Jun. 27—Under the dark of night, Minnesota United moved into the MLS Cup Playoff seed with a 1-0 win over Portland Timbers just after midnight Sunday at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
Fending off scorching heat in its third game in eight days and playing in one of the toughest environments in the league, the Loons climbed from ninth to fifth in the Western Conference standings, passing the Timbers in the process. The four-spot jump was possible with LAFC losing to Sporting KC 2-1 and Real Salt Lake-Houston setting for a 1-1 draw earlier Saturday.
Not many saw the Loons rise coming, partly because the West Coast game had been moved back an hour to get out of the record-breaking heat. But it’s also been a 180-degreee turn from the club’s 0-4 start. Minnesota (4-4-2) is now on a six-game unbeaten streak and its their first win in five road games.
Portland (4-4-1) lost for the first time at home this season (3-1-1).
The Loons scored the fastest goal to start a game in its MLS history. In the second minute, Emanuel Reynoso had a long dribble before finding Franco Fragapane, who made a smart cut into the box. Fragapane made an unselfish pass to Adrien Hunou for a very easy right-footed finish.
Hunou’s goal surpassed Christian Ramirez in 2018 and Darwin Quintero in 2019; the predecessors each scored in the fifth minute.
The Timbers put Loons under heavy pressure for the final 10 minutes, with center back Bakaye Dibassy raising his arms in frustration over the opposition’s persistent chances.
Manager Adrian Heath makes no changes to the starting XI from Austin FC on Wednesday to Saturday against Portland. He made some late defensive subs, but the Timbers kept coming.
The Loons’ early strike held up to halftime, but just after the break the Timbers came out lively with four shots in the first four minutes, but their inaccuracy kept them off the score sheet.
Hunou nearly had another goal in the 52nd minute, but Steve Clark’s right hand denied the close-range shot. Soon after, Niko Hansen equally close shot was stopped by Clark’s left palm.
Portland’s Claudio Bravo had the best scoring chance of the game, but his long-range shot clanged off the post in the 84th minute.