Off to its worst start in club history, Minnesota, which held high hopes after reaching the conference finals in 2020, might have saved its season just a month in.
From a stellar cross by Robin Lod, an unmarked Abila's header found the left corner of the net to reward a United side that held 54.4 percent of the possession and a 16-12 overall shot advantage.
Tyler Miller was strong in goal for United, making five saves in his first start of the season while recording the club's first clean sheet of the year.
The loss was the second in three matches for upstart Vancouver, which has been one of the early surprises to the 2021 campaign.
After a strong start to this contest, the Whitecaps found themselves falling back, hoping to leave with a point on a scoreless draw. Instead, they dropped to 0-2-2 all-time at Minnesota.
Facing an early must-win scenario, Minnesota didn't seem to have much jump over the first 30 minutes of the match. In fact, it was the visiting Whitecaps who played the aggressor out of the gate.
Vancouver, though, blew a golden opportunity in the fifth minute when Deiber Caicedo got behind the Minnesota defense, drew Miller out of his box, then centered the ball onto the foot of Cristian Dajome, who missed high on the empty net.
Miller then came up big in the 24th minute with a save of a point-blank header via Lucas Cavallini.
Vancouver's best chance of the second half came in the 88th minute when Jake Nerwinski missed high and wide on an open chance off a set piece.