Loons give way late to Chicago, still advance to Leagues Cup knockout round

In its second Group Stage match of the Leagues Cup, Minnesota United was edged out 3-2 by Chicago Fire FC at Allianz Field on Thursday night, despite Bongokuhle Hlongwane’s second brace of the tournament. With the result, MNUFC has officially clinched a spot in the Round of 32 in the Leagues Cup Knockout Round. Opponent and whether the club will host is still yet to be determined.

35’: Emanuel Reynoso sought to put Minnesota on the board, cutting across the top of the box and creating a pocket of space to launch a long-range shot at net. His chance missed just wide of the frame.

52’: After winning a free kick in the attacking third, Kervin Arriaga stepped up to take the attempt but put his shot just over the crossbar.

62’: Bongokuhle Hlongwane notched Minnesota’s first goal of the match, finishing a pass from Hassani Dotson across the top of the box into the side of the net.

69’: It didn’t take long for Chicago to equalize when Wil Trapp conceded a foul in the penalty area and the Fire were awarded a penalty kick. Xherdan Shaqiri tucked his shot into the corner of the net.

73’: Hlongwane secured his brace by controlling a headed pass from Franco Fragapane and burying his shot past goalkeeper Spencer Richey.

79’: For the second time, Chicago was able to equalize. Miguel Navarro sent a cross just in front of the goal to the far side of the box to Arnaud Souquet, who slipped his shot past Dayne St. Clair.

83’: Former Loon Kei Kamara gave Chicago the go-ahead goal, heading a chipped pass over the MNUFC backline.

With the result, Minnesota United advances to the Round of 32.

Caution, MIN – Miguel Tapias (45’+2’)
Caution, CHI – Fabian Herbers (57’)
Caution, MIN – Kervin Arriaga (58’)
Caution, CHI – Gaston Gimenez (72’)

1-0 MIN – Bongokuhle Hlongwane, assisted by Hassani Dotson (62’)
1-1 CHI – Xherdan Shaqiri, unassisted (69’)
2-1 MIN – Bongokuhle Hlongwane, assisted by Franco Fragapane (73’)
2-2 CHI – Arnaud Souquet, assisted by Miguel Navarro (79’)
2-3 CHI – Kei Kamara, assisted by Maurico Pineda (83’)

4 – Bongokuhle Hlongwane has scored two braces in both Group Stage matches in the 2023 Leagues Cup tournament, tying him with Daniel Gazdag for most goals scored in the tournament. Hlongwane also leads the tournament in goals scored inside the 18 yard-box (4)
12 – Across all competitions this season, Bongokuhle Hlongwane has scored 12 goals.
17 – Emanuel Reynoso has completed the most successful dribbles (17) in the tournament. Hassani Dotson is tied for second with eight.


Minnesota United XI: Dayne St. Clair; D Zarek Valentin, Bakaye Dibassy, Miguel Tapias, DJ Taylor; M Wil Trapp (c), Kervin Arriaga, Hassani Dotson, Emanuel Reynoso, Bongokuhle Hlongwane; F Teemu Pukki

Bench: GK Clint Irwin, Eric Dick; D Devin Padelford, Mikael Marques, Brent Kallman; M Emmanuel Iwe, Franco Fragapane, Joseph Rosales; F Cameron Dunbar, Mender Garcia

Chicago Fire FC XI: GK Spencer Richey; D Miguel Navarro, Rafael Czichos (c), Carlos Teran, Arnaud Souquet; M Gaston Gimenez, Fabian Herbers, Ian Torres, Brian Gutierrez, Maren Haile-Selassie; F Kacper Przybylko

Bench: GK Chris Brady, Jeff Gal; D Mauricio Pineda, Kendall Burks, Daniel Aceves; M Ousmane Doumbia, Xherdan Shaqiri, Jonathan Dean; F Kei Kamara, Georgios Koutsias, Alex Monis, Missael Rodriguez

To Be Determined

On the result of the game…
“Obviously incredibly disappointed. We had enough chances to have won the game and we’ve given three really poor goals away. The penalty is our fault. Bongi [Bongokuhle Hlongwane] and DJ [Taylor] both went for the same ball, lack of communication. And Dayne [St.Clair] should have probably saved the third. You’ve heard me say a lot of times, concede three goals, you won’t win many games. But we had enough chances to have won the game.”

On bringing on Franco Fragapane at striker…
“Well we thought that there was plenty of space in behind their midfield player. We thought that if Rey [Emanuel Reynoso] was on the field, [Gaston] Gimenez was generally attached to Rey, and we just thought that if he [Gaston Gimenez] got attached to Franco [Fragapane], he might release Rey with a little bit more space. So you make those decisions but at the end of the day, I can look back at our performance and look at how we’ve played, and there’s been a lot of good stuff, but I think that by the standards that we’ve set [for] ourselves the last few weeks, I don’t think that we ever reached those standards tonight. I thought our final ball in the box in the first half was pretty poor.”

On the possibility of starting Kervin Arriaga or Brent Kallman at center back before Miguel Tapias …
“Yeah, a little bit but Micky [Miguel Tapias] said he was fine. He said he’s had no reaction to the two or three days of training that he’s had and he’s played a lot of football since he’s been here. So we weren’t worried about his physical capabilities. That made the decision to bring Micky in play him on the left hand side and then we moved Dibassy [Bakaye Dibassy] across.”

On if there was a conversation about a VAR review on Chicago’s third goal…
“I don’t think so. One of the new rules is that you can’t speak to the officials at any stage during the game, during the 90 minutes or at halftime. Obviously Kei [Kei Kamara] hadn’t meant that, it’s one of those freak accidents. With the studs or lack of studs in what we wear these days, the slippers that the players wear, the lacerations do become very dangerous at times.”

On what he thinks the team needs to progress on as they get to the knockout stage…
“Well, obviously we have to wait and see who we get, if we get through. Obviously I don’t think we’re mathematically, completely there. It doesn’t really matter what the [result of the] game [Chicago Fire FC vs. Club Puebla] is, obviously it would be nice to have a home game. I think our attacking play has been good, it was the other night against Puebla. I think in the first half we moved the ball really well. We got ourselves in really good positions. We let ourselves down with a mixture of a little bit of wayward finishing and the final ball not being as good as it could have been.”

On how he felt about Hassani Dotson’s performance…
“I thought he, arguably, could have been our best player this evening. He’s got that zip back in his legs and he looks as though he’s got that power back as well, which is a real plus for him and his game. When he’s at his best, he drives with the ball and he looks like he’s got that going again at the moment. So, another big strong performance by him.

On the potential of the next matchup…
“Whoever we play, I’ve been really impressed with the job Wilfred Nancy’s done there [Columbus Crew SC] this year. They’re a good team to watch. They are a difficult team to play against. They spread you out and they’ve got good players on the ball. They’ve got the likes of Cucho [Hernandez] up front, and they’ve got [Lucas] Zelarayan and Christian [Ramirez] Obviously, that would be a big game for him [Christian Ramirez] if he was to play us. And now I’ve just been watching the game and Club America looked very, very strong, looked really, really good in the game this evening [Club America vs. Columbus Crew SC]. They’ve got pace and power up front and a lot of creativity in midfield. So, whoever we get, hopefully we’ll be getting a home game, and if we do I think we will give a good count to ourselves, but whoever we get we are going to have a tough night on for sure.

On the status of Sang Bin Jeong, Kemar Lawrence, and Ethan Bristow’s Visa…
“Well, he’s [Ethan Bristow] just waiting. He’s had his appointment. He’s got all of his paperwork in. He’s just waiting to receive his passport back. That could be – Sang Bin [Jeong] was five days, Teemu [Pukki] was two, so you never know. Hopefully sooner rather than later because we’d like to get him back in the fold. Kemar [Lawrence] wasn’t available for selection this evening and Sang Bin has improved.”

On the timeline of Sang Bin Jeong…
“Well, we maybe -I don’t know whether this weekend, next weekend will be a bit too early – but I would think certainly in the next two weeks he will be back and available.”

On why the second half opened up…
“Poor, poor goals. I’ve just said before, I think all three were avoidable. We don’t need to make the challenge on Gutierrez [Brian Gutierrez], Bongi [Bongokuhle Hlongwane] and DJ [Taylor] [had] a lack of communication, and then it’s a decent header from Kei [Kei Kamara], but the way that Dayne’s [St.Clair] been playing I expected him to save it. We had a good attacking play in the second half, the way we did in the first, but we took the opportunities that had come our way. This is a game that we shouldn’t have lost this evening. This is on us, and I’m sure that Frank [Klopas] will be delighted for them. I did say before the game I think they [Chicago Fire] are much improved, and I think Frank has done a great job with them. They’re a good side, they use the ball very well and they have enough threats, but over the 90 minutes we did more than enough to have won the game.”

On if he wants to face Club America at Allianz Field…
“Oh, for sure. I think I’m not the only coach who wants to stay here and not be traveling. Columbus [Crew SC] is really really good at home as well. It would be nice to play, whoever we play, to play here because if we play well, we’re more than capable of beating anybody here.”

Courtesy: Minnesota United FC