Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath enjoyed the two years he lived there when he first moved to America more than a decade ago, but he has seen enough of Texas these past three weeks, thank you very much.
His team on Saturday played its third game in Texas, and he called himself pleased enough to go home with a 2-2 draw against Houston after their second game in 17 days at BVAA Stadium.
Even if his team scored two first-half goals and then held on mightily after the Dynamo tied the score with two second-half goals within 11 minutes.
And even if his team played the final seven minutes with just 10 men after veteran midfielder Jan Gregus was ejected in the 88th minute for taking a backhanded swing at an opponent that missed.
Until Saturday, the shorthanded Loons had lost road games at Dallas, Houston and Kansas City in an MLS season restart remade with a schedule that so far has been lopsided against the Loons. Included was a 3-0 loss at Houston on Sept. 2.
Saturday’s draw was their first point earned on the road since they won games at Portland and San Jose to start the season way back in March.
“The way we’ve been playing on the road and with the injury situation we’ve had and the amount of games we’ve had on the road, probably,” Heath said when asked if he would have taken a tie if offered before the game. “We know this is a difficult place to play. We know they’re playing with a lot of confidence and they’re a really settled team. Maybe we would have done so.
“Obviously when you’re 2-nil at halftime, it’s a huge disappointment. But for the first time on the road in a few weeks, I thought there were a lot of positives for us to take something from.”
Saturday’s game was played in front of fans for the first time at BBVA Stadium since the pandemic left stadiums without spectators. About 3,000 physically distanced fans watched Loons midfielder Kevin Molino and Robin Lod score goals in the 11th and 46th minutes before halftime for a 2-0 lead that didn’t stand.
That’s not the fault of Loons young goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who stopped pretty much every shot he had to. Included was his impressive stop on former teammate Darwin Quintero’s penalty kick in the 17th minute after Molino’s left-footed shot on the run inside the 18-yard penalty box gave the Loons a 1-0 lead.
Teammate Michael Boxall congratulated St. Clair on that save with a chest bump and a ferocious yell.
“I couldn’t tell you what he said,” St. Clair said. “After I made the save, there was a quick second of celebration.”
St. Clair guessed left on Quintero’s penalty kick and he went right down the middle instead, but St. Clair reached back with his hand and foot to make contact with the shot.
“Penalties are a mental battle,” St. Clair said. “I was just trying to delay to build the pressure up for the moment. Both of us are familiar with each other, so I wanted it to play in his head the longer things went on.”
St. Clair made the initial stop on both of Houston’s second-half goals, but Quintero chipped the ball over St. Clair’s head and into an open goal after St. Clair ventured off his line in the 58th minute.
He deflected Quintero’s free kick from just outside the 18-yard box in the 69th minute, but it hit the crossbar behind him and Dynamo defender Maynor Figueroa beat both flat-footed Molino and defender Chase Gasper to the rebound and an open goal awaiting.
“Dayne makes a great save on Darwin’s free kick and then we don’t follow it up,” Heath said by video call with reporters afterward. “We said at halftime, we’ve all played in these games. You know the next goal is going to be crucial. I said to them, if Houston gets the first goal, we have to dig in because they’re going to keep coming. They in a rich vein of form lately, and they’re very good at home.”