In stoppage time of the first half in Minnesota’s match with Jacksonville on Wednesday night, United goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock leaped forward to contest a 50-50 ball with Jacksonville Armada forward Alhassane Keita.
Ndjock won possession, but lost the battle between his head and Keita’s right cleat. The goalkeeper fell to the ground and lay on his back, kicking the turf repeatedly.
After being attended to by trainers for several minutes and playing the remainder of stoppage time, Ndjock was given stitches at halftime. Keita got a red card. The goalkeeper finished the match and led the United to a 4-0 victory over the Armada at NSC Stadium in front of an announced record crowd of 9,412.
“We put the same group out there [that we did in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Ottawa], because I thought there were some nice moments Saturday that I think built into tonight,” said United coach Manny Lagos, whose team had scored a total of seven goals over its previous six games. “We seemed to find a way tonight to believe in ourselves a little bit more.”
The shutout was the third for Ndjock this year, including the spring season. With the help of an offensive onslaught from his teammates, Ndjock earned a shutout in a game that was only 1-0 at halftime.
“He was a little groggy afterwards, he had to get a concussion test,” Lagos said. “He showed that he wanted to be out there. He wanted to be a part of the win, and I think that’s part of the grittiness and tenacity we need right now.”
Ndjock was unavailable for comment after the game because he was receiving medical attention.
Only 14 minutes into the match, United midfielder Juliano Vicentini pounced on a loose ball that bounced off the shin of Armada defender Fabricio Ortiz. From 25 yards out, Vicentini took a shot that beat goalkeeper David Sierra to his right side.
Daniel Mendes scored for the Loons (1-1-1) in the 50th minute on an assist from Christian Ramirez to extend the United lead to 2-0.
Despite the offensive outburst, Ndjock made his share of top-notch saves. Just after Mendes’ goal, Ndjock made a sprawling save to his right, and soon after benefited when Jacksonville’s Jemal Johnson missed the right post by mere inches.
Christian Ramirez scored on a pass from Ibson in the 60th minute to put the United ahead 3-0, and Ibson scored in the 76th minute to make it 4-0 against the Armada (0-3).
“It was an important game for us tonight, we knew that,” Lagos said. “ … This was huge. It was so important for us to get the result tonight, and it put the stress and pressure on us. I thought the guys embraced that really well.”