SAN JOSE, CALIF. – After a strong start defensively, things quickly unraveled in Minnesota United FC’s season opener Saturday night.
United surrendered two goals roughly a minute apart in the first half and later fell behind by three en route to falling to the San Jose Earthquakes 3-2 at Avaya Stadium.
“We lost focus, and we can’t do that against a team like that that’s got finishers up top,” Loons goalkeeper Matt Lampson said. “Those two goals were self-inflicted, and we can’t let that happen if we want to win this season.”
Coach Adrian Heath agreed.
“We gave it away again, didn’t we?” Heath said in his postgame press conference. “For 25 minutes we were in control – we were comfortable. Then in two minutes, we let it fall apart. We do that too often.”
The Loons (0-1) mounted a late comeback as Kevin Molino scored in the 82nd and 85th minutes off feeds from fellow forward Christian Ramirez and midfielder Rasmus Schuller, respectively. However, the 3-0 hole that United found itself in early in the second half was too much to come back from.
“We showed a lot of character,” Molino said. “Our guys fought for each other. Obviously, this is not how we want to start, but that’s part and parcel of the game of soccer.”
Minnesota is now 0-2 in season openers since joining Major League Soccer. United has allowed eight goals combined in those contests, including last year’s 5-1 loss to the Portland Timbers.
United is also winless against San Jose (1-0), having lost all three of the teams’ meetings.
Forward Danny Hoesen netted two goals for the Quakes – both off assists from midfielder Vako Qazaishvili, who scored San Jose’s other goal.
Hoesen got things rolling for the Earthquakes in the 27th minute. After taking a feed from Qazaishvili in the box, Hoesen sent a shot screaming into the back right corner of the net, putting San Jose up 1-0.
Moments after the ensuing kickoff, the Quakes scored again. This time, Qazaishvili camped out near the left side of the goal and deposited forward Chris Wondolowski’s cross into the net, giving the Quakes a 2-0 lead.
“The whole game we played solid defensively, except for those two minutes,” Lampson said. “That’s the most frustrating thing, because obviously we showed we can do it.
“But it’s got to be 90 minutes – it can’t be 75 minutes, it can’t be 80. It has to be 90.”
Hoesen scored again in the 59th minute, banking in a shot off the left post after receiving a pass from Qazaishvili.
Loons midfielder Collen Warner had a chance to tie the score at 3-3 late in stoppage time, but he sent the ball wide right.
United, which surrendered an MLS-record 70 goals last season, appeared to be well on its way to whittling down that total early in the match. Lampson, who was acquired from Chicago during the offseason and posted shutouts in eight of his 12 victories for the Fire, got the starting nod over last season’s starting keeper, Bobby Shuttleworth and made several stops before the Loons suddenly found themselves down by two goals.
Lampson finished with five first-half saves and six overall.
The Loons didn’t get much going offensively in the first half. Their best scoring chances came just before the intermission: Midfielder Sam Nicholson blasted a shot right at Earthquakes goalie Andrew Tarbell, who punched the ball right back toward him. Nicholson then prepared to shoot the ball again but was promptly stymied when a San Jose defender used his body to block the ball.
- The Loons started the season with last year’s leading scorer, Ramirez, on the bench.
Starting in his place at forward was Abu Danladi, who had a strong preseason while Ramirez missed time in camp due to a brief call-up to the U.S. men’s national team. Danladi finished second in MLS’ Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 after tallying eight goals.
That total was second only to Ramirez’s team-high 14 last season.
Ramirez subbed in for Danladi in the 29th minute.
- United defender Tyrone Mears was slapped with a yellow card in the 25th minute. San Jose was awarded a free kick after Mears collided with an Earthquakes player, and Mears appeared to dribble the ball away as he returned to his position.