Another late lead slips, Loons’ playoff hope fading after 1-1 draw w/ San Jose

A high-stakes game full of thin margins and close scoring opportunities between Minnesota United and the San Jose Earthquakes played out to an eventual 1-1 draw at Allianz Field on Saturday night, where Teemu Pukki yet again scored, while Paul Marie helped secure a point for the visitors.

8’: Minnesota United’s Ethan Bristow ran up the left side before passing the ball to Emanuel Reynoso, who had made a parallel run up the middle. Reynoso took a shot around two San Jose defenders, but the ball missed just wide of the far post.

12’: Jan Gregus volleyed a pass up field to Bongokuhle Hlongwane, who in turn passed the ball off to Reynoso. The Argentine midfielder ran towards the center of San Jose’s box, firing off a shot that hit the near side netting.

35’: Earthquakes’ Matthew Hoppe received a cross inside Minnesota’s 18-yard-box, immediately taking an off-balance shot that just nearly missed the far post, giving San Jose their best chance of the night up until this moment.

40’: Reynoso makes an attempt to dribble out of three Quakes defenders and is fouled, winning a free kick for the Loons about 20 yards from the goal line. His kick curls towards the goal, but is saved by the San Jose goalkeeper, Daniel De Sousa Brito.

54’: Running towards San Jose’s box, Reynoso passed off the ball to Hlongwane, who quickly controlled possession by a juggle, striking the ball at the net where it would sneak past the post and ultimately out of play.

56’: Breaking the scoreless game, Teemu Pukki found the back of the net when he ran into open space behind the San Jose back line when Hlongwane’s possession was kicked out from him. Minnesota captain Wil Trapp initially fed the ball inside the box to Hlongwane, who made the run, but lost possession. Pukki was in perfect position to connect with the loose ball, capitalizing on the angle and scoring his fifth goal in six games.

63’: Paul Marie makes an unmarked run at goal, striking a shot atop Minnesota’s box, but the shot was blocked by Loons’ center back Miguel Tapias.

68’: Cristian Espinoza carried the ball past MNUFC’s back line, feeding it to Cade Cowell who was rushing towards goal. Cowell’s shot nearly missed above the crossbar.

73’: Pukki recovered a deflection while inside the San Jose box, firing off a close-range shot that was saved by the Quakes’ keeper.

82’: San Jose’s Espinoza dribbled around the Minnesota defense, carrying a volley over the Loons’ back line and connecting the ball with Paul Marie on the left side of the six-yard-box. Marie took one touch and scored the equalizer.

With the draw, Minnesota United sit 11th in Western Conference regular-season standings with a 9-11-11 (W-L-D) record and 38 points.

1-0 MIN – Teemu Pukki (56’)
1-1 SJ – Paul Marie (82’)

Caution, MIN – Kervin Arriaga (90’)

5 in 6 – Finnish international Teemu Pukki scored his fifth regular-season goal in his last six matches played. He notably scored against San Jose earlier in September, which was the lone goal of the evening.



Minnesota United XI: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Ethan Bristow, Miguel Tapias, Michael Boxall, DJ Taylor; M Wil Trapp ©, Jan Gregus, Hassani Dotson, Emanuel Reynoso, Bongokuhle Hlongwane; F Teemu Pukki

Bench: GK Clint Irwin; D Bakaye Dibassy, Devin Padelford, Zarek Valentin; M Kervin Arriaga, Franco Fragapane; F Mender García, Sang Bin Jeong, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

San Jose Earthquakes XI: GK Daniel; D Miguel Trauco, Rodrigues, Tanner Beason, Carlos Akapo; M Jackson Yueill, Niko Tsakiris, Matthew Hoppe, Jamiro Monteiro, Cristian Espinoza; F Jeremy Ebobisse

Bench: GK JT Marcinkowski; D Paul Marie, Jonathan Mensah, Tommy Thompson; M Carlos Gruezo, Jack Skahan, Judson; F Benji Kikanovic, Cade Cowell

BMO Stadium | Los Angeles, California
10.04.2023 | MLS 2023 Regular Season | Matchday 36
9:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass/1500 ESPN)

On the turnout of the game…
“Obviously extremely disappointing. Couple of good chances at 1-0, maybe kill the game off, and with the way the results have been, everybody started to take a little bit of negative backward steps, and we had nearly everybody in our box for their [San Jose Earthquakes] goal. You’ve heard me say it before, having people behind the ball is not enough. People have to mark people, people have to do jobs and unfortunately we didn’t do it on one of the few occasions where they created an opportunity.”

On Minnesota’s team’s effort and urgency…
“They always give me the effort, I can’t complain at that. I thought we played some good moments in the first half, and then in the second half, I don’t know if Teemu [Pukki] had that chance when it was 1-0, if it goes to 2-0 it’s maybe a different game. When you’re in the situation that we’re in where you know the importance of the game and the result, people are afraid of making mistakes, and at times you take the easy option out instead of staying on the ball and working the ball and trying to do what we’re good at. I thought there were some good moments this evening but at 1-0, it’s never enough, in any game.”

On Bongokuhle Hlongwane’s position on the goal…
“It’s his man. Small margins, you don’t go with your man, and it costs you.”

On if the Loons lack in mental toughness…
“No, they didn’t. When it was eight games recently without losing? No, I just think we haven’t got breaks when we’ve deserved breaks, and every time we make a mistake it ends up in the back of the net at the moment. And, it’s difficult to swallow at times”

On if he wants to see more from Ethan Bristow on Cristian Espinoza’s goal…
“[Cristian] Espinoza can cross the ball against a lot of players, he’s a very good player.”

On if tonight’s game felt like they lost the final…
“No, until it’s mathematically impossible for us. If we’d have won tonight and gone to LAFC and got a result, we’re still in with a shout, and that’s still available for us.”

On if Emanuel Reynoso is fit enough to play a full 90 minutes at this moment…
“When you start to get fatigue, that’s when you start to pull muscles and he’s done nothing at all this week, so, last thing you want to do is look at your best player and think, ‘should we risk it?’”

On a message to the fans…
“They’ve been magnificent the whole season, so I can’t ask any more of the supporters. They come here expecting us to try and win a game of football, and we haven’t won enough at home this year.”

On how much responsibility he takes for results where points have been dropped at home…
“You ultimately, when you’re the coach, you take the responsibility for the results, and I always have done that and always will. We haven’t done enough, we haven’t had enough wins at home this year.”

On what he would say to his players about tonight’s game…
“Small margins in games, always has been, always will be. And then the moments when you’re on top, you get your opportunities you have to take them, and you can’t afford to gift people opportunities when it’s 1-0. The game’s never won at 1-0, so, just standing behind the ball and getting enough bodies behind the ball is not enough. You still have to defend the goal, and we didn’t do that today.”

On positives that he’s taking from tonight’s match…
“I’ll have a look tomorrow, and I’m sure this is some, and I’m sure there will be some. But, I’m just trying to digest it all at this moment.”

Thoughts on the match…
“It’s one where, man for the most part you feel pretty good about it. It’s just moments. We didn’t win the little moments that would have won the game for us. Whether that’s putting it to 2-0 or keeping it 1-0. Look, we have a quick turnaround. The season is not over. We have to go to LA and put together a good performance and good result.

On the final 20 minutes of the game…
“Inevitably when you make some changes, the shape changes and we’re looking at a different defensive setup. I don’t think that hurt us. It just changes the way we’re defending. They grew in confidence and started attacking a little more because they had to be more brave to throw numbers forward. In this case guys, like [Cristian] Espinoza, when they’re isolated in a 1-on-1 they can be dangerous.

On if this felt like losing a final-type match…
“Absolutely, absolutely. We only have three games left. Somehow we’re still in this thing, so we have to just recover, get ready for the next game and hopefully get three points away from home.

On if next match is a must win game…
“Every game feels like a must win, but that’s the way it is right now.”

On why Minnesota has lost points from winning positions…
“There’s an idea here where we have to be stronger as a group. When we’re winning, [we have to] to slow the game down and to find moments to breathe. It’s been one of those situations where it seems like one play spirals into a couple of mistakes and then now we’re on our heels. For us, it’s really zeroing in on ‘every moment matters’. Every moment matters, whether it’s a throw-in or whether it seems like an innocuous play, we just have to lock in the concentration because, like I said, this season is not over yet, but now moments become bigger and we’re going to have to rise to the occasion.”

On if losing the lead creeps in on players and makes them worry…
“You can worry about it, but at the end of the day, what can we do on the field? It’s all about action. My idea and our group’s idea is to be men of action. We have to just push forward with a desire to win and if you’re thinking about winning you’re not letting the doubt creep in as much. You’re not letting in the message “oh, here we go again”. It’s about [being] like buffalo when there’s a storm they huddle together and they run towards the storm, and we need to be buffalo right now.”

On his message to the team as the team captain…
“It’s about being brave, stepping up and looking each other in the eye and saying “hey, these are the moments we rise up”. I felt in the second half, we did a good job. Bongi [Bongokuhle Hlongwane] makes a play, Teemu [Pukki] is at the back post and taps it in. For the most part, for 70 minutes, we’re doing everything we want. But again, it’s little moments.”

On the goal conceded…
“Are we trying to be more like… Zarek [Valentin] calls it lunch ladies, cleaning up messes. Can we be lunch ladies for each other? It sounds silly, but it’s one of those things where if a guy gets beat, are you there to back him up? Are you there to cover? It starts on plays like that and then it spirals, so then the next guy is a little bit late and then the dominoes fall. It’s taking this collective mentality of cleaning up messes for one another, being there and backing each other up and that’s what winning things do.”

On the result tonight…
“That’s 80% of the games we have played at home. Played well enough between the two boxes, maybe we could be a bit more patient or creative in the final third. In one or two situations we didn’t quite pressure the ball in the defensive third. For eighty-eight, eighty-nine minutes it’s pretty good and it’s what we expect of each other, but we just missed something tonight. It’s frustrating, it’s really frustrating. You put in all that work and Dayne [St. Clair] is only having to make less than one or two saves and we are only taking away one point, especially at this point in the season where we have done that enough times in the 14-15 games at home where these [games] matter more and we just didn’t get it done tonight.”

On what is missing to close out games…
“Statistically, everyone is tired in the last five to ten minutes of each half and people are going to be half a step late on things and making changes, new faces. In the final third, whether it’s the first minute, the twentieth minute, ninetieth minute – giving them the amount of time, where he [Cristian Espinoza] is allowed to kind of scoop it in there and we don’t have anyone to get on the end of a cross that is in the air for a couple of seconds then we need to look at ourselves. It’s frustrating.”

On whether it feels like a common theme, dropping points with a lead…
“When the full time whistle went, yes. But we still had eight or nine minutes to try and get the winner. So that’s all I’m thinking about when that [goal] goes in. That late in the game you are desperate to force it up the field.”

On how you review the goal conceded…
“That’s most goals we’ve conceded – it’s never just one mistake it’s always…the first we don’t clean up, we don’t react well enough, and Fraga [Franco Fragapane] has to stay on his feet and keep him outside. I remember [Cristian Espinoza] having too much time on the ball to deliver a ball like that. So for me I’m just looking at what I personally could have done. Maybe we could organize a bit quicker but it’s one those things that happen it one or two seconds and to try and organize two or three players in that time is difficult.”

On the mindset to put the game in the past and turn the page…
“It’s our job. We don’t get paid to give up. Until the full time comes down on our season we are going to keep giving it everything. Freshen up, travel to LA and we have to take it to them and like tonight it is a must-win game. We have seen what they are capable of doing with the players they have and it’s another three points we have to go and chase.”

On the team’s back against the wall mindset recurring at the end of the past few seasons…
“Last year we left it to the last game and we are finding ourselves in the same position again. It’s not like we are playing poorly, we don’t need to reinvent what we are doing, it’s just finding a little bit more quality. If we can move the ball up to Rey [Emanuel Reynoso] a bit quicker so that the other team doesn’t have two blocks of four behind the ball or if we get an extra number, like when Wil [Trapp] gets forward it causes them problems. We expect the front four to deliver. As a defender if I am having just four players come at me against my back four and a midfielder or two, I’ll take that for ninety minutes, I’m happy with that. So we need to create more problems in the final third.”

On having three matches to play…
“Tonight is done. All we have is Wednesday night. We need to put all our energy into that and if we don’t take care of it again, then that’s us out of it. It’s one game at a time.”

Courtesy: Minnesota United FC