Stung by what coach Adrian Heath called a "sucker punch" that left his team trailing Saturday, Minnesota United nonetheless exited Allianz Field on Saturday night with a 1-1 draw against Los Angeles F.C.
It did so amid a playoff race in which the Loons dominated Saturday's statistics everywhere but in the scoring column. They stayed in sixth place in MLS' Western Conference but moved within a point of fourth place and a home playoff game. They stayed four points ahead of ninth-place LAFC as well, with three games left.
Afterward, Heath was asked if he was content with just the one point after his team should have led when it trailed.
"No, because I think we deserved three," Heath said. "The way we played deserved three points. If we had lost the game, I'd be terribly disappointed. We play like that, more often that not we win the game. I always say I'll never turn down a point because we might be thankful for that one point in a couple weeks' time."
The Loons were saved by veteran defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso's tying goal in the 65thminute. It was his first scored in the past two seasons – since Sept. 25, 2019 — and one that evoked his historic first goal ever scored in Allianz Field on opening day, April 13, 2019.
"When you need someone to stand up, it's great to have your captain do so," Loons midfielder Wil Trapp said.
Both were volley strikes out of nowhere.
"It's a different situation," Alonso said. "I think my first was similar, like a volley. This one is special because it's my first goal of the year, losing one-zero, come out with a tie."
That tying goal came after a frightening collision at midfield when Alonso and LAFC's Kim Moon-Hwan pursued the ball single-mindedly and referee Robert Sibiga ended up in the middle.
The game ended with Alonso in a heated argument with LAFC coach Bob Bradley before both teams left the field after a contentious evening.
The Loons possessed the ball 70% of Saturday's game, outdid LAFC in total shots 18-3 and 7-2 shots on target. And yet after so many scoring chances in the game's first 30 minutes, they still trailed after that "sucker punch" of a LAFC goal on a 25-yard free kick.
LAFC star Cristian Arango's strike dipped over the Loons' protective wall and went straight through goalkeeper Tyler Miller's legs in the 32ndminute. It was Arango's 12thgoal in 14 games this season and his sixth in his past three games.
That goal was a gift from Miller, who in turn robbed Arango of another one with a spectacular save just before halftime.
"It's a mistake," Heath said. "The first one to hold up his hand is Tyler when he comes in. This happens. It's an occupational hazard for a goalkeeper. When you make a mistake invariably it proves very, very costly and that did. But, hey, he has saved us on numerous occasions this season.
"The most important thing is we're behind him and we move on."
Heath considered Miller's save on Arango's a game-saving — and maybe a season-saver, too.
"That one big save kept us in the game," Heath said. "It didn't surprise me that we dominated every stat because we were the better team this team and nobody will convince me of anything else."
Turf flew and blood flowed in that collision just before halftime that delayed the game for several minutes. Alonso turned out the biggest winner in the night's draw because he was the first man up standing after that three-way collision.
"Lucky," Alonso said.
Alonso was well enough for that heated exchange with Bradley at game's end. Alonso said he went to speak with the referees and Bradley pushed him.
"Respect me because I respect him," Alonso said. "So after that, we got arguing."