. While the absence of Lod and Amarilla wasn’t ideal, this match felt very much like the kind of “get-right game” that would help wash the bad taste out of their mouths after last Sunday. It also didn’t hurt to be getting Wil Trapp back after a one-game suspension due to aggregated yellow cards. Unfortunately, the ending of this match proved to be a newer, possibly crueler version of heartbreak for a squad looking to get back on track. And, there was no shortage of opportunities for Minnesota United to leave the pitch with a better result. 

From the opening kickoff, the Loons embodied the phrase “comin’ in hot” to Saturday night against FC Cincinnati. This wasn’t a total surprise, as MNUFC had the advantage of being the speedier team on the pitch. As they say, speed kills, and the Loons hoped that plan of attack would neutralize any sort of pressure mounted by a Cincinnati squad that had been historically winless against MNUFC since becoming part of MLS in 2019.

Opportunity knocked, and it knocked often, as United had possession of the ball for close to 60% of the first half. There was the Emanuel Reynoso penalty kick from 26 yards out just five minutes into the match, swerving wide right of the goal. The 28th minute of play saw an exceptional through ball for Bongokuhle Hlongwane that had the potential to be the first score of the game, but Bongi was unable to get a foot on it to control the ball from going out of bounds. Or a pair of Reynoso crosses for Adrien Hunou that saw the attacker be just a step late on each opportunity. 

While FC Cincinnati’s 5-back defensive line refused to let those opportunities find their way into the net, its attack eventually got some first half footing too. But, Dayne St. Clair once again proved to be master of his domain, stepping in to swat away any and all shots that came his way in the first, and most, of the second half of action.

While the second half saw more opportunities to put the biscuit in the basket, FC Cincinnati stepped up their attack to produce more chances like the ones United had seen throughout the match. Coach Adrian Heath didn’t wait long into the second half to try to get the squad over the scoring hump, subbing Franco Fragapane for Adrien Hunou in the 57th minute. As for why the move to sub came early in the second half, Coach Heath was looking to maintain that speed the team started out with.

“I was trying to get a goal, and I thought maybe putting Abu’s pace through the middle might cause them a little bit more than Adrien’s movement and general play because the three center backs are big, very uncompromising, and I felt we might be able to stretch it with a little bit more pace. So we had changed it around halfway and put Abu through the middle to see if that would help us unlock the door.

In the 65th minute, that move nearly paid its due, with a nearly-corralled back-post corner kick that ricocheted off Abu Danladi’s foot and landed out for a goal kick. Both attacks made their way up and down the pitch, neither defense wanting to flinch as the minutes ticked away. In the 75th minute, St. Clair once again laid out for a brilliant save to keep things even still.

And, just for good measure, St. Clair followed the play with another incredible save in the 86th minute, with the clock running down to what many watching assumed would be a 0-0 finish.

But, in the thick of stoppage time, all those opportunities were washed from everyone’s memory, with Cincinnati striking an improbable late goal, breaking the hearts of the Loon faithful just before they made their way to the exits.

While losing in this fashion is never easy, having lightning strike twice, two weeks in a row, can leave a squad feeling sick about what might have been. In the case of our Loons, it hopefully won’t be a long illness, as they look to redeem themselves this coming Wednesday versus Colorado Rapids, as the round of 32 for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicks off at 7 p.m. at Allianz Field.

UP NEXT

Minnesota United FC vs. Colorado Rapids

Allianz Field | St. Paul, MN

05.11.22 | Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32

7:00 p.m. CT (ESPN+)