The last time these teams played at Allianz Field just three weeks ago, Minnesota United turned a scoreless game at halftime into a blowout victory over Real Salt Lake.
On Sunday, the Loons left their home-field and its advantage with a single point earned after a second half that included one scoring chance after another but not a single goal scored.
The result kept them winless — 0-2-2 — in their past four games, since they beat FC Dallas at home on Sept. 9.
But the tie and point moved them from Western Conference’s seventh place to sixth, just three points behind Seattle and Portland.
Three weeks ago, a Sunday-night second half provided a bounty of goals after Robin Lod scored twice and Chase Gasper and Jacori Hayes scored once. The tallies came in the game’s 53rd, 62nd, 75th and 90th minutes in what became a 4-0 runaway.
On Sunday, they couldn’t get one to go in, even though newcomers Emanuel Reynoso and Kei Kamara could have scored more than one by themselves.
“You want to say you can score four again, but soccer is funny like that,” Hayes said. “You struggle just to get the one sometimes. The game last time was a bit crazy. It was still tight even into the second half, and then it was an onslaught at the end. So soccer is funny and it can flip just like that.”
Hayes started this Sunday in a 4-3-3 formation that featured him, Hassani Dotson and Jan Gregus — back from a Wednesday suspension — in a holding midfield ahead of attackers Kamara, Reynoso and Lod and ahead of the four-man back line.
Together, the Loons controlled the run of play after halftime and seldom made second-year keeper Dayne St. Clair work. They outshot Real Salt Lake 12-7 on total shots and 6-2 on shots on goal after halftime, after they had been outdone in both categories in the first half.
“I’d settle for a game like that, where we get not many opportunities conceded,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “I thought we did more than enough to win the game. I can think of five really, really good chances we had. If we play like that and create chances, invariably we will win games.”
The Loons possessed the ball 58% of Sunday’s game but couldn’t get just one shot by RSL goalkeeper Andrew Putna.
Reynoso had three prime chances himself, two shots with each foot just outside the 6-yard box and a gorgeous, curving free kick that Putna just managed to tip over the crossbar in the 55th minute. Kamara created Lod’s left-foot strike that just went wide right three minutes later.
Putna stopped Kamara’s short-range shot on a full run 10 minutes after that. Dotson’s long strike went just wide left after that and defender Bakaye Dibassy’s header from within the 6-yard box hit the left post.
“Golden chances,” Heath said. “Normally, you’d score. Normally, we’d score a goal tonight, and I think one would have been enough. It wasn’t to be. The performance was really, really good in the second half. If we play like that here, we will win games.”
Asked if his team’s four-game winless streak feels something like a “skid,” Heath said, “Well, maybe to you, but not to me.”
Minnesota United lost just one of 17 regular-season games at Allianz Field last year and now has won two, lost one and tied one in the first four this season.
Defender Michael Boxall said, “I’ll tell you in about six or seven games” when asked if Sunday’s point earned hurts, or if a point still is a point.
“For us, it does hurt,” he said. “We know how many points we picked up here last year. Very few teams got anything from us here last year, and we expected the same tonight.”