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Loons score twice in two minutes to turn away Colorado Rapids

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A Minnesota United team that badly needed to score more goals did so in Saturday night’s 3-1 victory over Colorado at Allianz Field.

Starting right-side attacker Robin Lod and second-half substitute Abu Danladi scored a goal each in a two-minute stretch late in the game and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair robbed Colorado star striker Diego Rubio on one of his shots as the Loons ended a two-game losing streak.

Until Saturday, the Loons had scored five goals in their first six games — and never more than one in any game — until those two goals in the 77th and 79th minutes stood as the difference makers.

This time they scored three and looked dangerous on their set pieces.

“I was pleased for the players,” coach Adrian Heath said afterward. “I don’t think we’ve had a lot of luck this year and you need a little bit of luck when you’re not playing as well as you’d like to.”

St. Clair made seven saves in his fifth consecutive start, none more important than a 60th-minute stop on Rubio’s strike from short range that St. Clair stretched and dove and got just enough.

“One finger, literally,” St. Clair said. “My middle finger.”

It redirected Rubio’s shot just enough that it hit the left post and bounded away past two pouncing Rapids players.

“I got a touch, but I didn’t think it was enough,” St. Clair said. “I saw it hitting the post. On a different day, it might hit the post and go in. So I was really ecstatic to see it hit the post and not wander to their two attackers who were right there.

“Yeah, it was probably the best save of the night.”

That save kept the score tied at 1 after the teams traded goals in the final three minutes of first-half regulation time.

It was defender Bakaye Dibassy’s 42nd-minute header — not a goal from one of the Loons’ attacking front four that Heath challenged to be better — that opened the scoring. It came after star playmaker Emanuel Reynoso’s one-on-one move created a crossing pass that Dibassy redirected past keeper William Yarbrough.

It was Reynoso’s first assist in seven games this season for a team that is now 3-2-2.

In the 45th minute, miscommunication between Dibassy and St. Clair allowed Rubio to score a one-touch goal from short range that originally was ruled no-goal for offside and later called a goal after video review.

In the 70th minute, Heath subbed Danladi and Bongokuhle Hlongwane into the game and moved Lod to move from the right side into the middle.

Lod scored seven minutes later by sweeping from short range with his off right foot a Hassani Dotson pass from the right side on which Reynoso also assisted. It was his first goal since opening day at Philadelphia a month ago.

“We know Robin can play through the middle,” Heath said. “He did that in the Western Conference final. He’s another goal threat, another option for us. That’s for sure. He’s deceptively strong.”

Heath said he had sent Danladi into the game telling him, “Go make a difference, go show everybody what you can do. There’s a football player there for sure. I’m glad he got a little reward for what he has put in since he got here.”

Danladi scored on a shot just between Yarbrough’s outstretched hands and the goal post for his first goal since he returned last winter to the franchise that drafted him first overall in 2017.

The Loons played once again without starting right back Romain Metanire, who made his season debut as a second-half substitute last week at Austin FC.

But those 22 minutes he played caused inflammation in the same part of his hamstring which he originally tore in a first-round playoff game last fall.

So Dotson returned from the midfield to start at Metanire’s outside defender spot while veteran Kemar Lawrence started at left back for a second consecutive game.



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Grindy win was just what Sounders needed

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Aside from one particularly attractive attacking sequence, there weren’t a whole lot of memorable or even particularly notable moments from the Seattle Sounders’ 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday. Well, aside from the fact that the Sounders won a midweek road game on short rest and got their first shutout of the MLS campaign, anyway.

But let’s focus on those big-picture takeaways first.

More than anything, this win was a bit of a stress test for the Sounders and it sure looks like they passed. It’s been well established by now that the Sounders spent most of the first two months of the season setting themselves up for what turned out to be a successful run at becoming the first MLS team to win Concacaf Champions League.

One of the main ways that manifested itself is in how Brian Schmetzer chose to rotate his lineups. This was the Sounders’ 11th match to be played on less than five days’ rest this season. In most of those, especially those that came on the road, Schmetzer has chosen to rotate at least part of his lineup. Against the Dynamo, however, he effectively ran back the same group that had beaten Minnesota United on the weekend.

“That group of players actually earned the right to play,” Schmetzer explained. “For that group to kick the rust off, they needed to go back out there again and show what they can do. That was the reason for keeping basically the same starting lineup.”

Perhaps the most notable player in that group was Jordan Morris, who the Sounders have been especially careful with due to his “sprinter” characteristics. But after looking at Morris’ physical metrics, Schmetzer opted to give him a shot.

Morris, like several of his teammates, definitely looked to be feeling the strain at points. There were a couple runs later in that match where it looked like he simply ran out of gas, and he was ultimately pulled in the 77th minute. But he also rewarded Schmetzer’s faith, playing the penultimate pass that led to Raúl Ruidíaz’s goal.

The whole goal sequence as a whole was easily the match’s highlight. It started with Xavier Arreaga jumping a passing lane in Houston’s end to create the turnover and featured 22 consecutive connected passes — nine of which were nominally attacking in nature and all but two of which were in the attacking half — with every outfield player getting at least one touch. The final part of the play saw Nicolas Lodeiro clip a ball to Morris, who then whipped a cross through the box to Alex Roldan on the opposite wing. Roldan then one-touched his pass back to Ruidíaz in front of goal, where he blasted it through a defender.

Although the Sounders never put together a sequence nearly that aesthetically pleasing in the match, it was a good reminder of just how good this team can be when they have something like their ideal XI on the pitch together.

More broadly, the performance was exactly what the Sounders needed to show they were capable of, grindy and sloppy as it seemed at times. Not only did the Sounders generate slightly better chances by Expected Goals (1.3-1.2), they also won all the effort metrics like tackles, duels, blocks and interceptions.

After a slow start to league play, the Sounders now find themselves just two points out of a playoff spot with at least two games in hand on virtually the entire league. The Sounders can potentially jump into a playoff spot if they beat the Colorado Rapids on Sunday.

“We sang Jingle Bells and we had a clean sheet,” Schmetzer said in the postgame press conference, striking a slightly different tune than he had in his on-field interview at halftime. “No one is going to care in September or October how or why we won the game.

“That is a happy locker room. I’m a happy coach. There are happy assistant coaches and I think the whole club should be pleased with the result. It’s a six-point swing against someone who was ahead of us, it puts us in great shape to end the week on a high. I’m not frustrated at all.”



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Team of the Week presented by Audi: Austin FC dominate lineup in Week 12

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Team of the Week (3-4-3, left to right): Brad Stuver (ATX) – Alexander Callens (NYC), Damion Lowe (MIA), Ruben Gabrielsen (ATX) – Xherdan Shaqiri (CHI), Jamiro Monteiro (SJ), Hany Mukhtar (NSH), Sebastian Driussi (ATX) – Lucas Cavallini (VAN), Raul Ruidiaz (SEA), Daniel Salloi (SKC)

Bench: Drake Callender (MIA), Yeimar Gomez Andrade (SEA), Alex Muyl (NSH), Alfredo Morales (NYC), Jackson Yueill (SJ), Emanuel Reynoso (MIN), Omir Fernandez (RBNY)





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Canada: 5 priorities the potential Nations League roster must address

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“He likes to play between the two center backs, he likes to lead the line, he can run behind the line and stretch the line, which I like,” Herdman said back in November. “I think that is a facet that can help complement other players and the way that we play. Often when we play with that No. 9 in Johnny [David] or Cyle [Larin], they want to be receiving in those pockets of space off the front. At times, we get left with a line that is not stretched. That space doesn’t really open up. I think Ike gives us that opportunity.”

Ugbo only played 53 minutes during the Octagonal across four substitute appearances. It’s clear, though, that he can be an impactful player, even off the bench, so giving him a start to build chemistry with either David or Larin would behoove everyone. If they find that connection on the pitch now, it’ll be a seamless change when Ugbo checks into a game at the World Cup.

More than anything, Ugbo deserves a shot given his strong finish to the season in his first proper run in a top-five European league. Herdman has constantly spoken about wanting his players in “Tier 1” leagues, now it’s time to reward those who transition to that environment without a hitch.





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