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Minnesota United hangs on to defeat Portland Timbers 3-2

September 23, 2018

Just before halftime, Minnesota United lashed a corner kick into the box only for it fall at the feet of center back Michael Boxall.

Usually on set pieces, defenders use their height to head the ball toward goal. But Boxall smacked the ball left-footed with authority to bring the Loons lead to 3-0. He then commenced an exuberant celebration, complete with jumping, fist-bumping, rocketing the ball he had just scored with into the supporters section before pointing to the suites, taking a knee, pounding his heart with his hand and blowing a kiss.

Just two days ago, Boxall announced his engagement to his girlfriend, Libby Matthews, with whom he has a 20-month-old daughter, Maxwell. Maxwell walked him to the locker room pregame Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium before the Loons beat the Timbers 3-2 in front of an announced crowd of 24,525.

The Loons, whose playoff chances dwindle, improve to 10-16-3 for ninth in the Western conference while Portland fell to 13-9-8 but maintained fourth place.

If only Romario Ibarra’s celebration had gone as enthusiastically.

The winger scored first in the 18th minute thanks to a nice set-up from playmaker Darwin Quintero. Quintero beat a defender and Portland’s goalkeeper off his line before passing an easy tap-in to Ibarra. Quintero set the winger up again in the 36th minute, lobbing a long pass to Ibarra for him to finish. But it was as Ibarra was running to celebrate that score that he pulled up short, reaching for his right thigh with a presumed hamstring injury. His teammates, who were running to congratulate him, turned their dog pile into more of a concerned huddle.

Boxall’s goal just before halftime picked the Loons’ spirits up again. But apparently, Portland coach Gio Savarese’s halftime pep talk did wonders. Per Portland’s broadcast, the coach used an expletive during a live interview, calling his team “terrible.”

Portland defender Alvas Powell salvaged one goal for his team in the 55th minute after a corner kicked bounced to him at the top of the box where he unleashed a rocket of a distance shot past United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

And with 10 minutes to play, midfielder Sebastian Blanco held his run in the box, leaving himself completely unmarked to score a Jorge Villafana slice-back pass.

United’s situation only worsened from there, as holding midfielder Fernando Bob earned a straight red card with a minute left in regulation for putting his elbow in the face of Diego Valeri while prepping for a header. That means the Loons will be without both its defensive midfielders against New York City FC at 7 p.m. next Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, as Maximiano will be suspended for yellow card accumulation.

The Loons, though, managed to hold on for six minutes of stoppage time to win their first game since July.

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