It’s hard for MNUFC fans not to feel a little bit giddy after the Loons stole three points from New York on Sunday.
Minnesota was without starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller, starting center back Bakaye Dibassy, starting left back Chase Gasper, starting right back Romain Métanire, and first-choice-backup fullback Oniel Fisher. They were playing in frozen New Jersey, against a Red Bull New York team that won both of its opening two games.
There’s more. Minnesota was overrun for about the first 15 minutes of the game. RBNY earned a penalty. Emanuel Reynoso played his worst game in MLS, repeatedly passing to nowhere and turning MNUFC’s only two good offensive chances into zero goals.
How did the Loons win this one 1-0?
The short answer is that goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair made at least five world-class stops, including saving the penalty (which actually might have been his least spectactular save). On the other end, Hassani Dotson recycled a set piece back into the ol’ penalty area, and Luis Amarilla volleyed it home. And there’s your 1-0 right there.
A few thoughts:
1) The Loons officially have a goalkeeper controversy on their hands. Miller missed the game with the flu, which opened the door for St. Clair’s best performance since late 2020, and one of the all-time outstanding goalkeeper performances the Loons have seen. It’s hard to imagine St. Clair not getting another chance, after that performance - but at the same time, it’s a little hard to imagine anyone losing a starting spot just because they have the flu. This is not a problem, exactly - every team wants as many good players as possible - but it does feel like something’s got to give.
2) The Loons probably also have a midfield selection headache. Minnesota wanted to give Hassani Dotson an extended run of games in midfield, to see if he could make that spot his own. With three fullbacks missing, Dotson had to revert back to his super-utility role from last season, filling in at right back - where he gave away a penalty with a handball in the first half, and was very near to giving away another in the second half for the same reason. And so ideally he’d just go back to the midfield… except that Kervin Arriaga was immense, maybe the best outfield player for the Loons. Wil Trapp wasn’t great in this one, but he’s the team’s captain. So if you don’t need to pick Dotson at fullback, then who do you pick in the midfield?
3) We’re now entering “worried about Rey” territory. Through three games, Emanuel Reynoso doesn’t have a goal, and doesn’t have an assist, and absolutely has to lead MLS in giving the ball away. Give New York credit for smothering him - you can credit them for smothering the entire Loons attack, as Reynoso wasn’t the only one who couldn’t complete a pass to save himself - but his performance was probably his worst so far since his arrival in 2020. Compounding it was that he had the Loons’ two best chances of the night, and once he didn’t even get a shot away, and once he shot tamely at the keeper when he had all the time in the world and no reason not to find the back of the net.
4) The Loons have four points from two of their most difficult games of the season. Minnesota has eight games against the Eastern Conference this year, and they were oddly divided. They had four games against the best in the east (at Philly, at RBNY, at New England, home against NYCFC) and four against some smoldering tire fires (at Miami, Cincinnati, Chicago, D.C.). They’ve played two of the three most difficult and come away with a tie in Philadelphia and a win in New Jersey. That is probably three more points than I would have expected out of those games. That’s an awfully good start.