Saturday, January 28

Pair of late goals send LAFC past Minnesota United


Minnesota United came to Banc of California stadium in the slanted California sun Sunday evening seeking another result from one of MLS’ best teams.

The Loons left lamenting opportunity squandered in a 2-0 loss to Los Angeles FC.

LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead’s volley strike off a caroming corner-kick in the 82nd-minute was the only goal the home team needed to move itself back atop the Supporters’ Shield for the league’s best record, now at 7-1-1.

It got another one anyway when midfielder Jose Cifuentas’ goal in the 90th minute made it a two-goal final margin.

The Loons had their opportunities to score first, particularly Robin Lod’s right-footed shot from close range that sailed over an open net in the 48th minute.

Until Sunday, the Loons had been unbeaten in their past five games against LAFC, dating to Los Angeles’ first MLS season in 2018. Until Sunday, the Loons had allowed more than one goal only once in its first eight games.

Sunday’s loss came on a night when Loons coach Adrian Heath remade his starting 11 out of necessity and strategy.

Heath paired Honduras national teammates Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales in the starting midfield because of Wil Trapp’s one-game suspension and Hassani Dotson’s season-ending injury. Abu Danladi and Bongokuhle Hlongwane went into the starting front four because of their second-half impact in consecutive victories over Colorado and Chicago.

None of it produced a goal — or a result — against a LAFC team that presses its opponents high in their own end and on Sunday mounted increasing pressure as the game went on.

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“We made poor choices with the ball most of the evening,” Heath said afterward. “First half, we had four or five glorious opportunities if we had picked the right pass and we didn’t. In second half, we did the same. That has been our biggest problem.”

Both teams hadn’t allowed a goal in the final 30 minutes of a game all season so far.

LAFC hadn’t done so in the entire second half and still haven’t, not after the Loons were shut out for the second time in nine games.

The Loons’ late game defense this time surrendered two goals in the final 17 minutes. It all ended when Hollingshead swiped with a volley shot from inside the 6-yard box that had bounced off a head or two before it came right to his right leg.

That was all LAFC needed against a Loons team that had been 2-0-3 against it since 2018. The Loons also were 1-1-1 at Banc of California Stadium until Sunday.

It could have been different if any one of Minnesota United’s chances had found an open net, particularly Lod’s right-footed shot from the far post. Hlongwane’s crossing pass from the right side through two players and straight to Lod, who shot it far over the goal.

“It’s a good chance,” Heath said. “He doesn’t mean to miss it. When you come to a place like this you have to take them opportunities when they arise. You can’t squander opportunities. We’ve had a couple good results here in the past, but we’ve scored when them opportunities and them moments have come our way.

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“Tonight, we didn’t.”

The Loons flew to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, trained there on Saturday and played Sunday night. That’s a day earlier than they do in other time zones.

It also got the Loons out of Minnesota’s cold April winter this year and into the warm California sun. The high Sunday was 74 degrees and it was mid-60s by kickoff.

“Hopefully we can bring some of the L.A. weather back with us,” said Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who made six saves to one that LAFC needed from its keeper, Maxime Crepeau.

The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.

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