Minneapolis, Minn. (Saturday, August 9th, 2014) – Minnesota United FC (4-1-0, 13pts) and FC Edmonton (1-2-3, 5pts) fought to a dramatic 3-2 result in front of 5,112 fans at National Sports Center Stadium Saturday night. After taking the lead early in the second half, Minnesota was forced to play a man short for 12 minutes due to a red card issued to United keeper Mitch Hildebrandt.
A quick goal by FC Edmonton caught many fans off guard in the first half, as it came against the early run of play. In an attempt to switch the field, United defender Justin Davis played a ball across the pitch to teammate Tiago Calvano. The ball curved too much for the United defender and went straight to FC Edmonton’s Lance Laing. Laing cut inside, beating Calvano and goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt with calm shot to give the visitors the lead in just the 3rd minute of action.
Minnesota finally broke through after several dangerous chances from set pieces failed to beat Eddies keeper John Smits. A corner kick was deflected to the top of the box, straight to United midfielder Jamie Watson. Watson put a shot on goal but an Edmonton defender’s arm denied him and the referee immediately pointed for the penalty spot. League-leading scorer Christian Ramirez stepped up for the Loons to take the penalty in the 15th minute. Ramirez slotted the ball in the bottom right corner past the outstretched arms of Smits to level the match at 1-1.
Minnesota turned the tables on the Eddies with their own early goal in the second half. Justin Davis ran the ball down the left sideline, blasting a low cross inside the keeper’s box. Daniel Mendes was sprinting across the box and tapped the ball in-stride with the outside of his boot past Smits to give Minnesota its first lead of the match.
Mendes doubled his tally 11 minutes later after a goal line stop by Hildebrandt distracted the Eddies’ defense. A confusing exchange in the box forced the Minnesota keeper to pull the ball off the goal line. Edmonton appealed for the goal and United took advantage of the confusion. Miguel Ibarra laid the ball off to Mendes, who curled a shot into the top left corner of the goal and put United up 3-1.
However, the comfortable lead would not last long, as a mistimed tackle changed the flow of the match in the 78th minute. Miscommunication by the United defense gave Eddies striker Frank Jonke a breakaway on goal. Mitch Hildebrandt raced out to top the striker but Jonke touched the ball around the keeper, with Hildebrandt taking out the legs of Jonke. The referee ran in pointing for a penalty and gave Hildebrandt a straight red card.
As Hildebrandt left the field, midfielder Jamie Watson was subbed off to bring in backup keeper Matt VanOekel to try to stop the penalty. Former Minnesota player Neil Hlavaty took the kick for Edmonton, and beat his former teammate and cut Minnesota’s lead in half at 3-2.
United was on its heels for much or the remainder of the match, but a strong defensive effort and determination of the Loons allowed them to hold on for the victory. 5,112 fans were in attendance to watch Minnesota extend its unbeaten streak to nine games, going back to May of this year. Minnesota Head Coach Manny Lagos was pleased with the result.