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Hlongwane leads way as Loons edge Dynamo

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Houston Dynamo FC
Minnesota United FC forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane celebrates after a goal on Saturday during the second half against the Houston Dynamo FC at PNC Stadium in Houston.
Troy Taormina / USA Today Sports
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HOUSTON — Bongokuhle Hlongwane had a goal and an assist Saturday night as Minnesota United FC grabbed a 2-1 victory over the host Houston Dynamo.

Hlongwane dished out his assist to Franco Fragapane for a goal during stoppage time in the first half, and then the 22-year-old South African forward netted the first goal of his Major League Soccer career in the 72nd minute.

The Loons (10-8-4, 34 points) ran their unbeaten streak to six games. Houston (7-11-4, 25 points) has just one win in its last six games.

MORE MINNESOTA LOONS COVERAGE:
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The Loons’ kit men are responsible for setting up the team’s oval-shaped locker room at Allianz Field, with everything players need to perform — from emergency headgear down to their socked toes.
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Fragapane is on a team-friendly guaranteed compensation of $257,000, per MLSPA, and has been one of the most productive Loons over his two seasons.
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MNUFC went into Saturday’s match in California with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help. That assistance came with Real Salt Lake’s draw with L.A. Galaxy late Saturday night, but Minnesota didn’t do its part of the equation.
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Without him, the Loons are clinging to one of the final playoff spots with two games remaining.
Judges will include National Loon Center staff and prizes will be awarded to the winners of the two age groups.
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With Minnesota’s playoff positioning slipping in three straight scoreless losses, a goal and a point will be precious. But they lost points from a winning position at home.
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After a slow start, the Loons ascended to be one of the league’s best through late August, netting 26 out of the next 33 points during that stretch.
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Reynoso, who has a team-high 10 goals, tweaked his right ankle before halftime of last Saturday’s 3-0 loss to FC Dallas.
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Third-place Minnesota (13-9-5) travels to sixth-place Real Salt Lake (10-8-9) for an 8:30 p.m. CT kickoff Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
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Matt Navratil, a 26-year-old from Burnsville, Minnesota, is a diehard Loons fan and a season-ticket holder who travels with his parents, Scott and Chris, to a few road games each season.

To create the first goal of the day, Hlongwane carried the ball from the opposite side of the pitch and into the final third, outrunning three Houston defenders. Just before one stepped in front of his dribble, Hlongwane threaded a pass into the box, where Fragapane ran onto it, then dodged the diving goalkeeper and easily slotted a shot into an empty net.

It was the third goal of the season for Fragapane.

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Hlongwane then showed off his moves inside in the penalty area in the second half. After getting a pass near the top of the box, he danced around one defender, then created a little extra space with his forearm before blasting a low, left-footed shot inside the far post.

It was the Hlongwane's 11th start of the season, and his fifth straight. He has appeared in 22 matches for the Loons since the club signed him to a three-year deal prior to the start of this season. He had previously only played in the South African Premier Division.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Houston Dynamo FC
Minnesota United FC defender Michael Boxall and Houston Dynamo FC midfielder Fafa Picault battle for the ball on Saturday during the second half at PNC Stadium in Houston.
Troy Taormina / USA Today Sports

The Dynamo staved off the Loons' clean sheet lean sheet in the 85th minute. From outside the box, Fafa Picault unleashed a right-footed shot that bounced past Minnesota keeper Dayne St. Clair before nestling against the back of the net.

Houston lost despite controlling 72.6 percent of possession and firing off 22 shots; only four of them landed on-target. St. Clair came up with three saves.

The game featured 12 fouls and two yellow cards.

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