Minnesota United’s center backs continue to cost the club points in the pursuit of a MLS Cup Playoffs position.
Brent Kallman’s turnover in midfield led to a Portland Timbers corner kick and Dairon Asprilla beat Michael Boxall to the ensuing header for a goal in a 1-0 win over Minnesota on Saturday night at Providence Park.
MNUFC gave up six goals in the two full games after Bakaye Dibassy was lost to a season-ending leg injury and manager Adrian Heath drastically altered the formation to a 3-5-2 to stem the slide. Kemar Lawrence joined Boxall and Kallman on the back line.
The Loons continue to slide in the Western Conference standings, with the Timbers the latest team to pass Minnesota.
Portland (11-8-12, 45 points) are on a season-best four-game winning streak, while Minnesota (13-12-5, 44 points) have lost three straight games. Also, third-place Dallas gained three points with a 2-1 win over first-place LAFC and fourth-place Nashville (46) had a 1-1 draw with L.A. Galaxy.
Minnesota had a 13-4 lead in shots in the first half, but didn’t have a goal to show for it and it came back to haunt. The Loons had 2.4 expected goals on five shots on target Saturday; Portland made the most of its one shot on target.
Mender Garcia led with four shots, two on target, in the first half. He and Luis Amarilla had consecutive chances in the 10th minute, but goalie Aljaz Ivacic saved Garcia’s shot and defender Claudio Bravo denied the Amarilla.
In the 83rd minute, Garcia’s cross went to Amarilla in front of goal, but his shot went over the crossbar.
Garcia and Amarilla were up top, with a five-man midfield of DJ Taylor and Alan Benitez as wingbacks outside Robin Lod, Wil Trapp and Kervin Arriaga. The changes came as three key Loons were absent: Emanuel Reynoso (ankle), Bongi Hlangwane (knee) and Franco Fragapane (suspension).
The Loons will have a tight turnaround with LAFC coming to St. Paulon Tuesday, but Heath didn’t make a substitution until the 90th minute.