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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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In late December, reports in Argentina said Reynoso faces the possibility of a trial over an alleged assault of a teenager in Dec. 2021.
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Marques, who holds a Brazilian passport and is listed at 6-foot and 165 pounds, played 2,450 minutes for AFC Eskilstuna in Sweden’s second division in 2022.
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Sources told the Pioneer Press this week Minnesota holds the MLS discovery rights to both Korean forwards.
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The alleged incident occurred in December 2021
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The Loons kick off the new season at FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25.
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The Loons added backup goalkeeper Clint Irwin and fullback Zarek Valetin via free agency last week.
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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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Minnesota has yet to announce its end-of-season roster decisions, but Trapp, the club’s captain, and Miller are expected to be under contract in Minnesota for 2023.
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Loons acquired 20-year-old wide attacking midfielder Cameron Dunbar from Los Angeles Galaxy.

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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