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Loons clinch MLS Cup Playoffs spot with 2-0 win over Vancouver

Minnesota locked in the sixth seed and will travel to No. 3 FC Dallas for a first-round match next week.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United midfielder Franco Fragapane, left, is congratulated by forward Luis Amarilla after scoring Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Allianz Field in St. Paul.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota United’s winless form in the five weeks meant they had no margin for error in their Decision Day finale on Sunday at Allianz Field.

The Loons came out flying and left little doubt in a 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps to seal a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Minnesota locked in the sixth seed and will travel to No. 3 FC Dallas for a first-round match next week.

MNUFC took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute, with Emanuel Reynoso’s gritty press and poke to Franco Fragapane, which started a counter attack. The Argentine took it himself, slotting a right-footed shot past Thomas Hasal.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United defender Michael Boxall (15) and Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White (24) jump for the ball Sunday in St. Paul. Minnesota won 2-0.
Matt Krohn / USA Today Sports

After a six-game winless skid since late August, Loons manager Adrian Heath said on The CW at halftime that the team “looked more like our normal selves.”

Jonathan Gonazalez scored his first MLS goal at a massive moment, when he finished a cross from Joseph Rosales in 2-0 in the 77th minute.

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At the half, Minnesota moved from seventh to fifth in the Western Conference, with Nashville and Portland having dropped points through their respective opening 45 minutes.

Midfielder Robin Lod returned from a 2 1/2 game absence due to a calf injury; the Finn came back into central midfield with Wil Trapp, with Kervin Arriaga suspended for yellow-card accumulation.

Minnesota captain Wil Trapp spoke about the importance of the first goal given how Vancouver needed a win to knock MNUFC out of the Western Conference field. Minnesota improved to 12-4-4 this season when scoring the first goal.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair (97) makes a save against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in St. Paul.
Matt Krohn / USA Today Sports

With a one-goal lead and needing only a draw, Minnesota changed shape from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 with Gonzalaez coming in and Mender Garcia subbing out. Lod left in the 74th as Joseph Rosales entered into midfield.

The subs created the insurance goal.

Coming into the season, Minnesota was one of seven clubs league-wide to make the playoffs in the last three seasons. That number shrunk this season, with the New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders knocked out before Decision Day.

MORE MINNESOTA LOONS COVERAGE:
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Valentin made 53 appearances for the Houston Dynamo in the past three seasons.
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The Loons acquired Rosales on an 18-month loan in August 2021, liked what they saw across 30 MLS matches.
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Magee will vacate his role in the Loons’ front office in scouting and recruitment, which saw him routinely travel abroad in search of MLS talent.
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The Loons’ kit men are responsible for setting up the team’s oval-shaped locker room at Allianz Field, with everything players need to perform — from emergency headgear down to their socked toes.
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Fragapane is on a team-friendly guaranteed compensation of $257,000, per MLSPA, and has been one of the most productive Loons over his two seasons.
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MNUFC went into Saturday’s match in California with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help. That assistance came with Real Salt Lake’s draw with L.A. Galaxy late Saturday night, but Minnesota didn’t do its part of the equation.
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Without him, the Loons are clinging to one of the final playoff spots with two games remaining.
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With Minnesota’s playoff positioning slipping in three straight scoreless losses, a goal and a point will be precious. But they lost points from a winning position at home.
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After a slow start, the Loons ascended to be one of the league’s best through late August, netting 26 out of the next 33 points during that stretch.
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Reynoso, who has a team-high 10 goals, tweaked his right ankle before halftime of last Saturday’s 3-0 loss to FC Dallas.

That number is now down to four league-wide, with Minnesota the only Western Conference team.

Briefly

Loons supporters unveiled a tifo for the club’s TV broadcasters Kyndra de St. Aubin and Callum Williams before Sunday’s game. That pair have been mainstays in the commentary booth since the move to MLS in 2017. With the league’s broadcast rights going to Apple TV in 2023, clubs will not have dedicated broadcasters going forward. …. Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan took the bullhorn and spoke to United supporters during halftime of Sunday’s game. It was part of the Dark Clouds’s nearly $9,000 fundraiser for the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition. … United announced attendance was 19,941, which is two more than the previous record 19,939 for the 2019 MLS Cup Playoff game.

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA LOONS
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