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Minnesota United hangs in playoff chase by blanking L.A. Galaxy



Minnesota United hangs in playoff chase by blanking L.A. Galaxy

It didn’t take long to shake off Wednesday’s loss.

As the Minnesota United faithful held its breath coming into Saturday’s game after the last two matches ended as shutout losses, one player made sure the team got the start it needed.

On the back of Emanuel Reynoso’s two-goal performance, the Loons cruised to a 3-0 victory over the L.A. Galaxy with the team hanging on the edge of playoff contention.

“The energy the players put in, the energy the crowd put in (was magnificent),” head coach Adrian Heath said. “That marks the first time we’ve beat the Galaxy since we’ve been in Major League Soccer.”

The Loons didn’t get a shot on net in their last loss — a 4-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 15 — but it only took four minutes on Saturday to get a shot and a goal.

Reynoso missed the past three games but made his return to the lineup as one of the starting 11 known quickly by netting the team’s first goal since Aug. 28. Reynoso, along with the rest of the forward and midfielder group, was extremely aggressive from the opening kick in the first half.

“Thankfully, today I got the opportunity, and a goal opened up for me,” Reynoso said through a team translator.

His first goal came off a slick shot right from the middle of the field. He had the ball at his feet thanks to another player that returned to the starting lineup on Saturday: leading scorer Robin Lod. Lod slid over a nifty pass for Reynoso’s opening tally that sent the already raucous Allianz Field crowd into a frenzy.

Reynoso’s game didn’t slow down through the opening stretches. He had the ball again in the 20th minute right where he had scored from 16 minutes prior. He pulled up, moved the ball to his left foot and launched a shot over a defender’s head and subsequently past the left hand of the diving Galaxy goalkeeper, Jonathan Klinsmann.

“One criticism I keep having with (Reynoso) is, I keep saying he should score more goals,” Heath said. “He has so much talent. He takes as much pleasure out of making goals, assisting goals, as he does scoring.”

The Galaxy settled things down after Reynoso’s onslaught and ended the half down 2-0. The Loons came out far less aggressive to start the second half, and it showed with much of the possession going to L.A. in its offensive zone.

In the defensive zone, Minnesota United was up to the task of holding off the seventh-best offensive attack in Major League Soccer when they came on strong in the second half. Substitutions gave L.A. some life, but goalkeeper Tyler Miller made a few saves to keep the Galaxy scoreless.

Ethan Finlay was pressing all game and finally pushed through to swing momentum back towards the home team. He had tried to deke his way past an L.A. defender to get a centering pass earlier in the game, but it just went wide. In the second half, he was the one receiving a pass, and he made sure to knock it in.

After Franco Fragapane got the ball at midfield, he noticed Finlay sprinting down the field and lobbed the ball down to him. Finlay took the ball in all alone and exploited a weakness Klinsmann had shown all evening long: his left side.

Finlay took the narrow angle and needled the ball past the diving goalkeeper for a 3-0 lead to change the momentum that had certainly shifted in favor of the Galaxy. Miller said Finlay’s goal was important for the game, but he said the midfielder’s work on the defensive end set the tone for the end of the match.

“We’re winning 3-0 and Ethan sprints back, makes an interception, slides and gets up, comes back around and makes another interception and the crowd just goes crazy,” Miller said. “That’s the type of effort (up 3-0), and our team is still so passionate about getting the shutout.”

After the result on Saturday, Minnesota United shot back up above the playoff line into sixth in the Western Conference with 34 points, tied with the Portland Timbers. The total doesn’t give the Loons too much breathing room, though, as Real Salt Lake and LAFC both trail with 33 points.

Now, after this defining victory, Reynoso said he is confident the league knows the type of challenge the Loons pose each night heading through this vital stretch of the season.

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