Minnesota United expected an Argentinian forward to provide opponents with doses of danger in free kicks this season.
It was supposed to be Emanuel Reynoso, but with the MLS All-Star suspended by MLS since February, Franco Fragapane has slipped into that role until now.
Fragapane’s terrific free kick was headed in by Micky Tapias for the winning goal in a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
Fragapane also provided an excellent corner kick that led to Tapias’ header and Bongi Hlongwane’s late goal in the 1-1 draw with New York Red Bulls last week.
“He’s got a good delivery,” manager Adrian Heath said after the game. “It doesn’t matter who it is, if you can consistently put the ball in the right place then you cause problems for teams. … I think that’s something we talked about in the preseason, being better on the quiet foot, both pros and cons. We’ve worked harder on them and put people under more pressure to make sure they’re in the right places and doing the right things. So far it’s been OK.”
Tapias, who is just 5ft 10, showed a knack for winning headers in the box, something the club has lacked for years, and the new Mexican centre-back scored his first goal as a United player.
With Fragapane and Tapis filling in, Minnesota (2-0-1, 7 points) snapped a five-game losing streak in Colorado and improved to 1-5-1 in suburban Denver since joining MLS in 2017.
The Rapids (0-3-1, 1 point) snapped a 319-minute scoreless drought in four games this season, capitalizing on MNUFC’s second straight slow start into a second half. After allowing New York to equalize just after halftime last Saturday, Colorado’s Cole Bassett beat the right side of the Loons defense and slotted a goal inside the far post in the 49th minute.
Minnesota tied it five minutes later. A Hassani Dotson cross hit the arm of Danny Wilson to give the Loons a penalty kick. From the spot, Luis Amarilla went to his right and goalkeeper Will Yarbrough to his left as Amarilla scored his first goal of 2023.
Both teams almost took the lead in the 67th minute. From the spot-kick, Wilson’s header went off the crossbar. Immediately afterward, Minnesota had a man advantage with Fragpane, Amarilla and Hlongwane, but Amarilla’s indecisiveness on the ball in part led to Hlongwane being offside when he scored a goal.
The possible connection between Fragapane and Tapias would cover the lost game.
With seven players due next week for the national team, manager Adrian Heath said Tuesday he will rest some players who remain for the home game against Vancouver next Saturday. That’s why Joseph Rosales started on the left wing while regular starter Fragapane came off the bench in the 54th minute.
The Loons’ first MLS point came in a 2-2 draw at Colorado on March 18, 2017; then the club lost five consecutive matches until exactly seven years later.
“That was a long time ago,” said DJ Taylor. “Obviously I’ve seen people talking about it on social media and stuff like that. It’s massive for the club, I just want us to keep setting more benchmarks and I think we will as a team this year.”
MNUFC will pay Wolverhampton a transfer fee of around $2.5 million to acquire Jeong Sang-bin on a permanent transfer, a source told the Pioneer Press. Jeong had a 4½ year contract with Wolves in the English Premier League. The Loons are planning a press conference for their new 20-year-old South Korean striker at Allianz Field on Wednesday. … Jeong will join MNUFC in one of three Under-22 Initiative slots. Centre-back Mikael Marques, another U22 signing, returned to first-team training last week after picking up an ankle injury in pre-season. … Kemar Lawrence will join the Jamaican national team next week. He will be the seventh player to leave the club for the FIFA international window. List: Dayne St. Clair, Robin Lod, Michael Boxall, Kervin Arriaga, Hlongwane, Rosales, and Lawrence. … Heath was unhappy with forward Mender Garcia’s first half, so he brought on Amarilla at halftime. “I told (Garcia), down the road, we need more,” Heath said. … Dotson and Taylor, both returning from injuries, made their first starts of the season.