The last time Minnesota United played in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match, the very trophy itself had been on the line. The Loons were finalists three years ago, the last time this tournament was held. They were unsuccessful on that day, losing 2-1 to Atlanta United. Today, however, Minnesota would get off to a successful start in the first step of this season’s journey with a largely comfortable 2-0 win over USL League One’s Forward Madison FC at Breese Stevens Field in Madison.

Minnesota used a rotated squad to start on a cold and rainy Wisconsin evening. Seven of Minnesota’s starting eleven had played in MNUFC2’s 4-0 win over Colorado Rapids 2 on Sunday, including goalscorers Nabi Kibunguchy and Adrien Hunou. Abu Danladi, who scored in Minnesota’s 3-1 win over Colorado on Saturday, completed a hat-trick of games in the week, playing in the MLS matchup, the NEXT Pro game and the cup fixture.

From the beginning of the game, the Loons looked to manage possession and seek openings through a well-coordinated Flamingo defense. Hunou was the focal point of many of the first half’s key moments, looking for through-balls for his teammates to chase and coming the closest of any Loon to scoring with two chances in the 34th and 35th minutes.

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In the first of those opportunities, Hunou was in position to volley a lucky deflection towards goal from inside the six-yard box, but Madison goalkeeper Phil Breno got there in time to block Hunou’s shot away. On the ensuing corner kick, Hunou got clear for a header but was unable to direct it on target. His frustration was obvious at the time, but his reward would come after the halftime break.

Despite a 66%-34% lead in possession at the half and an almost complete stifling of any attempts by Madison to push forward (no pun intended), the game remained scoreless at the break. And as Chicago found out on Tuesday evening, a League One team can be full of surprises.

Minnesota came out of halftime on the attack once more, with a 47th minute shot from Bongokuhle Hlongwane going just wide. The Loons would not be deterred, however, and a few short minutes later the deadlock would be broken, and Hunou would find the goal he had been seeking.

The chance Hunou took was remarkably similar to the header he missed in the 35th minute: a corner kick taken from the near side of the field. This time, however, he made no mistake with his placement, and Minnesota took full control of the game. Joseph Rosales’ delivery was exactly what was needed, and Minnesota’s success on the attacking setpiece was once again what delivered their opening goal, just as Bakaye Dibassy had done on Saturday.

Adrian Heath made no moves to rest on the 1-0 lead as his first three subs featured attacking players. All three of Hassani Dotson, Luis Amarilla and Franco Fragapane featured in the game’s final twenty minutes. Heath’s other subs handed a first-team debut to Aziel Jackson and a season debut to Chase Gasper.

The Loons continued to control possession, and an insurance goal to seal the game away came in the game’s 83rd minute. Brent Kallman, captaining the team on the night and having delivered a confident performance at the heart of Minnesota’s defense, rose to meet another Rosales corner and made no mistake. While there was no breakthrough from open play in tonight’s match, Minnesota’s attacking setpieces took care of business for them.

Madison’s Drew Conner was shown a red card just after Kallman’s goal, and the game wound down with the Loons up one man and two goals. The defense was rarely threatened, having allowed just three total shots, with none on target, and the team allowed just 34% possession in the game. Minnesota goalkeeper Tyler Miller touched the ball just 15 times on the evening, three of them coming on goal kicks.

With the win, Minnesota moves on to the Fourth Round of the Open Cup Round; the draw to determine their opponent will take place on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. CT.

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Minnesota United FC vs. Chicago Fire

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, MN

04.23.22 | MLS Game No. 8

4:00 pm CT (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, SKOR North)