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    HomeSportsWhy is Minnesota United surrendering so many late leads?

    Why is Minnesota United surrendering so many late leads?


    In March, Minnesota United surrendered a 98th-minute goal to Vancouver, turning victory into a 1-1 draw on the game’s last kick.

    In April, Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire’s goal in the 88th minute beat the Loons 2-1.

    Now here in May, they allowed a late tying goal not once, but twice in Tuesday’s eventual U.S. Open Cup victory over Philadelphia. Both were scored by Union defender and second-half sub Kai Wagner. His first in stoppage time’s final seconds forced extra time. His last on a free kick bent around the Loons’ defensive wall in extra time’s final seconds forced penalty kicks.

    The Loons prevailed 7-6 to advance to the U.S. Open Cup’s round of 16 at Houston on May 23.

    All three blown leads came in games at Allianz Field.

    Sense a trend here?

    “Poor decisions,” coach Adrian Heath said. “Poor mistakes.”

    The Loons led 2-0 and 3-2, but the Union scored all three of its goals in the 78th minute or later. Coincidentally, Wagner scored twice so late, then was stopped on his team’s eighth and final penalty to end the game.

    The Loons survived even when Wagner scored after entering in the 87th minute, but it took 30 more minutes of extra time and three extra rounds of penalties to do so.

    Heath praised his team’s “resilience,” but nonetheless was concerned giving up the lead again late not just once, but twice.

    “Obviously, we don’t want this to become a constant, that we’re always getting nervous in the last five minutes because that can happen,” Heath said Thursday. “When you stop playing the game and start playing the clock, when you start to retreat and start thinking having everybody behind the ball is a good idea. At times it’s not because sometimes you can have too many men behind the ball and people don’t do their jobs.

    “We got through it the other night, but hopefully it won’t continue.”

    Heath spoke to his team about the matter Thursday morning before they all left Friday for Saturday’s MLS regular-season game at struggling Sporting Kansas City, now 1-7-3.

    “You’ve got to close games out,” Heath said. “It becomes an art in itself, seeing games out.”

    Loons second-half sub Franco Fragapane went for the knockout punch on a counterattack instead of killing time on the ticking clock just before Wagner forced extra time. Philadelphia intercepted Fragapane’s cross aimed for a teammate at the far post and the Union pushed forward.

    That created Wagner’s first tying goal, a left-footed, one-time volley bounced off the grass between defenders Michael Boxall and Zarek Valentine and past keeper Cliff Irwin.

    “Do you want to hear what I thought? Heath asked. “If he makes the right pass, you go, ‘Well done, Fraga, great decision,’ But when you turn it over and it goes the other way, you’re thinking, ‘Why haven’t you run it to the corner and wasted a bit more time?’ “

    Defensive midfielder Wil Trapp’s foul from behind at the end of 120 minutes led to Wagner’s stunning free-kick strike bent from 24 yards away.

    “I’m not sure Wil needs to give the foul away,” Heath said. “The guy’s got his back to the game.”

    Trapp and defenders Boxall, Brent Kallman and Micky Tapias all made their penalty kicks when Irwin stopped two attempts and Union star Andre Blake stopped one.

    Only that last blocked PK on Wagner’s attempt mattered to Heath.

    “I’ve been in Cup runs, I’ve been fortunate to win a Cup along the way,” Heath said, referring to the 1984 F.A. Cup with Everton at Wembley Stadium. “There’s always one or two games where you wonder how the hell did we get out of that, how did that happen? People never remember that. They just remember you won it at the end. It’s win and advance now, so let’s get on with it.”



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