After all the opportunities created by both teams, Minnesota United’s 1-0 victory over Houston on Saturday at Allianz Field was decided by defender Romain Metanire’s centering ball that he kicked into the wind, wherever it might take it.
Turns out, that ball sailed just beyond the fingertips of retreating Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis, struck the back post and angled just across the line for a goal in the 20th minute.
“Well, he said he meant it,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said.
That goal stood up as the winner as United stayed undefeated at Allianz Field with a 3-0-3 record. The Loons have given up one goal in their past four home games.
His team undefeated but not always victorious at its sparkly new stadium, Heath repeatedly has called for patience and an even schedule before those who line the Wonderwall and elsewhere draw conclusions about where his team is now and where it is headed.
After starting the season with five consecutive road games, United is 6-4-3 after playing seven games on the road and six at home. It is in fifth place in a Western Conference that will send seven teams to the playoffs come October.
“It looks obviously a bit healthier,” Heath said about where his team is at, “and it’ll quiet one or two people down.”
Saturday, the Loons won a game that Heath said his team would have had no business winning in either of its first two MLS seasons. They scored the game’s only goal and hung on from there, for more than another 70 minutes on a night when they had the depth to bring veterans Ike Opara and Rasmus Schuller off the bench after halftime to lock the victory down.
“We did what we had to do,” defender Michael Boxall said. “I’m the first to admit that wasn’t the prettiest game, but it still feels like a win that we thoroughly deserved.”
You could quibble with the only goal — or rather, whether it was Metanire’s first or second MLS goal.
Metanire has proven himself all season masterful on his centering passes toward teammates after his runs down the right side. He has done so to the tune of five assists, but officially, he hadn’t scored a goal, even though his ball that beat D.C. United last month appeared to go cleanly through teammate Angelo Rodriguez on the run before it hit net. Rodriguez was credited with the goal.
“You better ask him,” Heath said smiling when asked if Saturday’s goal was Metanire’s first or second. “Or you can take it off Angelo. I’m sure that will go down well.”
Metanire received a yellow card in the 90th minute Saturday. It’s his fifth yellow card this year, which means perhaps the team’s most valuable player will be suspended for Wednesday’s game at defending MLS champion Atlanta.
“We prefer to have him, but it is what it is, isn’t it?” Heath said. “At this stage of the season, when you’re a defender, chances are you’ll be in and around those numbers.”
United had Metanire for all 90-plus minutes Saturday and needed his unlikely goal to beat an opponent the Loons could be battling for a playoff spot. Rodriguez, Schuller, Ethan Finlay and Darwin Quintero all had excellent chances, but it was Metanire’s lobbed kick into the wind from the far right side that stood up.
It’s the kind of shot — and deflection — that United’s Vito Mannone called a “nightmare” for goalkeepers.
“We created really good chances and it’s taken a deflection for us to win the game,” Heath said. “But as I said, we’ll take that.”
Loons 1, Houston 0 Wednesday: 6 p.m. at Atlanta (FSN)