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Loons pull out 2-1 comeback win over Houston Dynamo

Minnesota United has built itself into a good team on the rise through 26 games this season.

MLS: Houston Dynamo FC at Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United defender Michael Boxall (15) and Houston Dynamo midfielder Fafa Picault (10) make a play in the second half at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Aug. 27, 2022.
Matt Blewett / USA TODAY Sports
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Minnesota United has built itself into a good team on the rise through 26 games this season, but one element that goes into being great is scratching out wins when not playing your best.

“That’s what teams that ultimately do the things they want to do in the playoffs have to have in their DNA,” Loons captain Wil Trapp said. “It’s something that — we were tested (Saturday) and we came though that test. Obviously we don’t want to be digging ourselves a hole, but sometimes it’s a good wake-up call in a way to see what our mettle is.”

The Loons showed that characteristic, overcoming a 1-0 halftime deficit in a 2-1 victory over 13th-place Houston Dynamo on Saturday afternoon at Allianz Field.

Coming off a thrilling win over a surging Austin FC last weekend and with matches against two more MLS Cup Playoffs contenders next week, the Loons guarded against Saturday being a trap game. The clamps were closing in: Minnesota didn’t have a shot on goal for the first hour and trailed the struggling Dynamo through nearly 80 minutes.

With Trapp substituting in and Robin Lod moving up into the attack, the Loons were better after the break. An Emanuel Reynoso free kick from outside the 18-yard box was deflected by Fifa Picault for an own goal in the 79th minute and MNUFC’s Paraguayan pair combined for the game-winner in the 84th minute: Alan Benitez’s long run and cross into the box was connected on by fellow countryman Luis Amarilla.

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MLS: Houston Dynamo FC at Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United defender Alan Benitez (2) throws the ball in against the Houston Dynamo at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Aug. 27, 2022.
Matt Blewett / USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota (13-9-5) left the comeback until late but took all three points over Houston (7-15-5), and the Loons extended its stretch of at least two goals scored to seven straight games.

The Loons lost mainstay left center back Bakaye Dibassy to a muscle injury in the fourth minute and he was replaced Brent Kallman. Kallman and fellow right-sided center back Michael Boxall were among the culprits in Houston taking a 1-0 lead just before halftime. Corey Baird was somehow left alone at the far post and chipped in a goal in the first minute of first-half stoppage time.

“This is their season and they gave everything in that first half,” said Trapp. “I don’t think we were initially prepared for that and thought it would just come. And it didn’t come. They score a good goal and I think it woke us up going into halftime.”

With games at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday and home against Dallas next Saturday, manager Adrian Heath had a “good long chat” Friday morning with players about not getting complacent against a team at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Boxall said instead of starting flat he felt like they had too much energy and trying to go forward with every touch and trying to score with two or three passes. “The first half was sloppy not for the want of trying, but because were were trying to do too much,” he said.

Heath recalled Friday how the Loons played “really well” in a 3-1 at Vancouver on July 8 but struggled in a 1-1 draw against a depleted roster of down-and-out Sporting Kansas City.

“(We) came back and played like (expletive) against Kansas,” Heath said. “And at halftime it takes me nearly having a heart attack to get a response.”

While the Loons trailed at the half Saturday, Heath said his heart rate didn’t spike. He felt the 1-0 hole wasn’t about his team’s lack of effort or energy, but its execution. He told staff members that he felt they would still be able to get a result — going 8-1-2 in their previous 11 games helps fosters that belief.

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“This last stretch that we’ve been on, we’ve stepped up in most ways,” Boxall said. “Earlier in the season, we would play for 45 minutes and kind of collapse and drop points and concede goals. Turn 3-nil games into 3-2, so now we’ve stepped it up and are playing a lot more together for 90 minutes. This is another facet of mentality.”

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