Minnesota United entered tonight’s game with a solid history against the San Jose Earthquakes, going 3-0-0 over the last two seasons with 11 goals to the Quakes’ three. Once again, Head Coach Adrian Heath had the right gameplan and buy-in from his players. At no point did San Jose — who typically give opposing teams fits with an aggressive man-marking scheme — look to be in command of the game, with the Loons instead getting on the board first and staying there. When the dust settled, Minnesota walked away with a 4-1 win and a ticket to a Semifinals matchup with Orlando City SC.
© Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
From the very start, Minnesota United grabbed the game by the throat and only occasionally slackened its grip. Despite having less than 36% possession on the night, it was the Loons who dictated play, spending much of the first 30 minutes of the game in San Jose’s end. As before, MNUFC showed how to break down San Jose’s defensive scheme by spreading out the field, moving the ball quickly through space, and using deep runs by unmarked centerbacks to throw the Quakes’ defense into chaos.
In just the fourth minute, defender Michael Boxall made just such a run into the box, getting off a shot that ricocheted out of bounds but also colliding with goalkeeper Daniel Vega, who remained on the ground for some time. Smelling blood in the water, Minnesota got to work peppering Vega, eventually putting in 13 shots on target to San Jose’s four.
The Loons’ first successful shot on goal came not long after in the 20th minute. Awarded a corner, Minnesota’s initial effort from Gregus’ pass was rebuffed, but Hassani Dotson gained control of the ball and whipped it back in, finding Jose Aja on the back post. The defender headed it back across goal and towards the feet of Robin Lod, who scored his second goal in as many games.
Things had barely settled down moments later when Dotson flung in a long range effort from the edge of the box on the right side. Although Vega got a hand on it, it bounced out in front of net and Jacori Hayes — starting in the midfield spot that Dotson had occupied the last two games before Romain Metanire was injured — was there to pounce on it. The right-footed shot gave Hayes his first goal as a Loon and put Minnesota up 2-0.
Unable to get a foothold in the game, San Jose headed to the locker room down two goals and without a Plan B. Luckily for them, Minnesota seemed to flag just a bit to start the second half, allowing the Quakes to get deeper into their own half. Inside of Minnesota’s box, Tommy Thompson was able to turn on Hayes and as the ball bounced up, it hit Hayes’ outstretched arm. Video review confirmed the handball and the Quakes were awarded a penalty, which Magnus Eriksson did not make a mistake on.
With the lead cut in half, San Jose had hopes for more, but in the 56th minute, forward Luis Amarilla found himself with acres of space down the left side of the pitch. Pushing the ball into the box, Amarilla touched it deftly onto his left foot and drilled the shot onto the near post, once again pushing the lead to two goals and the score to 3-1.
Hayes made way for Marlon Hairston in the 67th minute and Hairston wasted no time becoming a threat. In short order, the midfielder got himself into the box on the left side before sending a shot wide and then again with space to maneuver from Ethan Finlay before skying it over the goal. But in the 86th minute, he would finally get his, putting himself on the end of a low, driven cross from Dotson to slot away his first goal for MNUFC and give Dotson his second assist on the night.
Although Minnesota could have pushed it to 5-1 with a beautiful Jan Gregus free kick at the top of the box that curled through the wall but hit the woodwork just above the top left corner of the goal, the Loons would content themselves with an authoritative 4-1 win to remain undefeated in 2020 and earn a trip to the Semifinals of the MLS Is Back Tournament against Head Coach Adrian Heath’s former team, Orlando City SC.
ADRIAN HEATH ON GETTING THE FIRST GOAL
“I said before the game I thought the first goal was going to be huge because they’ve come into this game with a lot of momentum on the back of some really good performances. But, as I’ve said before, I’ve probably got more faith in this group than anybody else. Certainly, more than you, the press, and the people everywhere else who continually seem to think we struggle to get through. It’ll be interesting to read the narrative tomorrow when we look at the score line. Because, conceivably, they had a little bit more pressure than we would have liked in the second half. But, had we taken our chances and had a little bit more care on the break, it could have been a lot more than four. But, we’ll see what’s said.”
HASSANI DOTSON ON WHAT WINNING THE TOURNAMENT WOULD MEAN
“We’re all competitors here. We didn’t just get here just off of talent alone. We all want to win every game that we can, even if that goes to simple games when we play ping-pong and all that, we want to play every game we can and we are looking forward to the next round.”
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH
- 20' | The corner kick rebuffed, Hassani Dotson controls it before sending in a curling pass to Jose Aja on the far post, who heads it back across to Lod who drills it. 1-0
- 21' | Only moments later, Jacori Hayes jumps on a loose ball in front of Daniel Vega after a Dotson cross and finishes it. Two goals in less than 90 seconds. 2-0
- 50' | Magnus Eriksson steps to the spot and drills the penalty kick left and gets the Quakes back into it. 2-1
- 56' | Luis Amarilla takes it all on his own down the left side and with a tap gets it to his left and drills it past Vega near post. 3-1
- 86' | Marlon Hairston is there for Dotson's low driven cross and drives it home. 4-1
ORLANDO CITY SC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex | Orlando, Florida
08.06.2020 | MLS Is Back Tournament | Semifinals
7:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
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