Minnesota United waved their scarves as Loons tried unsuccessfully for the game winning goal in the second half. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com Minnesota United played New York City in the home opener for the newly built Allianz Field Saturday, April 13, 2019 in St. Paul, Minn.

After their games against first FC Dallas and then Chicago Fire FC were postponed for positive and inconclusive COVID-19 tests, respectively, the Loons found themselves at Allianz Field after nearly two weeks without a game, but also idle for much of that time. Short on game fitness, they faced a Houston Dynamo squad short on rest but desperate to climb the standings. While MNUFC pulled ahead early on the strength of a brace from Ethan Finlay, the squad couldn’t hold off an aggressive Dynamo side that found its own pair of goals in the second half to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Before the 10th minute, Minnesota United had to cope with an injury. Midfielder Hassani Dotson was taken down by Adam Lundkvist neat midfield, earning a yellow card. Dotson walked it off and was game to continue, but clearly looked hobbled.

Minutes later, the home side opened the scoring after forward Kei Kamara flicked the ball on beautifully to midfielder Robin Lod, jetting ahead of the pack down the left wing. He spied midfielder Ethan Finlay on the right side and sent it across, allowing Finlay to square up and deliver an on-point strike into the upper left corner to give the Loons a 1-0 lead.

In the 15th minute, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso — returning from injury and active for the first time since September — checked in for the struggling Dotson. For their part, the Dynamo wasted no time getting back on the attack, doing their best to get everything going downhill towards the Minnesota goal.

Thirty minutes into the game, Finlay found the back of the net once again to complete his brace. Midfielder Jacori Hayes made a deft turn away from a defender, opening up the field and slotting it ahead to Finlay cutting diagonally through the backline. Finlay struck it left-footed and over goalkeeper Marko Maric to make it 2-0.

Again, the visitors were not about to lie down and let Minnesota dominate them, though, lining up opportunities and winning the possession battle overall in the first half. In the 34th minute, they nearly snatched one back as forward Mauro Manotas struck the woodwork after ripping a shot over goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair’s fingertips. As the teams headed into the locker rooms, Minnesota was in the driver’s seat on the scoreboard, even if their hold on the game was tenuous.

To start the second half, Houston brought on Niko Hansen for winger Ariel Lassiter — a fortuitous substitution, as it would turn out. In the 59th minute, the visitors gave Minnesota a taste of their own medicine on the counterattack after a breakdown at midfield. Hayes turned the ball over and the Dynamo got on their horses. The ball found its way to Memo Rodriguez on the right side and he drilled a shot past St. Clair to cut the deficit in half.

The goal gave Houston a shot of energy and also seemed to take whatever wind Minnesota had out of their sails. From there, the Loons got stuck in their own end with Houston passing crisply and then pressing aggressively whenever they lost possession. In hopes of stanching the bleeding, Head Coach Adrian Heath put in midfielder Marlon Hairston for Finlay, giving the team a more defensive 4-3-3 formation, and also brought in forward Aaron Schoenfeld for Kamara.

But the Dynamo would not be denied and in the 83rd minute, Niko Hansen karate kicked home an equalizer at close range after Houston once again found room to run on the break. With Houston running low on gas after a compressed schedule and Minnesota looking worn out after missing a lot of regular training over the last week and a half due to coronavirus issues, neither team seemed to have it in them to go find the winner and Minnesota would have to content themselves with a point at home and hopes for a regular week of training to prep for a trip to Cincinnati next weekend.


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