Minnesota United was back amongst the points Saturday night as the Loons made an impressive comeback from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo.
Even after the tie, the Dynamo remained in the Western Conference’s Top 3 while Minnesota now ranks 10th of 11 teams.
United head coach Adrian Heath made one change from last week’s starting XI, inserting Rasmus Schuller on the left flank in place of Bashkim Kadrii. Once again, as has been the case all season, United shot itself in the foot before it could really get a firm grip on the match.
“We haven’t had an awful lot of luck since we started and I think tonight… I’m pleased for the group because we’re starting to believe what we’re trying to do now and if we do, this group has got a lot of growth in it,” Heath said after the game.
This was the first time all season Minnesota started the same backline two weeks in a row and Heath said midweek he feels like he’s seeing progress.
But United was back to its bad habits quickly at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston as it allowed a goal to the opposing side in the 14th minute. It’s now the sixth time in seven games that Minnesota has allowed a goal in the first 17 minutes.
It continues to be elementary mistakes for Minnesota at the back. On this occasion all it took was a throw in from a non-threatening position on the right flank. Houston took the throw quickly and both Collen Warner and Marc Burch inexplicably fell asleep and let an opposing attacker run in behind. Francisco Calvo exacerbated this by immediately running out of position, leaving Mauro Manotas completely unmarked and free to score from a few yards out.
The story has remained the same offensively as well: Minnesota is completely MLS-capable going forward and made numerous dangerous forays forward in the first half. In fact, the attacking unit looked as potent as ever, showing signs they’re continuing to advance.
Kevin Molino specifically provided Houston numerous headaches. His dribbling skill has been on display this season but in Houston it was his crossing that was in sparkling form. Christian Ramirez will have nightmares about missing out on at least three clear-cut chances created for him by the Trinidad and Tobago international. However, in Ramirez’s defense, one of them certainly should have ended in penalty kick for Minnesota.
“I’ll have to see at it again but it looked as though Christian had the run on him and got in front of him,” Heath said. “It’s a big decision because it could have been a penalty, maybe a goal and a red card. So these things are going against at the moment.”
It was as if United’s on-field pain was physically manifested late in the opening half, as both goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and midfielder Sam Cronin walked off the field visibly bleeding at the break. The former may have a serious head injury as he received an incidental knee to the face from Houston’s Alberth Elis and was substituted while the latter took a shot right off the nose but was able to return.
The 2-0 scoreline should have been worse as Houston had a goal incorrectly disallowed for being offside.
The second half started brightly for Minnesota as only a few minutes had gone by when Ramirez halved the deficit with a delightful header off a pinpoint Molino corner kick. Ramirez and the loons created a few more chances in quick succession — again, the offensive engine showing it is in solid working order.
The chances kept coming and Johan Venegas leveled the match shortly thereafter. The comeback was on. The provider was — who else? — Molino.
“I think it would have been a travesty if we hadn’t taken something out of the game,” Heath said. “We had the best chances. And I said to them at halftime, if we get the next goal then we can get something out of this game.”
Both sides seemed to have fully exerted themselves by the 70th minuted and the game petered out into the stalemate it was.
“It’s one of those where you’re happy to get a point, especially after being 2-0 down but I think we’re better than that, I really do,” Heath said.