Loons narrowly avoid elimination in U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 drama plus the 2 most recent MLS games

By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott

After many disappointing results and matches leading up to the Round of 32 Match, the Loons would look to turn the page and set their sights on advancing in the Open Cup further. Kickoff was at 7:30PM which has become a primetime kickoff for most fixtures with MLS and U.S. Soccer Federation scheduling this year.

After an enticing game against Vancouver, the Loons would fall short once again with a 3-2 loss. A first goal from newly signed South Korean striker, Jeong Sang-bin, in Minnesota colors and a first goal of the season for captain Michael Boxall. Vancouver’s goals came from Brian White and Simon Becher.

With coming off the road loss, the Loons would be at home at Allianz Field. Only half the stadium was used plus the supporters section but it was still a decent crowd for a midweek match.

The Loons and Philadelphia Union would play a highly competitive first half with neither side striking first. Good to see the higher intensity and better game flow as Loons have been pretty lackadaisical as of late. The second half would be even more exciting with both teams exchanging chances. The drama would ensue when the 68th minute came and South African Striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane got a diving header and sent the ball through the hands of Philadelphia Union’s André Blake.

In the 73rd minute, Honduran midfielder Joseph Rosales received a fantastic play in which Hlongwane dribbled the defenders and dished it off to Rosales for a slotted shot into the right corner. 2-0 for the Loons!

The excitement wouldn’t last for long when the Union’s Chris Donovan got one back and it was 2-1 Loons in the 78th minute. As the clock neared closer to the 90 minutes, it became clear that Loons fans were becoming nervy. It’s been an unfortunate statistic this season that in the closing of the 90 minutes the Loons can’t hold on. Kai Wagner, the substitute defender, would smash it home in the 90+4th minute to get the game at 2-2 and send it to overtime.

Disappointing how the Loons blew the lead being up 2-0. But in the first half of extra time, Hlongwane would rejuvenate the Loons with another goal, thus being in the 103rd minute. Loons and Philly would go at it further with both sides pushing themselves and fighting to stay alive.

Disaster struck again for the Loons when in the 120th minute, and once again near the end of the match, Kai Wagner would bag his second and end Loons celebrations for the moment. It would send it to penalties!

The Loons thankfully won the first kick and got it down on the side of the supporters section for the penalty shootout. Franco Fragapane would get the first kick for the Loons and Dániel Gazdag equalizing with his kick. Second round, Will Trapp and Jack Elliot would get their second kick as well. In the third set, Kervin Arriaga and Matthew Real would miss their shots. The fourth set, Rosales and Torres would get theirs. The fifth set, Dunbar and Carranza would get theirs! Heavy drama as it would still be tied and now it would be sent to sudden death penalty shots.

Kallman and Rafanello would get theirs for the sixth round. Boxall and Lowe would also get theirs for the seventh round. In the eighth round, Tapias would get his shot for the Loons and back up goalkeeper Clint Irwin who got the start to give rest to the main goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair would deny the man who saved Philly before; Kai Wagner would be ultimately denied on the incredible penalty save made by Irwin and Loons would survive another day and get the only win of the season at home to sing “Wonderwall”.

They advance to the Round of 16 and will be facing Houston Dynamo in Houston on 5/23 for a 7:30 kickoff with streaming to most likely be through the BR Football YouTube channel.

The Loons would return to regular MLS play by traveling on the road to Sporting KC on Saturday 5/13. With a quick turnaround, the Loons would be lackluster and concede 3 goals to unfortunately lose 3-0.

They most recently played on Wednesday 5/17 back at Allianz. The game started out fast paced with much running. The Loons looked more energized and more collective in their play.

The play of the game would come in the 14th minute, early on when a costly mistake from Houston’s left back, Escobar, passed it back, which went through the Houston team and made it to the Loons, and Bongokuhle Hlongwane tucked it past Houston’s goalkeeper Steve Clark and into the right corner. 1-0 to the Loons!

The rest of the first half would have its chances and many were almost point blank on a few attempts. The second half would be quite physical and fast paced as Houston pushed for an equalizer. Thankfully there was no equalizer and the Loons held on despite at least 3 minutes of stoppage time and the ref letting play continue for Houston as they seemed to want to make it more interesting.

Our second home win of the season, but the first win in MLS at home for the season. Loons survive by narrow margins and take all three points to move from 9th into 7th spot with 15 points.

They take on the Portland Timbers on the road this weekend with a 9:30PM kickoff on Apple TV+ which is the streaming service for all things MLS! The Loons will head to Houston to play in the Round of 16 matchup next Tuesday at 7:30PM as well, before they return to Allianz the following Saturday 5/27 to play Real Salt Lake (RSL)!

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