A game full of opportunities, and a lot of time spent not seizing them, led to Minnesota United's 2-1 victory over Portland on Saturday at Allianz Field.
The Loons (6-5-3) had 27 shots to the Timbers' eight, 12 of those shots in the first half alone, but they fell behind 1-0. It wasn't until the 75th minute that the Loons evened the score. Defender Chase Gasper headed a high cross from Hassani Dotson past Timbers keeper Aljaz Ivacic to even the game at 1-1.
"[Gasper] had a difficult start to the season, but I think he's back to his best," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "You can never fault him for his determination, his effort, his enthusiasm, what he brings every single day to this football club. You build football clubs around people like Chase Gasper."
Midfielder Robin Lod was the hero in the 85th minute. His goal off an impressive pass from Emanuel Reynoso put Minnesota ahead and kept the Loons unbeaten at home against Portland.
"[Reynoso] sees things and can do things that 99 percent of players can't do," Gasper said. "You can't really practice that or write that up. It's just like magic from these guys."
Before the late heroics from Gasper and Lod, the Loons were struggling to finish on their numerous chances to score. After Portland (6-7-1) struck first in the 10th minute when Felipe Mora headed in a cross from Dairon Asprilla, the Loons kept possession for 56% of the match.
Minnesota took four corners in three minutes in the first half, but few came close to scoring. Reynoso booted a corner in the 25th minute, and Gasper headed it to a diving Ivacic in goal. Lod got his foot on the rebound, but Ivacic made an impressive save from the ground to keep the Loons scoreless.
The Loons also had two early opportunities off free kicks taken by Reynoso. The first came in the ninth minute after Diego Chara fouled Reynoso, whose free kick went straight into the wall. The second came three minutes later, when Larrys Mabiala fouled Minnesota's Adrien Hunou. Brent Kallman got his head on the ball but launched it over the crossbar.
"I can think of two free kicks in the first half I thought were right on the money. and we didn't have anybody in the right spot," Heath said. "But we can work on that."
Loons forward Franco Fragapane (thigh) was absent from the lineup, as was defender Michael Boxall (thigh/groin). Heath estimated that Fragapane could miss "a couple of weeks." Niko Hansen started at midfield, and Brent Kallman took Boxall's place on the back line.
Ramon Abila, who missed the match against Seattle because of a late penalty in the previous match, was also left off the 20-man roster, this time because of a team decision.
"We picked the squad that we thought would win us the game," Heath said, "and it did."
When the final notes of "Wonderwall" had died down, Gasper walked a slow victory lap around the pitch. He applauded the gathered fans, and they applauded right back.
"They change the game every home game," he said. "The constant support and love that they give us, that's why you go out and give it your all. The joy of the game is because of them."
After securing back-to-back home wins for the week, Minnesota goes on the road for two matches in quick succession. The Loons face LAFC on Wednesday and Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
"We're headed in the right direction," Heath said. "I still think there's an awful lot more to come from the group."