Loons can’t manage multiple late goals in 2-1 loss to Houston Dynamo

Jordan Adebayo-Smith was in disbelief.

The Minnesota United forward put a header toward the top corner of the net in the final moments of Saturday’s match versus Houston, but Dynamo goalkeeper Steve Clark made himself as big as possible to make a sprawling “starfish” save to end the match at Allianz Field.

“Save of the year,” Adebayo-Smith told the Pioneer Press.

Clark’s five total saves — along with help from crossbar and a post on two other Loons’ attempts — stymied MNUFC from making another late comeback in a 2-1 loss.

The Loons did produce an equalizing goal in the 70th minute with playmaking from Wil Trapp and Robin Lod and a finish from Franco Fragapane, but Houston answered with a great individual play from Sebastian Kowalczyk for the game winner in the 77th.

Fragapane nearly had a brace with a tremendous scissor kick late in stoppage time, moments before Adebayo-Smith’s header, but Clark was the villain on both last-gasp occasions.

A few Loons players fell to the grass in disappointment when the final whistle blew and MNUFC (3-2-2, 11 points) had a nine-match unbeaten streak against Houston (4-2-1, 13 points) snapped.

Tani Oluwaseyi had produced a late equalizer in the 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake last week, but his header in the 80th minute went off the post. Clark also appeared to get a touch on the attempt.

Coming into the game, Houston led the league with 61 percent possession, but Minnesota nearly had 60 percent of the ball Saturday, including long stretches of the second half. Sang Bin Jeong had a close shot bang off the post at the hour mark.

“We didn’t start the game well,” head coach Eric Ramsay said. “It was the same story as I would have summed up last week, where we genuinely look like two different teams first half and second half. … The second half reflects a team that was very dominant and had all the chances to win the game that it really needs.”

United’s only true scoring chance in the first half was a great one. Teemu Pukki’s high press forced a Houston turnover in the 34th minute. Trapp pounced on the giveaway and shot, but defender Ethan Bartlow got just enough of it for a goal-line clearance. A video review then determined the ball didn’t fully cross over the line.

“For me, it’s finishing the play, run all the way through it, instead of thinking it’s going to cross the line,” Trapp said. “It’s a great recovery play from them.”

Four minutes later, Houston’s corner kick went off Loons midfielder Alejandro Bran’s thigh for an own goal and a 1-0 lead.

MNUFC needed to fill two holes on the left side of its defense Saturday, with center back Micky Tapias out with a hamstring injury and Joseph Rosales suspended for a red card in draw with Real Salt Lake last weekend. Rookie center back Hugo Bacharach made his MLS debut and first start, with Devin Padelford bumping out to left back after filling in at left center back the previous two games.

Ramsay was impressed overall with Bacharach’s opening MLS minutes, but Bacharach lost an individual duel that directly led to Kowalczyk scoring the eventual winning goal.


Emanuel Reynoso remains away from MNUFC this weekend, but there is movement toward him potentially returning to Minnesota next week, the Pioneer Press heard Saturday. The All-Star midfielder left the team to travel to Argentina to work on his U.S. green card on March 18. He then missed his immigration meeting in Argentina on March 25 and has stayed in his native country, an unexcused absence with the Loons. … Bran was subbed out at halftime, with Hassani Dotson coming in. Bran replaced Dotson after 45 minutes last weekend in the 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake. … Bacharach started over Victor Eriksson, who had a shaky debut in the 2-0 loss to Philadelphia on March 30. MNUFC is working to build back Eriksson’s confidence after rough opening minutes a few weeks ago. … Saturday’s game fell on the five-year anniversary of the first contest at Allianz Field, a 3-3 draw with New York City … The game ball was delivered by Maurice Hargrow, the former Gophers men’s basketball player from St. Paul. He now works for non-profit TOUCH Outreach.

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