On its first visit to Allianz Field, FC Cincinnati had an afternoon to forget. With temperatures reaching into the upper 80s, the Loons reached into the upper 90s, burying seven goals en route to a 7-1 rout of the expansion side in front of a sold-out crowd. Forward Mason Toye got his first MLS goal while Ike Opara contributed a brace and rookie Hassani Dotson drilled the second banger of his young career for what would be the gamewinner.
Minnesota United began the game with the clear intent of taking command of it, breaking down FC Cincinnati’s lines and ferreting out gaps on both sides of the field. The Loons also pressed high early, troubling the visitors’ backline and forcing turnovers. But all that early energy also came at an early price: for all their abrasiveness, the home side also gave up its fair share of sloppy giveaways.
In the 16th minute, forward Rashawn Dally wrangled the ball in Minnesota’s box, eventually getting the inch of space he needed to turn and fire. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone barely got a finger on it with the woodwork doing the rest of the work to keep the ball out of the net. It’s safe to say that had that shot gone in, the day could have ended very differently for the Loons.
“I’ve said it a million times, and today, probably more apt than any, that goals change games in football matches,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “Because we started the game – I thought – really sharp. And then we start to do stuff, I thought that we spoke about don’t do, and a day like today started to turn the ball over cheaply. And then they had their chance, and hit the crossbar with it.”
Instead, it was MNUFC who broke the scoring open in the 18th minute. Following an FC Cincinnati foul just outside the box on the left wing, midfielder Jan Gregus lined up a shot on the free kick that challenged goalkeeper Spencer Richey. Richey, though, couldn’t hang onto the ball and it rolled free toward the right side of the goal and Opara muscled it in with his lower chest to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
The opening goal would be followed barely five minutes later by a cheeky strike from rookie Hassani Dotson. The right back got the ball down the flank and looked for an open player in the box. Seeing none, he decided to rip an outside of the boot shot with his right foot that curled past a diving Richey and into the top of the goal to double the lead to 2-0.
“I’ve been practicing that all week with Hassani [Dotson],” joked Heath. “I think a few weeks ago, you remember when I said he might be one of the best finishers in the club? I said it after his goal here against Philadelphia. He’s got a great strike on him. And if we can keep getting him at any of the spots around the penalty area, that can happen because he’s got incredible power and not much back lift.”
With the momentum firmly swung in Minnesota’s direction, Cincinnati began to struggle with getting the ball out of their own half. When they did, they paid dearly. In the 30th minute, Dotson launched a searching ball forward that found the feet of forward Angelo Rodriguez. Rodriguez settled it and dinked it right to Quintero who scooted past Richey, sending him to the ground. The midfielder sent it back toward the middle to an onrushing Ethan Finlay.
Three goals, though, were not quite enough before the halftime whistle for the hosts. In the 43rd minute, Quintero again found himself in space. Rodriguez crossed diagonally from the left to the right and Quintero smartly curled the ball ahead into space. Rodriguez arced around the outside of the ball and drilled a shot directly past Richey to give the Loons a four-goal lead heading into the break.
“We’re starting to take the chances when they come,” said Heath. “And it brings confidence. I said to you after the 4-1 win here against Sporting Kansas City, it’s hard to say to people how important that can be to get Darwin [Quintero] firing. To get Angelo [Rodriguez] getting his confidence back. And them two are playing with a lot of confidence now. And you need it, no matter who you are. You need to be playing with confidence. And this group at this time is playing with confidence.”
Although Minnesota would open the second half with more opportunities, the visitors would get one back in the 56th minute. Midfielder Kekuta Manneh pushed the ball up the left wing and sent it in along the ground in the direction of Victor Ulloa. But midfielder Emmanuel Ledesma would cut in front and hit a shot that rattled off Mannone and over him to make it 4-1.
From there, though, Minnesota would not look back. In the 61st minute and with the heat bearing down on a team that would have to turn around and play on Wednesday, Heath made the decision to pull Rodriguez and Quintero for forward Mason Toye and midfielder Kevin Molino. Eight minutes later, captain Osvaldo Alonso would give way for Lawrence Olum, with defender Ike Opara assuming the captain’s duties.
The move paid immediate dividends. A corner kick delivered by Gregus was cleared as far as Olum, who smartly sent the ball back out wide to Gregus. Gregus settled the ball and sent it back in on goal, setting up Opara to sky above the Cincinnati defense and bury the header for his second goal on the day. Five minutes after that, Gregus toed the ball away from a Cincinnati defender and ahead to Toye, who calmly struck the ball around another defender and into the right side of the net for his first MLS goal, following on the heels of his first professional goal against Houston in Open Cup play. It also gave Gregus his third assist on the day — the gentleman’s hat trick.
“Like all good players, he just gets on with the job,” said Heath about Gregus. “He knows what his job is. Doesn’t expect a pat on the back for stuff that he expects to do. We know he’s got good delivery. I think our set pieces the last two weeks have been excellent. We’ve started to show a little bit more determination – I feel – to get on the end of it. It might not be the first one, but with the secondary ball, it’s dangerous. It’s in a dangerous spot.”
The home side would put the cherry on top of the authoritative win in the 87th minute. On a long outlet pass, Toye held up long enough to let the ball get to Finlay deep on the right side before cutting in on the box. Finlay centered it to Toye and the second-year player sucked in the defense before cutting the ball to his left and onto the waiting feet of Molino, who finished smoothly to make the final scoreline 7-1 — the largest margin of victory for the club in its MLS history.
“We took every opportunity that came away at the appropriate time,” said Heath. “And then, obviously, I’m pleased for the players because we’ve had a few games here where we’ve left the goals on the table. I think back to Philly — our only defeat in this stadium. We were excellent that day and we missed four or five of the chances we took today. So, pleased for everybody. I think it’s the biggest win in franchise history. So, pleased with that. And then, I thought some of the goals were excellent. Some of our defensive shape second half was excellent. It looks like everybody has come through unscathed. And it sets up nicely for what I believe will be our biggest game of the season so far on Wednesday.”
Minnesota United next welcomes the resurgent San Jose Earthquakes to Allianz Field on Wednesday, July 3 for the team’s Salute to Freedom, presented by Excel Energy. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Chase Gasper, Michael Boxall, Ike Opara, Hassani Dotson; M Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso (Lawrence Olum 70’), Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero (Kevin Molino 61’), Ethan Finlay; F Angelo Rodriguez (Mason Toye 62’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Eric Miller, Brent Kallman; M Rasmus Schuller
FC Cincinnati Starting XI: GK Spencer Richey; D Matthieu Deplagne (Forrest Lasso 57’), Nick Hagglund, Justin Hoyte, Caleb Stanko; M Victor Ulloa, Eric Alexander (Thomas McCabe 46’), Kekuta Manneh, Frankie Amaya, Emmanuel Ledesma; F Rashawn Dally (Corben Bone 81’)
CIN Unused Subs: GK Przemyslaw Tyton; D Logan Gdula; M Thomas McCabe
18’ – Opara – MIN
23’ – Dotson (Gregus) – MIN
30’ – Finlay (Quintero, Rodriguez) – MIN
43’ – Rodriguez (Quintero) – MIN
56’ – Ledesma (Manneh) – CIN
70’ – Opara (Gregus) – MIN
75’ – Toye (Gregus) – MIN
87’ – Molino (Toye, Finlay) – MIN
54’ – Ibarra (YC) – MIN
59’ – Rodriguez (YC) – MIN
73’ – Hoyte (YC) – CIN
79’ – Finlay (YC) – MIN