Minnesota United picked up a solitary point at home on Saturday night, needing a late goal to rescue a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake. Another home match looms this Saturday for the Loons, still in the top four of the Western Conference at 3-1-2. Freelancer writer Jon Marthaler breaks down four key points from Saturday's match that could or will impact the next one, presented in reverse order of how good they are for the Loons.

1. Questionable calls, high impact

Mark Allatin is not a heavily experienced MLS referee — he'd been in the center for only 18 games prior to 2024 — but he made a couple of decisions that negatively affected, and will affect, Minnesota.

The first came in the 67th minute when Loons striker Sang Bin Jeong — bound for the goal — was bumped once by a defender before Caden Clark's outstanding through-ball even reached him, and then elbowed to the ground by Real Salt Lake's Brayan Vera in the penalty area as he tried to recover and latch onto the pass.

Neither challenge could particularly have been said to even be a 50-50 ball, and neither defender touched the ball until Jeong was already on the ground, but Allatin waved away Jeong's appeals for a penalty kick. It might have been a borderline penalty, in the end, but we have seen penalties given for less.

The second call affected the game as much but might affect the Loons more going forward. With two minutes left in the game and Minnesota about to take a corner, Allatin gave Joseph Rosales a second yellow card, for the type of tussle that happens during every single corner in every game.

"That's not a yellow. You can't give a yellow for that," said color commentator Heath Pearce immediately upon viewing the replay, and the veteran MLS defender would know. Unless MNUFC manages to successfully appeal the sending off, Rosales will be suspended for Saturday's game.

2. Rosales sees red again

If the red card does stand, it'll already be Rosales' second red card of the season, after just six games. Joseph Greenspan, in 2017, is the only other Loon who's ever been sent off twice in the same year.

More importantly, Minnesota's defensive depth was already pretty shallow. Starting left center back Micky Tapias is already out, as is veteran Zarek Valentin. Devin Padelford, 21, had to make his fourth consecutive start on Saturday, including his third at center back, which is not a position he's played much; so far, he looks like what you'd expect from a 21-year-old center back.

If Rosales is suspended, and none of the injured Loons can return by Saturday, it's not at all clear who'll deputize in the back line. First-round draft pick Hugo Bacharach just played his first game of the year for MNUFC2 last week. Victor Eriksson got 10 minutes as a substitute in Philadelphia but looked extremely shaky. Kervin Arriaga has played center back before, but he's hurt too.

Would the Loons trust Eriksson to play from the start? Would they dare move Padelford back to left back and draft in one of their MNUFC2 center backs, Morris Duggan (a third-round pick this year) or Britton Fischer?

3. Who are these Loons?

This was Eric Ramsay's third game in charge for Minnesota, and while his results have been fine, things do look a bit different on the field.

MNUFC's first half of the season, against Austin FC, was notable for what appeared to be the Loons' first attempt in a long time at a true all-out high press. It was a jolt of adrenaline for the fan base, to watch players known for their careful and considered defensive behavior instead go flying into the Austin defensive line under the direction of interim coach Cameron Knowles.

That's not what the Loons looked like Saturday against RSL, especially in the first half. Minnesota came out set up defensively in a 4-1-4-1 shell, one that didn't trouble RSL's defenders much as the visitors started their buildup. The Loons weren't exactly sitting in a low block, but at the same time, RSL didn't have much trouble working the ball across its defensive line and found plenty of time to dump long cross-field passes over the top of the Minnesota defense.

The result was that the visitors were able to repeatedly get the ball where they wanted it, which was with right winger Andrés Gómez, attacking the Loons' left side of Padelford and Rosales. In general, Rosales especially did a good job of neutralizing the attacks — but the one time Gómez did manage to get loose from Rosales and stand up a cross, a leaping Cristian "Chicho" Arango planted a header in the back of Minnesota's net.

The Loons got more back on even footing in the second half, though Gómez did have another shot ring off the post, but it was notable that the electric high press was nowhere to be seen.

4. 'Tani Time' movement is building

Take all the guys in MLS who have been semi-involved this season — say, guys who have played more than the equivalent of one match. It's a small sample size, but there's no player in all of Major League Soccer who has more goal involvements — that's goals plus assists — per 90 minutes than Tani Oluwaseyi.

So far this year, Oluwaseyi has pulled a pair of home draws out for the Loons, scoring two late goals. He set up another goal in week one that ended up becoming the game-winner. And he earned the following write-up from Matt Doyle, the dean of all MLS analysts:

"Oluwaseyi, who dominated the USL Championship on loan with San Antonio last year, absolutely thrives as a traditional No. 9 attacking focal point during the Tactics Free Zone that often envelops the final 20 minutes of matches. He just comes in with his engine in the red and keeps it there the entire time. It's exactly what you want to see from an attacking sub."

His 86th-minute goal won't win any goal of the year awards, but it may help popularize a nickname that Oluwaseyi says he got from midfielder Hassani Dotson: "Big Toe."

"I just stuck my leg out," Oluwaseyi said, but the important thing is that he was standing in the right place at the right time, something that has not always been a hallmark of Loons strikers.

He's clearly got the scoring touch; he led the second-division USL Championship last season in goal involvements per game, and he's carrying forward his success on loan to MLS this season. Teemu Pukki isn't getting any younger, and the more Oluwaseyi can provide something in the last 10 or 20 or 30 minutes of games — or for 90 minutes, if Pukki needs a break — the better off the team will be.

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Look for more Minnesota United analysis this month from Jon Marthaler in the Star Tribune.