ST. PAUL — Minnesota played Los Angeles in the final home game of the 2018 season. It meant next to nothing.
The Loons faced the Galaxy in the club’s final game at TCF Bank Stadium last October. It was an ambivalent farewell to a rented house and pushed to break Minnesota’s all-time record crowd for a soccer game and came away with a squishy total.
Sunday night, Sept. 29, was different at Allianz Field.
After clinching an MLS Cup playoff spot in a dramatic 2-1 win over Kansas City on Wednesday, United moved into second place and had a chance to clinch a home playoff game against first-place Los Angeles FC. They traded second-half goals and finished in a 1-1 draw before a sellout crowd of 19,706.
Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake, the remaining contender to usurp Minnesota, beat Houston Dynamo 2-1 to stay in contention to edge the Loons for a first-round home game on Oct. 19-20.
MLS MVP candidate Carlos Vela made his presence felt when the LAFC attacker used his brilliant left foot to chip goalkeeper Vito Mannone for a goal in the 70th minute.
Five minutes later, Michael Boxall headed in the equalizer when he jumped to connect with a perfect feed from Jan Gregus, who provided his team-best 12th assist of the season.
Minnesota handed LAFC its only home loss of the season, 2-0, on Sept. 1. Mason Toye scored both goals, but Heath subbed him out at halftime Sunday.
In came Angelo Rodriguez, who had been benched for three games, and the big Colombian target man brought effort to the beginning of his shift. He was denied by LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega in the 46th minute and then in the 85th. He also had chances in the 56 and sent a good header to Darwin Quintero, who won it but couldn’t beat Sisniega.
Rodriguez hasn’t scored since June 29, but might have staked a claim to be a part of coach Adrian Heath’s group in the playoffs — wherever their first game is played.