Considering the last time the Minnesota United FC played the Carolina RailHawks, Thursday night’s game was pretty tame.
Well, at least until the 80th minute of the United’s 1-0 victory at the National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine, which extended its unbeaten streak to six games.
United defender Justin Davis slid into RailHawks midfielder Jun Marques Davidson and tackled him hard, which led to a near brawl. The teams exchanged punches and heated words, with the end result being Davis and Carolina defender Kupono Low heading to their locker rooms — red cards in tow.
United defender Tiago Calvano earned a yellow card in the 85th minute to round out the night’s bookings. In the spring the teams combined for six cards and two ejections in a scoreless draw.
The referee began to pull a yellow card on Davis for the foul, but that quickly changed to a red after the fight. United coach Manny Lagos said he was disappointed in the scuffle but felt his team wasn’t to blame.
“I didn’t think it was that big of a play,” Lagos said. “I thought it was a tough tackle by our guy. Probably a yellow card, not a red. And then I just thought the fracas was just started by them. They all kind of ran in and pushed our guy, who really just got up and accepted his yellow card.”
Carolina coach Colin Clarke had a differing opinion.
“The red card, it should have been a straight red card,” Clarke said. “There shouldn’t have been any question about it, and then if that happens, than none of the other stuff happens. And we’re 11 vs. 10.”
Clarke added that he didn’t think the game was particularly dirty except for Davis’ tackle, which he said could have seriously hurt his player. He said he hoped the league would look into the foul and punish Davis appropriately.
Midfielder Daniel Mendes managed to stay out of the melee and keep his game-winning goal untarnished. Mendes scored off a corner kick through traffic after defender Cristiano Dias missed his shot in the 26th minute.
Mendes said the intensity between the teams doesn’t leave the field.
“It happens in games,” he said. “Eighty minutes, they want to score. …. Sometimes nerves are high, and it happens. But when the game is over, everybody’s friends again.”
Lagos said his team took about five minutes to find its rhythm but created good chances from there — though it didn’t capitalize on all of them.
“It got to the point where it got a little bit nerve-wracking because we should have been up two or three goals at halftime,” Lagos said. “The second half was nervy, and we really had to battle defensively at key times.”
Another point of contention was the pitch condition, as the Schwan’s USA Cup has been using the stadium for several games a day for a week.
Clarke called the condition “awful,” and Lagos couldn’t disagree with him this time.
“It’s had better moments, for sure,” he said.