Minnesota United Tops Atlanta with Last Minute Stunner

by on 4 October 2017

When the two expansion teams met at the beginning of the season, Atlanta thoroughly demolished Minnesota 6-1 for the Loons’ home opener. This time around, it was Minnesota who put Atlanta on ice as Kevin Molino scored a last gasp header to beat the 10-man Atlanta side.

Starting lineups

After the 2-1 loss to Houston over the weekend, Adrian Heath signaled that he needed a shakeup in the offseason. That shakeup came early as he sent Christian Ramirez, Miguel Ibarra, and Marc Burch to the bench. Jermaine Taylor made his first start at left back and Brent Kallman came in for Michael Boxall, who was away on international duty.

Atlanta, for its part, was missing some of its key players from injury and international call-ups. Kenwyne Jones made a rare start and Kyle Reynish stepped in goal with Brad Guzan and Alec Kann both unavailable.

First half

The game plan from Minnesota seemed pretty simple: frustrate Atlanta and try to hurt them on the attack. With that in mind, the Loons sat back and tried absorb pressure. When they pushed forward it was often with only four attackers.

Atlanta had the majority of the chances in the first half as they freely moved the ball around the Loons’ box. Though Bobby Shuttleworth was forced into action, the game stayed even throughout.

The biggest action came from the referee, when he chose to give Collin Martin a yellow card for a late challenge on Héctor Villalba. Atlanta’s head coach, Tata Martino, thought it should have been a straight red and on another day it may well have been.

Second half

If the first half was turgid, the second was frenetic. It kicked off with an early goal from Abu Danladi, who conjured a right bastard of a shot with his left foot at the top of the box.

Having struck first, Minnesota was able to sit back again and absorb Atlanta’s pressure, hoping to find another chance on the break. Ten minutes later, Danladi had his chance when he found himself one-on-one with Atlanta’s keeper, Reynish. Danladi flicked the ball to the side and Reynish upended the striker, denying a goal-scoring opportunity. After Video Assisted Review, Reynish was issued a red card.

As he was reviewing the call, referee Armando Villarreal was hit by a bottle of water from an Atlanta fan.

Down to 10 men, Atlanta seemed reinvigorated and quickly struck back. Francisco Calvo gave up possession outside the Minnesota box and then Martin headed a pass clear to the top of the box, where Villalba was perched. The Atlantan sent the ball past three Minnesota players before it hit the back of the net and evened up the match.

Atlanta smelled blood, and two minutes later a three-on-six counter attack led to Julian Gressel played clean onto goal. The rookie of the year contender dispatched the ball into the top of the net.

Minnesota struggled to regain footing in the match until Atlanta began to tire. In the last 10 minutes, the Loons pushed further and further forward, looking desperate at times. That desperation paid off when a corner dropped to substitute Sam Nicholson. The Scot put a shot on goal that Christian Ramirez redirected (ever so slightly) with his shin and into the net.

This time it was Minnesota with the opposition on the ropes and seven minutes of stoppage time. In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Kevin Molino headed in a cross to finish off the match in spectacular fashion for the Loons.

Scoring summary

48′ – MIN – Abu Danladi
67′ – ATL – Hector Villalba
72′ – ATL – Julian Gressel
90′ – MIN – Christian Ramirez
90+6′ – MIN – Kevin Molino

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