One week ago, Minnesota United had the lead after just three minutes against the LA Galaxy. Clearly, forward Robin Lod considered three minutes far too long to wait. Lod scored after just 47 seconds, winger Ethan Finlay added a second after 17 minutes, and Minnesota held on against a late onslaught for a 2-0 win against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at Allianz Field.
Lod's goal was the fastest goal in MNUFC history, just ahead of Adrien Hunou's second-minute goal in Portland earlier this season.
The win ensured that the Loons (10-8-7) would finish the weekend in no worse than a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference, and moved them back within one point of the LA Galaxy, who began the weekend in fourth place.
Despite the victory, few in the Loons camp were happy with the performance, not after the Dynamo piled up six second-half shots on target from increasingly dangerous positions, forcing goalkeeper Tyler Miller to put in a top-notch performance to preserve the clean sheet.
"It was kind of a weird night," said winger Ethan Finlay, whose goal was his 50th in MLS play. "There's probably only one guy on the pitch that can say he earned his paycheck this week, and that's Tyler Miller. It's a somber three points, it feels like."
Manager Adrian Heath echoed that disappointment. "I thought we played too slow, I thought we played too negative," he said. "We went back when we could have gone forward. I didn't feel the game was ever won the whole night. Tyler's had to come up with two or three big, big saves for us in the second half to finish the game off. That shouldn't have been the case."
The Dynamo, struggling near the bottom of the standings, have been a favorite opponent for Minnesota. This was United's third win in three attempts against Houston this year, the first time the Loons had beaten the same team three times in a single year.
Said Heath, "I always thought it was going to be a potential banana skin for us, because when you've played them so many times the players might think it's going to be easier than it was."
The last time the teams met, it was the Dynamo that scored in the first minute, but this time it was Lod's turn to open the scoring within 60 seconds. Winger Franco Fragapane played a beautifully weighted through ball to Lod, who was able to chip the Houston keeper from an extremely tight angle on the left side of the goal.
In the 17th minute, it was a defensive mistake that helped Finlay double Minnesota's advantage. Dynamo defender Tim Parker initially stopped a give-and-go between Lod and Finlay in the Houston penalty area, but the ball trickled away from him. Finlay was able to spin, box out Parker, and whack a hopeful left-footed shot that deflected off the defender and looped up, off goalkeeper Michael Nelson's fingertips, then bounced gently across the line.
The ball couldn't have been more than a few inches across the goal line before being cleared by a Houston defender, but referee Allen Chapman awarded the goal, and replay confirmed it.
Fragapane earned his third assist in two games, giving him a team-leading six on the season in just 10 games played.