Penalties Hero Tyler Miller Leads Pragmatic Minnesota United Over Crew

Tyler Miller penalties

ORLANDO, Fla. – Gyasi Zardes and Columbus Crew SC met Tyler Miller and Minnesota United FC in the MLS is Back Round of 16. Outside of one other matchup, this was the premier game of the knockout round. It was close to say the least.

Penalties Hero Tyler Miller Leads Minnesota Over Crew

The Loons were the slightly better team in the first half, deservedly taking the lead. Columbus had more of the ball and looked to attack down their right flank. Minnesota were comfortable attacking on the counter and focusing on set pieces.

Robin Lod opened the scoring on a corner in the 18th minute. The initial shot was cleared but it fell to Lod who scored on the first time volley. Goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell got a touch on the ball but it deflected into the top of the net. Jose Aja headed the ball to Lod in the sequence.

The two sides traded chances after that. The Crew’s best chance later in the half came 38 minutes in. Darlington Nagbe intercepted Ethan Finlay in the middle of the box. He found Luis Diaz who ran onto goal and shot, but the ball hit the outside netting.

Minnesota went even more pragmatic in the second half. It was just a matter of if and when Columbus could unlock the United defense. Gyasi Zardes made that happen in the 78th minute, earning a penalty from Aja. Zardes took the PK. Tyler Miller made the save with his left hand, diving to his right, but the rebound gave Zardes a tap in.

Columbus continued to dominate possession in the final 10 minutes plus stoppage time but the match ended 1-1 and went to penalties.

The first five takers all converted before Chris Cadden was denied by Tyler Miller. Miller dove to his left and made the save. Cadden did not strike the penalty with much pace and also placed it too close to the center of the goal. Three kicks later, in the top of the fifth round, Chase Gasper scored and it was over.

Three Takeaways:

Winning soccer: It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be entertaining. The most important thing for any team left in MLS is Back is winning and advancing. Adrian Heath’s Minnesota did that. They were pragmatic and conservative and short of giving up a PK, it worked.

Possession, no urgency: This was the first game of the tournament that Columbus faced adversity. They gave up the first goal. They were the worse side in the first half. Prior to final half hour, they lacked urgency. If this is a blueprint for how teams will play them going forward, that needs to be addressed.

Tyler Miller: Man of the Match for me. Saves a penalty in regular time. A better redirect on the rebound and maybe his team wins 1-0. Keepers earn their paycheck in penalties. Miller made a save and found a way to get his team the result.

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