As far as an immediate impact from Minnesota United’s “Summer of Soccer,” the results were a little lackluster — in performance and attendance.
The Loons beat FC Edmonton 3-2 on Saturday at Blaine’s National Sports Center to get back into the rhythm of the fall NASL season after participating in three major soccer events. But the team escaped with three points after various mental lapses in front of a slightly below-average crowd of 5,112.
United fell behind just three minutes in and nearly bungled its two-goal lead late when goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt was sent off. The Eddies nearly tied the score in the last minute of added time but rocked the crossbar instead.
“This is an imperfect game, and you have imperfect moments,” Loons coach Manny Lagos said. “Tonight, to walk off the field with three points having played some good soccer but also having, I think, at times shockingly poor concentration is disappointing.”
United played Mexico U-21 on July 4 and English Premier League team Swansea City on July 19, following with European giants Manchester City and Olympiakos on Aug. 2 at TCF Bank Stadium. But Lagos said he didn’t feel those events distracted his players.
The Eddies scored early when defender Lance Laing capitalized on a bad United pass. But Loons forward Christian Ramirez tied the score on a penalty kick in the 15th minute after an Edmonton hand ball.
Edmonton coach Colin Miller said the referees made a bad call, which blew his team’s momentum. The Eddies had played three games in seven days after playing at home Sunday and on the road Wednesday. United, in contrast, had a full week off since their last game.
“I’m not going to make any excuses because we were poor for long spells tonight,” Miller said. “But definitely that was a factor.”
Midfielder Daniel Mendes put the Loons ahead three minutes into the second half, finishing a cross from defender Justin Davis. But the first act of drama happened in the 59th minute when Hildebrandt made a diving save as the ball rolled just along his goal line after a pass from his own team.
Mendes, however, was able to score just seconds after the scare.
“It’s go very quick in soccer and as soon as we saw the ball was not in the goal, [we] just keep playing,” Mendes said. “We had a good counterattack … and it was so important for the game.”
But act two upstaged that moment, as Hildebrandt made a late slide-tackle save for a straight red card. Backup goalkeeper Matt VanOekel came in to parry the resulting penalty, but midfielder Neil Hlavaty slotted home against his former team.
While the Loons emerged victorious with just 10 men in the dying minutes, Lagos wasn’t quite in the celebratory mood.
“As a group and a team we’d be stupid not to acknowledge others’ mistakes tonight,” he said.