A difficult season came to a tough end for Minnesota United. The Loons traveled to Columbus on Sunday to take on a desperate Crew SC side while the visitors had nothing to play for. Things went just the way the home team needed in a wild match that ended 3-2 in favor of the Black & Gold.
The players sat in the locker room due to lightning over an hour just nine minutes into the match. Less than two minutes after the teams began again, Crew SC got on the board thanks to forward Gyasi Zardes. A short corner to Milton Valenzuela allowed for a dangerous cross. Zardes lost marker Collin Martin and headed the ball past goalkeeper Matt Lampson for the 1-0 advantage.
Four minutes into the second half, Zardes found the net again for his brace. Federico Higuain’s free kick into the six-yard box skipped off the wet turf. The ball hit Lampson, who couldn’t hold on, and the Black & Gold forward was in the right place to rocket home his shot for the 2-0 lead.
“There’s been large passages of really good play, I feel,” head coach Adrian Heath said postgame. “I didn’t think, even when we went 2-0 down, we were ever out of the game. And I did say to the players at halftime that we can get something from this game.”
Heath’s words took hold for Minnesota in the second half. In the 68th minute, the Loons struck. After a foul near midfield by Columbus, Darwin Quintero’s free kick found an open Francisco Calvo in the penalty box. The defender hit a spinning shot that beat Steffen to half the deficit.
Nine minutes later, and it was Calvo again scoring for the Loons. The left back got free in the penalty box once again and fired his shot by Steffen to level the game at two a piece.
“For me, I’m happy for the two goals,” Calvo said. “But at the same time, it’s teamwork. I just want to dedicate it to God and to my son.”
A final win of 2018 wasn’t meant to be for MNUFC. Zardes became the hat trick hero for the home side when he redirected a low Niko Hansen cross into the net to take the lead back in the 83rd minute.
“I honestly thought if we got one, we could make something of the game,” Heath said. “But then we make a couple of poor choices in our own half, which we’ve done a lot this year and we paid the consequences for cheap turnovers.”
The loss sees Minnesota finish its second season in MLS right where the team finished its first. The Loons end the year on 36 points, the same amount they managed in their debut season. If there is any solace to take from Year 2, it’s that MNUFC did earn one more win than in 2017 and can look forward to opening the new the new Allianz Field next season.
“We’re at that stage now where everything we need to be an MLS club, we have actually got,” Heath said of the opportunity in 2019. “Now we have to put a team in that stadium that warrants the stadium and the investment that’s been made.”