One day after its coach vowed his team is better than it has been, Minnesota United scored three first-half goals and defeated LA Galaxy 3-2 on Wednesday night at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Loons star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso scored two of those on a night they scored three goals in a game for the first time since a 3-0 victory over Chicago Fire on April 23 – and did it in the first half alone.
They did so while playing the final 65-plus minutes up a man after Galaxy's Kevin Cabral went off with a red card that left his coach Greg Vanney livid.
They did so after two starters – midfielder Kervin Arriaga and striker Luis Amarilla – left the game injured before halftime. The Loons held on in the second half, four days after they allowed two goals very late in a 2-1 loss at Miami.
Loons captain Wil Trapp called the three points won – after just four points in their previous eight games – "important for our group."
"We just needed to find a way to win a game," Trapp said. "Even if it's ugly, if it's chaotic a bit. To see it get over the line was important."
The Loons also did so on a day they transferred designated player and club's highest-paid player Adrien Hunou back to France's first division and Loons chief soccer officer Manny Lagos helped out in the TV broadcast booth with Kyndra de St. Aubin after play-by-play announcer Callum Williams was a late scratch because of medical issues.
The Loons were a goal and a man up after Cabral tried to leap over goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair after St. Clair won the pursuit for a ball and Cabral clipped St. Clair in the head with his foot as he jumped over him.
"He contacted my head and one of the points of emphasis, the league takes concussions very seriously so I think that's why the red was given," St. Clair said. "No matter the amount of contact, any foot to the head, I think the league is going to give a red for that."
The victory was their first on a three-game road trip that ended Wednesday in Los Angeles and it came after the Loons allowed goals in the 87th and 90th minutes Saturday.
"Sometimes you get things in games maybe, sometimes you don't," Loons coach Adrian Heath said.
Heath's team arrived Wednesday 5-8-3 and 12th in the Western Conference. The day before, Heath said about his team, "There's not an awful lot wrong. This is not a bad team. This is a team that can compete with anybody."
On Wednesday, the Loons beat the sixth-place Galaxy after the two teams played to a draw at Allianz Field in May. This time they earned three points after getting four points in their previous eight games.
"We know we're a good team," St. Clair said. "The results haven't gone our way. We just need to dig a little deeper because we've in position to win these games and we've let some slip away."
The Loons built that 3-0 lead on three gorgeous goals, starting with Reynoso's curling, left-footed strike from 24 yards out that went just inside the back post in the ninth minute.
After Cabral drew that red card, Franco Fragapane scored his first goal this season with a left-foot strike of his own, a rising one-touch shot just at the 6-yard box from left back Kemar Lawrence's crossing pass in the 36th minute.
Reynoso earned the brace and that 3-0 lead after teammate Bongokuhle Hlongwane's unselfish pass set up another goal inside the 6-yard box with that left foot in the 43rd minute.
"Those were all really, really good goals," said Heath said, who added Reynoso's two goals "might be a lesson" for him to shoot more.
Galaxy's Marco Delgado scored on a penalty kick in the 60th minute after Trapp committed a foul inside the 6-yard box.
"Raise my hand, it's a bad penalty to give away," Trapp said. "It really sets a poor tone for our guys in the second half. But ultimately, the three points we'll take them and move on."
Dejan Joveljic's 93rd-minute goal in stoppage time brought the Galaxy within 3-2, but no closer.
Afterward, Heath called his team "a little fragile at the moment" even after they held on in a contentious finish when the Galaxy pushed forth aggressively despite playing a man short.
"Every mistake we make we feel it's going to cost us," Heath said, "and we made plenty of bad decisions in the second half. Our choice of pass – when to play short, when to play long – probably was as bad as it could have been."
Trapp returned to the starting 11 in his midfield spot alongside Arriaga after he missed Saturday's game at Inter Miami because of yellow-card accumulation. That pairing lasted fewer than two minutes into the game before Arriaga went down in pain with an injured ankle and was taken off on a stretcher.
Heath called it "very, very swollen," but "not as bad as we first feared." Heath added: "I had visions of his Achilles, season ending, which is the last thing we can afford to do. But he's not too bad."
That brought young Joseph Rosales into the game as an early substitute after he was kicked in his ankle in Miami. He received two yellows cards in second-half stoppage time from an altercation with L.A.'s Douglas Costa, which will suspend him for Saturday's home game against Real Salt Lake.
Heath called Rosales' actions "stupidity personified. He gets an opportunity with the team and then goes and gets himself sent off."
The Loons didn't see former teammate Chase Gasper on the field. Acquired by the Galaxy in a May trade, Gasper was listed as out because of a thigh injury.
By transferring Hunou, the Loons dealt their highest-paid but little-used player this season. His nearly $2.7 million guaranteed compensation this season is more than double Reynoso's $1.1 million.
They also opened one of their three designated-player spots as well as an international roster spot before MLS secondary transfer window starts next week, on July 7.
"I spoke to him before he left," Heath said. "It's probably not the way he thought it was going to be, not the way I thought it was going to be or the way the club thought it was going to be. It opens up a spot for us now. Hopefully we can add a couple more pieces to what we've got because I might be the lone voice at this moment of time, but this team is very, very close to being very, very good."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.