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Loons score early, hang on for 2-1 home victory over Sporting Kansas City

Minnesota United scored in Saturday's second minute and then held off Sporting Kansas City 2-1 at Allianz Field to win for the second time in five home games this season.

Six days after a 3-0 victory at formidable Charlotte, the Loons rode that second-minute goal from defender Michael Boxall and blossoming Tani Oluwaseyi's controversial 25th-minute score the rest of the night.

Barely.

Despite the three points earned, it wasn't exactly the response to such a fast, early start that new coach Eric Ramsay seeks.

"We want to be the dominant team," Ramsay said. "We don't want to feel like we're on the back foot for long periods, which was the case today. When you score as early as we scored, it's difficult to be the front-foot team. When we're up 2-0 like we were, it almost feels like we sink and we get in a protect-the-lead mode. That's not the way we want to play."

SKC star striker Alan Pulido got one back with a 38th minute goal, but that was the last of all three goals scored all night even though the visitors increased the pressure and possession as the game progressed.

A season ago, the Loons (5-2-2) struggled to protect leads or draws late in games. That's something Sporting K.C. (2-3-5) struggled to do so far this season, particularly at home.

Protecting late in games has been a Loons' strength this season and on Saturday they got started fast building a lead to protect.

Ramsay praised his team for doing a better job protecting that lead after halftime than it did before on a night when he started strikers Oluwaseyi and Teemu Pukki together. It was a tactic that created more space for the Loons offense to work.

Both players were subbed out by early second half, but Ramsay said that was due to a formation and system change at halftime and not made on either player's performance.

Loons left back Joseph Rosales and midfielder Robin Lod assisted on both goals and Pukki could have earned one with a fake move that created Oluwaseyi's eventual winning goal.

Boxall scored his seventh career MLS goal – his first since last season's finale at Sporting Kansas City – before another full capacity crowd could settle in.

It came just into the second minute on a corner-kick set piece that he redirected Lod's flicked-on header with a stretched right-foot touch at the back post and just across the goal line.

BOXSCORE: Loons 2, Sporting K.C. 1

"If it's going to get flicked on, it's going to more or less end up on that back post," Boxall said. "Just make that run and put the big size 12 in the way. Pretty simple finish from a foot or two out."

He attempted a running slide toward a spectator stand, but his knees stopped his momentum..

"Apparently, my knees have more grip than some people's football boots," Boxall said. "That didn't quite go as planned. You can tell I don't score very often."

Oluwaseyi scored his fourth goal already this season – his third in April alone – with a 25th minute goal created by Rosales again with a left-footed cross through the 6-yard box that left Oluwaseyi with a tap-in near the far post for a 2-0 lead.

"For me, it was harder to miss than to score there," Oluwaseyi said. "I just did my part putting it in the back of my net."

Sporting KC players immediately raised their hands, calling for an offside violation. KC coach Peter Vermes brought a tablet that appeared to show Oluwaseyi offsides to his post-game video conference in protest.

"I don't know which way was right or which way was wrong," Ramsay said. "I'm sure over the course of the season you'll get an even balance of some that go for you and some that don't. So we were fortunate today."

Pulido drew his team within 2-1 in the 38th minute. He did so with a one-touch run from the top of the 18-yard box that converted SKC captain Daniel Salloi's cross into a bouncing shot that eluded Loons keeper Dayne St. Clair. It was Pulido's third goal this season.

The Loons played without starting midfielder Hassani Dotson, who has what Ramsay calls a hamstring "grumble." They were also without attacker Sang-Bin Jeong, who just had gotten back from playing for Korea in the U-23 Asian Games Olympic qualifying tournament. He scored a goal in his team's elimination game.

Ramsay said Dotson was a "little further behind" where they hoped he'd be and added Sang-Bin was "understandably" not ready mentally and physically to play after traveling from Qatar after playing Thursday.

Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso remains away from the team in an unexcused absence and the club officially calls his status as out but "Not Due to Injury."

Centerback Micky Tapias returned from a knee injury, subbing into the game for Oluwaseyi in the 66th minute.