Francisco Calvo raised his arms to the sky and then crouched on the ground after Minnesota United’s desperate 1-0 victory — while playing 40 minutes a man down — against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
He stayed there, huddled over with a hand to his forehand, until backup goalkeeper Matt Lampson came over and put an arm around the team captain. In that quiet moment between teammates, Lampson reminded Calvo of a play in the game when Calvo, instead of complaining about an uncalled foul, sprinted back into position for a counterattack to help his team block a cross out for a corner.
“That’s why he’s our captain, because he does play like that,” Lampson said. “I mean, this is the epitome of a team win, and I think there was probably four or five guys on the team that played the best game of the year in this game, and he was definitely one of them. And I think he played his heart out.”
United overcame a 50th-minute red card to rookie forward Mason Toye, thanks to Miguel Ibarra’s goal 10 minutes later. And a valiant defensive effort, including seven saves — even some fingertip, top-corner ones — from goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth secured the Loons’ first shutout of the season and a second back-to-back three points in front of an announced crowd of 19,642 at TCF Bank Stadium.
This was a big game for Calvo, whose sometimes-shaky play this season includes individual errors that have cost his team goals. But with the coach of his World Cup-bound Costa Rica team in the crowd watching, he led his team valiantly in a tough situation.
Calvo said on the field after the game, he was simply thinking about his son, Gael, who is about 8 months old.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve,” coach Adrian Heath said. “And he’s been a little bit disappointed with himself. He’s made a couple mistakes that have cost us at times. But I thought him defending the goal today was exceptional.”
And Calvo showed more of that captainly attitude postgame, when he came over to Toye before the rookie confronted the media about his red card and whispered a pep talk in his ear before patting his cheek.
With forwards Abu Danladi and Christian Ramirez already out with injuries, Toye earned the first start of his career Saturday. And while Heath was really pleased with the first-half attacking play, Toye’s first red card in his life — for elbowing Vancouver defender Kendall Waston in the gut during an off the ball on a corner kick — nearly undid that.
“I was getting grabbed and pulled, and I got a little frustrated, and I was trying to kind of send a message, and it was a rookie mistake,” Toye said, adding he’s grateful to his teammates for not letting his actions cost them the game. “That’s something that I have to learn from.”
Luckily for Toye, Ibarra collected Alexi Gomez’s cross 10 minutes later and bounced a shot off Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic. He then caught up with his own rebound and slammed it home for the decisive score for the Loons (4-5). Vancouver fell to 4-5-1.
“We were just committed to make sure we don’t give them anything,” Ibarra said of playing a man down. “it was a really emotional game. We wanted to win really bad.”