Minnesota United can’t keep San Jose down in a 2-2 draw

Minnesota United had owned Matias Almeyda since he became the San Jose Earthquakes head coach in 2019. Going into Saturday’s game at Allianz Field, the Loons were 4-0 with an plus-11 goal differential in all MLS games between the clubs.

“If I knew the key (to beating MNUFC), I would be a magician,” Almeyda said through a Spanish translator this week. “We are facing a team that has always beaten us, a team that is very well formed.”

And since early May, San Jose was also winless against anyone else in the league (six losses and one draw) and had fired its general manger mid-week. Meanwhile, the Loons were unbeaten in their last six games (4-0-2) and had climbed to fifth in the MLS Western Conference.

These streaks stayed intact Saturday, but San Jose can feel better than Minnesota with a 2-2 draw in front of a capacity crowd of 19,678 in St. Paul.

The Loons trailed 1-0 after 15 minutes, then got goals from an unlikely source in Brent Kallman and second-half sub Ramon Abila to take a 2-1 lead though 70 minutes, but gave up an equalizer to San Jose sub Benji Kikanovic in the 82nd.

After the tying goal, where Kallman and Loons’ midfielder Wil Trapp gave Kikanovic too much space, Loons manager Adrian Heath retreated from up the touch line to a spot near his bench and crossed his arms.

“First half: awful,” Heath said postgame on The CW. “Well, first 25 minutes, I thought we were poor, as poor as we’ve been all season, second-best, played on the back foot, didn’t want to run, didn’t want to get out of our comfort zone. Second half, we did all the things we know we are good at and should have won by two or three. …

“We’re not at the stage in our development as a football club where we can play at 60, 70 percent and think we are going to win games.”

Heath was not as fired up in his postgame news conference, but was far from satisfied at the product on the pitch. Given the forms of both teams, it was a classic trap game for Minnesota; the Loons discussed the scenario, but their start still misfired.

“I don’t really want to say anything because we don’t want to give excuses out there,” Loons defender Chase Gasper said. “I did say beforehand. It is the summer. We got this stretch; it’s very tough, but it’s tough on everyone. They are playing away from home and they came out flying, so I just think it’s unacceptable on our end.”

The Loons took the lead with Ramon Abila capitalizing on his own poorly taken penalty kick to chip in a rebound goal in the 69h minute. Minnesota was awarded a penalty after VAR determined Gasper was taken down in the box by Judson in the 65th minute. The Earthquakes protested the review, and Cristian Espinoza was given a yellow card for arguing with the referee.

Individual defensive errors had littered Minnesota’s 0-4 start, but were mostly eliminated in the last six games. Another mistake in the 15th minute cost the Loons on Saturday.

Center back Bakaye Dibassy was pick-pocketed by Espinoza in the Loons’ defensive third. Espinoza was then one-on-one with goalkeeper Tyler Miller, who came off his line to cut down the angle. Espinoza laid it off for Cade Cowell for the easy finish as Michael Boxall futilely tried to save it off the line.

Heath said all the energy the Loons had to use to get back into the game cost them when they ran out of juice and conceded a late goal. Minnesota fell to 0-3-2 when allowing the first goal this season.

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