If he was one of those Minnesota United players who knocked loudly, then the door swung open wide for forward Angelo Rodriguez in Saturday’s physical 2-1 victory over New York City FC at TCF Bank Stadium.
Rodriguez scored twice in the first half of his return to a starter’s spot after two games away, on a night teammate Romario Ibarra didn’t play because of a hurting hamstring.
A week ago, Ibarra scored two of his team’s three first-half goals in a 3-2 home victory over Portland. Injured while scoring that second goal, Ibarra was replaced in the 39th minute by Rodriguez, who had been deemed not quite ready to start that night because of a lingering calf injury.
He was plenty ready this Saturday night.
Rodriguez scored his second and third goals in his past three games — his first three for the Loons, too, after he signed in July as their second-ever designated player. His success helped the Loons win at home for the 10th time this season and kept their playoff aspirations, however slim, alive.
“Mathematically, we’re not out of it yet,” United midfielder Rasmus Schuller said, “so that’s what we’re going for.”
After last week’s victory, coach Adrian Heath said a player or two had rapped on his door, suggesting they should be in the game. Saturday’s game returned four players — including Rodriguez — to starting spots because of suspensions to midfielders Fernando Bob and Maximiano and Ibarra’s injury.
The changes — in a season of change — came on a chilly night before attendance announced at 21,926.
“I didn’t think it was as bad as people said, maybe I’m getting used to it,” Heath said about the weather. “Our first-half performance warmed me up.”
Rodriguez’s two first-half goals helped keep his coach toasty. So did Rodriguez doing his part to press NYC FC all night.
“Not only his goals, because goals can mislead you,” Heath said. “But tonight, he worked really, really hard. He looked dangerous. His closing down from the front — him and Darwin [Quintero] — was a catalyst for everything we did.”
Quintero’s strength on the ball created a pass ahead to Miguel Ibarra, whose crossing pass from the right side connected with Rodriguez for a header at the far post in the 20th minute.
“I didn’t think I was going to get there,” Rodriguez said through a translator, “but I did.”
He scored again in the 36th minute, aided this time by New York defender Ben Sweat’s long, lazy ball played back toward goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Rodriguez won the race to it — “The opportune moment arrived,” he said — stepped around Johnson and scored easily into an empty net.
The Loons kept NYC FC scoreless until late. A goal in the first minute of extra time ended goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth’s bid for his third shutout of the season.
“The defending was brilliant tonight,” Shuttleworth said. “Sometimes as a goalkeeper, you don’t do anything and you get a shutout and sometimes you make 10 saves and let in one. For the group, it would have been fantastic because they deserved it.”