Minnesota United’s first tie of 2018 came Sunday, and with it coming against Western Conference-leading Kansas City, the result is among the Loons’ best this season.
The Loons conceded another early goal, but Darwin Quintero equalized 11 minutes later and Minnesota’s defense staved off a persistent Sporting K.C. attack to have a 1-1 draw before an announced sellout crowd of 23,117 at TCF Bank Stadium.
Sporting’s start this season put them with three-point lead over the 11 other teams in the West, but the Loons (4-7-1) were able to stem their movement and snap their own two-game losing streak.
United had a collective lull lingering since last Saturday, with a 3-1 loss to San Jose, arguably the club’s worst home defeat in MLS, which looks even worse a week later. The Earthquakes had tied and loss since last Saturday, meaning Minnesota failed to take advantage against a team that’s now 0-6-3 against the rest of the league and 2-0 against them.
But a win over K.C. changes the picture.
Sporting Kansas City had advantages in shots on goal (10-4) and a total shots (24-6), but United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made nine saves to keep the damage minimal.
Things, again, didn’t look good for Minnesota early. Kansas City’s Johnny Russell sent an in-swinging corner kick that was headed into the net by Khiry Shelton, with Loons defender Francisco Calvo being edged off that spot.
United coach Adrian Heath was concerned about the law of averages evening out for Shelton, who hadn’t scored in 837 minutes this season, and they tipped in the eight minute.
The early concession was Minnesota’s sixth goal allowed in the first 15 minutes of games this season. That’s tied for the most allowed in any timeframe this year.
But United earned an equalizer in the 19th minute. Miguel Ibarra’s cross was headed by Darwin Quintero, but K.C. goalkeeper’s Tim Melia stopped the initial shot. Quintero stuck with it and finished the rebound to make it 1-1.
Quintero’s third goal for Minnesota ended Kansas City’s 244-minute shutout streak stretching across four games. That streak nearly ended in the sixth minute when Minnesota had a goal from Christian Ramirez was ruled offsides and an early lead was waved off.
Like on Quintero’s goal, it was set up by a Ibarra cross, and both of those attacks capitalized on United’s gameplan to attack Kansas City in wide areas. The tactic was picked up by Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, who subbed Jimm Medranda out for Seth Sinovic.