Minnesota United did what it needed to do Saturday, taking all three points away from a struggling foe at home.
A first-half goal from Robin Lod, a second-half finish from Brent Kallman and the Loons produced a 2-0 win over Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at Allianz Field.
Minnesota (7-5-5) extended its undefeated run to five games and moved up into fifth place in the West, while Houston (3-6-9) remained winless in its last 11 matches.
“Kind of felt like a little bit of a trap game,” Kallman said. “I thought that got our focus up, and we were able to get a W.”
Kallman acknowledged the sting of the 2-2 draw with Vancouver, which ended on controversial penalty call that led to the Whitecaps’ last-kick equalizer, had lingered from last Saturday until midweek, longer than any other game he recalled besides the Western Conference final loss a year ago.
On Saturday, the Loons had been riding another slim one-goal margin until Kallman got on the end of Emanuel Reynoso’s corner kick in the 71st minute; it gave Minnesota the breathing room they lacked after Lod’s goal in the 14th minute.
“Sometimes you grind it out, more than you play it out,” United manager Adrian Heath said. “I thought we ground it out really well. I thought the first 25 minutes, we were excellent and then we dropped it a little notch and started to play to the pace of the game, rather than at our pace. That allowed them back in the game a little bit.”
Lod and Reynoso each extended point streaks to five games. Reynoso made the MLS All-Star Game this week, while Lod added to an argument that he might have deserved more consideration.
But it was Wil Trapp, who had taken only two shots across his firs 15 games, who let ‘er rip from outside the box in the 14th minute. It proved to be a wise move.
“Wil doesn’t normally do it,” Heath said. “But it just goes to show with these balls, they do so much, if you put things on target and make people make saves, the ball moves so much these days that it’s sometimes difficult for goalkeepers.”
While the hard shot went to Marko Maric’s midsection, the Houston goalkeeper couldn’t control it and Lod jumped on the rebound to put the Loons up 1-0. It was the Finn’s team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Houston’s best chance of the first half was Matias Vera’s long-range shot that went off the crossbar and took a defection off goalkeeper Tyler Miller’s head but bounced wide. “It would have been worse if it would have hit off my face and went in,” said Miller, who made two saves.
Given it ended in Miller’s sixth clean sheet this season, Heath could tease a bit about the funky play.
“Obviously we’ve working on that one off the crossbar to head it out,” Heath said. “That’s something; that’s a joke, by the way. I will get a letter this week, saying you’ve really been working on it? No, obviously we had a bit of fortune there because it could have gone anywhere.”
Minutes before Kallman’s goal, Miller intended to do what he did, get his right foot on Vera’s shot from eight yards out to keep it 1-0.
“In that moment, it could have been 1-1 and then who knows where the game goes from there,” Miller said. “I was happy I was able to contribute and come up with an important save for the team. … That save is just all the more important when it comes down to the momentum and the shift of the game.”
That turning point led to the Loons second two-goal win across 17 games this season.