Just when it was about to leave Cincinnati with a single point at which its coach never sneezes, Minnesota United celebrated Saturday with a 1-0 decision won in stoppage time’s second minute.
The Loons avoided a draw for the fifth time in their past eight games by being both resilient and lucky, winning on second-half substitute Aaron Schoenfeld’s pinball goal as the final seconds ticked away.
His players might have argued otherwise, but Loons coach Adrian Heath said he would have been happy to have gone into the good night with another point won in yet another scoreless draw.
“I was, trust me,” he said afterward. “At home, you have the pressure of trying to win the game. Away from home, you get a point, you should be pleased with it.”
His Loons snatched victory just as they did when two goals in stoppage time beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1 to start the MLS is Back Tournament in July.
It was Schoenfeld, signed for striker insurance last winter after four years out of Major League Soccer, who helped turn that game with his energy and size off the bench.
On Saturday, he did so again, only this time with a two-touch goal that finished off fellow second-half sub Emanuel Reynoso’s careening corner kick from the left side.
Loons defender Michael Boxall rose above an FC Cincinnati defender and headed the ball across the goal mouth, off the far post and out to Schoenfeld. He controlled the ball with a right-foot touch and buried a shot past helpless goalkeeper Spencer Richey.
“I think you just go more into instinct mode,” Schoenfeld said in a postgame FSN interview after he scored his first goal as a Loon. “Everything just happened so fast. It’s kind of hard to see. But after you’ve done it so many years, you just hope it comes to you.”
He celebrated by running into the arms of teammates Bakaye Dibassy and Chase Gasper while Boxall celebrated on his own, flat on his back, looking into the night sky.
“If my head was a little bit bigger, I think it might have gone in,” Boxall said. “As long as it ends up in the back of the net from somebody, I’m happy to take away the three points.”
Boxall never saw the winning goal.
“I probably closed my eyes when the ball was a foot away from my face,” he said. “It’s a matter of inches whether it goes inside the post, inside the goal and out for a goal kick. It’s pretty fine lines.”
What mattered most is that Boxall went hard for Reynoso’s corner kick and won the one-on-one battle with FC Cincinnati defender Tom Pettersson.
“It’s something we’ve been having a go at Boxy for, for a long time,” Heath said. “What he actually got at the end was a good header.”
Both Heath and Boxall celebrated Schoenfeld’s success almost as much as a three-point victory that, for the time being, moved the Loons into the Western Conference’s fourth place.
Heath praised Schoenfeld for training hard every week, waiting for a fleeting chance. It came Saturday when Heath subbed Schoenfeld for 36-year-old Kei Kamara, looking for energy and fresh legs.
“I wish it had come earlier,” Schoenfeld said about converting. “Sometimes good luck comes out of bad luck. I was just happy to help us get a win.”
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.