Earlier this week, Michael Boxall’s new fiancée predicted he would score a goal soon. Considering the center back has only one other goal during his Minnesota United tenure so far, he scoffed at the idea.
But from a corner kick just before halftime, Boxall booted a strike past the Portland Timbers goalkeeper and proceeded to lose his mind.
“I blacked out,” Boxall said, “because I think I did about three or four different celebrations all within the few seconds after it went in.”
He jumped, fist-bumped, rocketed the ball back into the supporters’ section, pointed to the suites, took a knee, pounded his heart and then blew a kiss to his bride-to-be, whom he proposed to just days ago.
That score gave the Loons a 3-0 lead that the team managed to hang on to through a flawed second half to beat the Portland 3-2 at TCF Bank Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 24,525. The Loons, whose playoff chances dwindle, improve to 10-16-3 for ninth in the Western conference while Portland fell to 13-9-8 but maintained fourth place.
If only Romario Ibarra’s celebration had gone as enthusiastically.
The winger scored first in the 18th minute thanks to a nice setup from playmaker Darwin Quintero. Quintero beat a defender and Portland’s goalkeeper off his line before passing an easy tap-in to Ibarra. Quintero set the winger up again in the 36th minute, lobbing a long pass to Ibarra for him to finish.
But it was as Ibarra was running to celebrate that score that he pulled up short, reaching for his right thigh with a presumed hamstring injury. He left the game shortly after and said postgame he was hopeful it was just a pull, but the team will know more Monday after tests.
That injury was actually coach Adrian Heath’s “only disappointment” of the game, even after the two Portland goals and a red card for the Loons in the second half.
“Romario had a great sort of full start here, showed his glimpses of what he’s about,” Heath said. “Obviously, that was a blow in going to half because the fact was, he could stretch the field so much for us, and that gave Darwin all the room in the world to play.”
Portland defender Alvas Powell started his team’s comeback in the 55th minute after a corner kick bounced to him at the top of the box where he lashed a distance shot past United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. And with 10 minutes to play, midfielder Sebastian Blanco held his run in the box, leaving himself completely unmarked to score a Jorge Villafana slice-back pass.
United’s situation only worsened from there, as holding midfielder Fernando Bob earned a straight red card with a minute left in regulation for putting his elbow in Diego Valeri’s face while prepping for a header. That means the Loons will be without both their defensive midfielders against New York City FC at next Saturday, as Maximiano is also suspended for yellow card accumulation.
The Loons, though, managed to hold on for six minutes of stoppage time to keep them mathematically still in the playoff hunt, albeit an outside hope.