It took 120 minutes and then some, but Minnesota United came into Nippert Stadium to face the USL’s FC Cincinnati in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup and came away with its ticket punched for the round of 16 for the first time in its history. In a match that saw a lot of back and forth action but not too many quality chances, it was the play of goalkeepers Bobby Shuttleworth and Spencer Richey that stood out, particularly with Shuttleworth standing tall when the match went to penalties, which MNUFC won 3-1.
“Obviously delighted,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath of his feelings after the match. “Because you just want to get through. That’s the name of the game. You win and advance or lose and go home. It was a very difficult environment. This is going to be a great addition to the MLS — I thought the crowd were terrific. First time I’ve been here. But for our guys, I was really pleased with them because on the back of the weekend result, I thought we dug in and worked really hard for the result.”
The first half saw the Loons holding 73% of the possession but failing to generate chances, coming up with only three shots to Cincinnati’s five. Defender Eric Miller had to leave early after taking what appeared to be a knock off the ball. He was replaced by Carter Manley. Maximiano — fresh off of just 18 minutes of action against SKC because of being sent off — got the first half’s best look for the Loons with a wormburner in the 30th minute that Richey just got a diving finger on to send it wide left.
Early in the second half, FC Cincinnati looked like the team most likely, playing with both pace and energy while Minnesota looked a little slow and a bit sloppy. In spite of a number of good diagonal balls served ahead on the break, though, the home side kept finding themselves offside. Burly forward Emery Welshman was called back three times on the evening. Midfielder Russell Cicerone showed a lot of bite in his duels with midfielder Brent Kallman as well.
By the 60th minute, it seemed like if the match were going to end in regulation, it would be because Cincinnati’s discipline and chemistry willed it into the lead or because Minnesota United’s experience and talent would nudge it ahead. FCC didn’t earn its first corner until the 63rd minute and 10 minutes later, the match had opened up a bit with Minnesota clearly looking to use a late burst of energy to get a match-winner.
The Loons’ best opportunity in regulation came in the 81st minute with a rocket from Abu Danladi near the top of the box on the left side, but Richey was up to the task and made a clutch reaction save to keep the game level at nil-nil. A few minutes later, Danladi narrowly missed being on the end of an aggressive and accurate cross from defender Tyrone Mears on the right wing. But neither team could break the deadlock before the whistle signaling the end of regulation.
In the extra session, both coaches began to dip more heavily into their reserves, with Koch bringing on forward Tomi Ameobi for Welshman in the 97th minute and Heath putting in midfielder Frantz Pangop in place of Maximiano in the 99th minute. The fresh legs kept the match bright and engaging but couldn’t wring a goal out of it and so the teams went to penalties to decide the contest.
“In the shootout, you need your keepers to come out for you and I thought [Shuttleworth] did really well,” said Heath. “He didn’t dive too early, didn’t make the mind up for the players. That’s one thing we said: make them beat you and I think he did that well.
Forward Christian Ramirez took the first shot and speared it past a diving Richey and into the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead. Kenny Walker’s shot rang off the crossbar and then Collin Martin calmly slotted his shot down the left side to make it 2-0. Shuttleworth came up big on Sem De Wit’s shot and then Kallman struck a low shot into the bottom left corner as Richey guessed right to push the lead to 3-0. Michael Lahoud kept it interesting, beating Shuttleworth to make it 3-1, and Collen Warner couldn’t get it past Richey to finish it off. It would be Shuttleworth’s save on Nazmi Albadawi’s shot that gave the Loons the win and the chance to advance.
“We’ve got four or five days where the lads have got time off now, so we thought they’d get through the game,” said Heath. “And we have four or five who’ve hardly played any football. The three central midfielders have hardly played any football. For them to put the shift in they did was very good. I’ve been in this game a long time. Not many people thought we were going to win tonight. I’m pleased we’ve quieted one or two people down for a few days.”
Minnesota United will learn its fate in the next round tomorrow when they draw to determine the Round of 16’s matchups.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Tyrone Mears, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Eric Miller (Carter Manley 13’); M Maximiano (Frantz Pangop 99’), Collin Martin, Collen Warner; F Miguel Ibarra, Christian Ramirez, Abu Danladi
MIN Unused Subs: GK Matt Lampson D Wyatt Omsberg; M Alexi Gomez; F Mason Toye
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: GK Spencer Richey; D Blake Smith, Dekel Keinan, Matt Bahner, Sem de Wit; M Corben Bone (Nazmi Albadawi 106’), Jimmy McLaughlin, Kenney Walker, Michael Lahoud, Russell Cicerone (Daniel Haber 77’); F Emery Welshman (Tomi Ameobi 98’)
CIN Unused Subs: GK Evan Newton; D Forrest Lasso; M Will Seymore
MIN – Ramirez – Scored
CIN – Walker – Miss
MIN – Martin – Scored
CIN – de Wit – Saved
MIN – Kallman – Scored
CIN – Lahoud – Scored
MIN – Warner – Saved
CIN – Albadawi – Saved
76’ – Maximiano (YC) – MIN
80’ – Warner (YC) – MIN
115’ – Smith (YC) – CIN
120’ – Kallman (YC) – MIN