Harrison, N.J. – Returning home to open Allianz Field, Minnesota United brings with it a different road mentality from an opening month spent away from St. Paul. It's one that for the third time in the young season brought the Loons three points in the MLS standings.
United ended a five-match road trip to open the 2019 season Saturday night by defeating New York Red Bulls 2-1 to improve to 3-2 on the season.
Playing without leading goal scorer Darwin Quintero, who suffered an injury Wednesday in the team's first Allianz Field practice, as well as Miguel Ibarra, Abu Danladi and Romario Ibarra each scored for the Loons, who have already tripled their road win total from all of 2018.
"Different group. You go from the middle of last year with Angelo [Rodriguez], Romario and Darwin, plus the five we've added this year, in six months that's eight new players for the team," coach Adrian Heath said. "We added good experience. We've added good characters, and that's the reason we've had a good start."
Entering the season, the Loons would be happy to have nine points by now. But a 2-0 start was followed by the team, as defender Michael Boxall put it, getting complacent in losses to LA Galaxy and New England.
That was not the case Saturday. Each team had two shots on goal in the first half, but it was United taking advantage of its opportunities.
"We got the bounce of the ball a few times today where we weren't winning as many 50-50s [against New England]," Boxall said. "Once you start picking up the second balls then it's going to become much better and it's where we differed in the last few games, we picked up more opportunities from second balls."
Danladi, set up by Angelo Rodriguez, buried a shot from just inside the 18-yard box in the 34th minute for his first goal of the season.
However, his night ended before the second half began when Romario Ibarra came in for Danladi. The substitute needed less than five minutes to quiet the arena with a volley past New York goalkeeper Luis Robles to make it a 2-0 lead.
Cristian Casseres Jr. brought back the crowd with a goal in the 70th minute, but the Loons defense and goalkeeper Vito Mannone held off a late Red Bulls charge.
"I was pleased with the commitment to see the job through, because I can honestly think that at this time last year we probably would have given up the other and this game would be 2-2," Heath said.
For defender Brent Kallman, the difference was felt playing with MLS veteran Osvaldo Alonso. "It's an overall toughness and I think adding the experienced guys who know how to win and have won in the league helps a lot," he said. "The positivity coming from [Alonso] that last 10 minutes, saying, 'We're almost at the finish line fellas, we can see the finish line, we're almost there.' It helped pushed me through when I was exhausted."
Win in hand, Minnesota opens its new home vs. New York City FC on Saturday.
"We've been looking forward to the stadium ever since it was announced a few years ago," Boxall said. "[Red Bull Arena] here is one of the best in the league and I'm probably biased, but Allianz Field is going to jump it. It's in a class by itself."