With questions being asked about the decisiveness of a struggling front line, Minnesota United looked to send an emphatic response in a Fourth Round U.S. Open Cup game at Allianz Field against Sporting Kansas City – and respond they did. Two goals from midfielder Darwin Quintero and goals from forward Angelo Rodriguez and midfielder Ethan Finlay led MNUFC to a triumphant 4-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City. Along with a heap of goals, Minnesota United executed a tireless and effective high press that swallowed up the Sporting KC centerbacks. The visitors were forced into countless mistakes which led to dangerous chances for the Loons. The emphatic 4-1 result secured MNUFC a spot in the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup, which Head Coach Adrian Heath was pleased with.
“It was a really good evening for us because the goalscorers couldn't have been three better players who needed a goal for their confidence,” said Heath. “They'll be better for that. I thought that Hassani [Dotson] and Chase [Gasper] and Wyatt [Omsberg] did fantastic as well. Some of the guys needed minutes and some of the guys needed a little bit of a confidence boost in front of goal and we got all of that this evening.”
Looking to erase their front line’s scoring drought of 580 minutes, the Loons got off to a flying start. Just two minutes in, a deft, first time, right-footed flick from Quintero put Rodriguez through on goal. The Colombian took his time, set his feet and slickly slotted the ball through the legs of Sporting Kansas City’s goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas to give the home side a 1-0 lead. A seemingly relived Angelo Rodriguez pumped his fist in satisfaction after scoring as Allianz Field breathed a sigh of relief.
The Loons used Rodriguez’s opening goal as a spark to enact a high press, putting the Kansas City defense under immense pressure. Led by Ethan Finlay – who was in constant motion, closing down angles and dictating the high press – the Loons were relentless, forcing giveaways, early long balls and early clearances. The pressure led to a golden chance for the Loons to take a two-goal lead as a Sporting KC giveaway allowed Rodriguez to send an early through ball to a streaking Finlay. Unfortunately, Finlay’s touch took him away from goal making his shot easy for Adrian Zendejas to push aside and away from danger.
In the first 25 minutes of play, Sporting KC tried to counteract Minnesota’s high press by playing a high defensive line. The visitors hoped to catch the MNUFC attack offside when they won the ball high up the field. It was clear that midfielders Hassani Dotson, Lawrence Olum and Collin Martin spotted this as they looked to exploit the high line. They sent long balls into the open space behind the SKC defense which the pacey MNUFC front line was glad to chase. Through the flying start and constant pressure sustained by Minnesota, the home side dominated much of the play in the first half.
To Minnesota’s dismay, Sporting KC managed an equalizer against the run of play, tying the game at 1-1 in the 27thminute. After latching onto a back post cross, Kansas City’s Jimmy Medranda did well to re-direct the ball to an advancing Gerso Fernandes. The winger competently struck a first time ball with his left foot, beating Mannone to the far post. Almost immediately after the goal, MNUFC nearly retook the lead through Collin Martin in the 30thminute. A defiant tackle from center back Michael Boxall led to Hassani Dotson playing Martin through on goal. He did well to round the goalkeeper but fumbled the ball and was forced to square to Angelo Rodriguez. The Colombian’s shot was blocked off the line by an SKC defender, denying Rodriguez his second goal of the day.
The two sides headed to the break tied at a goal apiece but Minnesota clearly with the lion’s share of chances. “[In the] first half, especially, we must have pinched so many balls pressing in their half of the field,” said Heath.
Once again, the Loons came out of the locker room on a mission. Inside the first minute of the second half, Hassani Dotson battled his way through three Sporting KC midfielders and sent a dime of a pass onto the feet of Ethan Finlay. This time, the forward made no mistake as he sent a low, hard drive past a helpless Adrian Zendejas.
“I’m just trying to be patient with myself,” said Ethan Finlay after the game. “The goal that I had, in the end, I was much just much calmer on it then I was with the first opportunity I had.”
Just 10 minutes later, MNUFC doubled their advantage in the 56thminute, this time through Darwin Quintero. A brilliant bit of hold-up play and a quick turn from Angelo Rodriguez gave the forward open real estate down the left flank to run into. The Colombian cut into the penalty box, dodged a flying tackle from a defender and rolled an easy cross onto the outstretched leg of Darwin Quintero.
Two minutes after Quintero gave MNUFC a 3-1 lead, goalkeeper Vito Mannone made a crucial acrobatic save to preserve the home side’s two goal lead. In the 58thminute, Sporting KC’s Daniel Salloi sent a looping shot from a tight angle which deflected and was seemingly destined to fly past Mannone’s fingers. The goalkeeper jumped back and somehow got a touch on the ball, sending it off the crossbar and out of play. The save was greeted by loud cheers from the Wonderwall.
In the 67thminute Darwin Quintero put the game to bed in style, grabbing his second goal of the game and giving MNUFC a 4-1 lead. Angelo Rodriguez took advantage of the visitors’ high line as he played a wide-open Quintero through on goal. In Darwin-esque fashion, the forward rounded the Sporting KC goalkeeper, faked a shot which sent a defender sprawling into the net and calmly scooped the ball in. Quintero’s two goals came at an opportune time as the forward needed to find the back of the net to boost his confidence and jumpstart his form heading into the second half of the season.
“Everybody in the league has seen what Darwin's been capable of,” said Adrian Heath. “He'd be the first to say that he's not been at the level that you expect for him. Being a forward, sometimes, you have barren spells. The important thing is to keep getting in there, keep being confident in your ability.”
Minnesota United’s next game will be another U.S. Open Cup game following the draw for the Round of 16 on Thursday, June 12 at 9:00 a.m. CT. Stay tuned for details regarding Minnesota’s opponent as well as the date, time and location of the fixture.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Eric Miller (Carter Manley 82’), Michael Boxall, Wyatt Omsberg, Chase Gasper; M Lawrence Olum, Collin Martin, Hassani Dotson; F Ethan Finlay, Angelo Rodriguez (Mason Toye 75’), Darwin Quintero
MIN Unused Subs: GK Dayne St. Clair; M Miguel Ibarra
Sporting Kansas City Starting XI: GK Adrian Zendejas; D Andreu Fontas, Graham Smith, Graham Zusi, Jimmy Medranda (Seth Sinovic 75’); M Benny Feilhaber (Gianluca Busio 60’), Felipe Gutierrez, Ilie Sanchez; F Daniel Salloi, Gerso Fernandes, Yohan Croizet (Kelyn Rowe 75’)
SKC Unused Subs: GK Erick Dick; D Camden Riley; M Felipe Hernandez; F Wan Kuzain
2’ – Rodriguez (Quintero) – MIN
27’ – Gerso (Medranda, Gutierrez) – SKC
46’ – Finlay (Dotson) – MIN
55’ – Quintero (Rodriguez) – MIN
67’ – Quintero (Rodriguez) – MIN
39’ – Olum (YC) – MIN
43’ – Gutierrez (YC) – SKC
72’ – Martin (YC) – MIN
85’ – Dotson (YC) – MIN