In the most recent installment of this series, the simulation machine somewhat correctly predicted a Loons loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps with both the digital and flesh players showing little heart. But that was six points ago and things are suddenly great for United heading into a matchup with Houston.
This week’s starting lineup is pretty similar to last time out, though the team sold Justin Davis to the Chicago Fire while I was on vacation and if there was a button for it, I’d be tendering my resignation and pouring Strongbow all over Nick Rogers’ car on my way out. But I need a job.
Prior to kickoff, players of each nation represented were invited to kneel at midfield while their countries’ anthems were played. It took 38 minutes, but it made more sense than making Costa Ricans and Norwegians stand at attention for the American national anthem. The long start seemed to cool the Loons off because the third minute saw Houston strike first. Mauro Manotas got the ball near the top of the box and fired through three defenders to hit the back of the net.
Four minutes later, United equalized with a nice tic-tac-toe sequence. Kevin Molino brought the ball to the middle of the field and crossed to Kevin Venegas who was streaking down the right side. Venegas volleyed across the goalmouth to Christian Ramirez all alone with half a net to shoot on. Ramirez made no mistake as he tapped it home.
As is tradition with Minnesota United, the defense couldn’t keep things level for long. In the 20th minute, Manotas was at it again, this time with an assist. Closing in on the goal, he tapped it across to the penalty spot where Zach Pfeffer was waiting. He took a weak shot that just barely rolled over the goal line to the right of Patrick McLain. The Loons buckled down for the rest of the half and prevented any further damage from being inflicted.
Unfortunately for the fans, Houston sat way back from the beginning of the second half trying to preserve the lead. The Dynamo went long stretches without looking to shoot, and were happy to possess the ball and pass around midfield for a while. In the meantime, United were completely unable to solve Houston’s back line, and every foray into the attacking third wound up with the ball on the boot of a Dynamo player.
This lasted until the 87th minute, when the Loons finally found a seam in the defense. Molino again made the key pass, this time with a perfect through ball to Ramirez who had slipped between the centerbacks. Superman made a little fake to get the goalkeeper to go down and lofted the ball to the near post for the equalizer.
The last few minutes trickled away without much consequence and the Loons and Dynamo settled for their third draw of the year. Considering it’s already happened twice, it seems like a safe bet that they’ll do it again, though let’s hope for something more entertaining than the 0-0 snoozapalooza that ensued the last time they got together.