HOUSTON – It would be hard to imagine a more miserable couple of minutes.
With Minnesota United already a goal down, winger Rasmus Schuller limped off with a thigh injury in the 43rd minute. Moments later, United gave up another goal and lost its goalkeeper in the same move, as Bobby Shuttleworth suffered a cut to his head and a possible concussion in a doomed bid to stop Alberth Elis prodding the Houston Dynamo into a 2-0 lead.
A couple of weeks ago, this marriage of misfortune and defensive incompetence would likely have been the cue for a United collapse. Instead, the visitors regrouped at halftime and were revitalized, scoring twice to claim an improbable point that lifted the Loons off the foot of the early Western Conference standings.
Head coach Adrian Heath said after the previous week’s 2-0 loss to FC Dallas that his charges are showing signs of improvement. Saturday’s comeback at BBVA Compass Stadium added weight to his assertion in a clash of two sides becoming notorious for their attacking virtues and defensive vices.
“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb again with poor goals conceded, but there’s a little bit of resolve coming in the group now. Maybe a few weeks ago that would have gone to three, to four, to five, like we had in the beginning of the season,” Heath said. “I think we are starting to actually now look like a decent team.”
They did not for much of the first half, as Mauro Manotas struck in the 14th minute — the sixth time in seven games that United has given up at least one goal in the first 20 minutes. When Elis doubled the lead courtesy of more slack marking, Houston looked on the way to its fourth successive home win.
Christian Ramirez squandered several opportunities but headed in a 47th-minute Kevin Molino corner for his fifth goal of the season. “The guys behind me kept rallying me and telling me I was going to get more chances. I believed that and got on the end of one,” he said.
The momentum shift was confirmed when Johan Venegas finished neatly shortly before the hour mark. After the equalizer, Shuttleworth’s replacement, John Alvbage, had relatively little to do as energy levels sagged on a warm night in Texas.
“We’ve played seven games now, five of them have been on the road and four of them have been to really difficult places. We’ve got three home games to come now and it’s important that we start to build on a little bit of momentum that we’ve had the last two or three weeks,” Heath said. “Are we getting better? Yes. Have we got a long way to go? Definitely.”