Minnesota United entered Wednesday’s game against Indy Eleven with attack on its minds, knowing that Indy had allowed seven goals to Fort Lauderdale only four days prior.
Loons coach Manny Lagos started four attack-minded midfielders, to support high-flying striker Christian Ramirez. After 77 minutes of misfiring from the team’s offense, though, defender Justin Davis had to take matters into his own hands to help the Loons pull out a 1-0 win, the team’s third consecutive victory.
The Loons moved into a tie with Ottawa for second in the combined season standings at 32 points.
Right fullback Kevin Venegas got behind the Indy defense and lofted a cross to the far side of the goal, where Davis, the left fullback, was waiting to side-foot the ball into the net — the defender’s fifth goal of the year and second in two games.
“I’m going for the Golden Boot for sure; it’s one of my goals,” Davis joked.
The four midfielders had any number of long-range shooting chances, but the group — especially Ibson and Kalif Alhassan — couldn’t find its range, repeatedly blasting shots well over the goal. Geison Moura, making his first start of the year in midfield, had a much closer chance early but, from only 5 yards away, he too skied the ball over the crossbar.
United’s best chance of the first half came from winger Yago, who sliced in front of a defender and turned a cross past Indy goalkeeper Keith Cardona, but it hit the post.
Despite the lack of finishing, Lagos credited the midfield with giving Davis the chance to push forward.
“You can’t get your outside backs forward unless you’re putting pressure on the game in the middle third of the field, which maybe we weren’t doing in the beginning of the year,” he said.
The Eleven had a couple chances of its own. Striker Dane Richards had a pair of excellent runs behind the United defense, only seven minutes apart, but Loons keeper Sammy Ndjock — making his first start in six matches — stood tall to turn both aside.
“They got at us a little bit in the second half,” Davis said. “Sammy came up big for us.”
At the right moment, though, it was Davis who again came up big, scoring the game-winner in a second straight match. And while he might be Minnesota’s last-ditch offensive threat, he’s willing to fly under the radar.
“I’ll let Christian and Pablo [Campos] do the scoring,” he said. “I’m deceptive, playing in the back. Nobody knows it’s coming.”