Darwin

Minnesota United FC vs. New Mexico United | U.S. Open Cup Preview

MINNESOTA UNITED FC VS. NEW MEXICO UNITED
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
07.10.2019 | U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals
7:00 p.m. CT (Stream: ESPN+, Twitter: @MNUFCMatch)

After taking nine out of nine points from three successive MLS games in only seven days, Minnesota United squares off against the USL Championship’s New Mexico United in the Quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The visitors – who have already knocked out MLS opposition in FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids – will come into Allianz Field as a dangerous team with nothing to lose.

With New Mexico making the trip north to Allianz Field, this will mark the first time that Minnesota United will play host to a USL side in Open Cup action. Kickoff is scheduled for this Wednesday, July 10 at 7:00 p.m. CT. Please note that gates will open at 6:00 p.m. for this game. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ at espn.com/watch or live in the ESPN app. If you don’t have access to ESPN+, navigate to our match day Twitter (@MNUFCmatch) for live updates throughout the game.

A weekend trip to Montreal saw the Loons make seven changes to their starting lineup. Head Coach Adrian Heath rotated the squad in hopes to freshen up the legs of those who had played big minutes in vital wins against FC Cincinnati and the San Jose Earthquakes earlier in the week. Even with wholesale changes, Minnesota put in an impressive performance, shrugging off an early goal from Montreal’s Jackson-Hamel inside of a minute to come all the way back and win 3-2 on the road. The result exemplified the depth that a fully healthy Minnesota United squad can work with heading into busy stretches of games.

“I said it before [the game] to the players and I said it after the game, but I wanted to be talking about the group that were there on Saturday not the ones that we left behind and all the changes that we made and that’s what happened,” said Heath. “I thought that there were five or six incredibly good performances and a lot of people did themselves a lot of favors at the weekend. I’m confident that we can play any of them guys.”

Among the exceptional performances turned in against Montreal, the end-products of Kevin Molino and Mason Toye stood out in the box score. Scoring a brace in his first MLS start of 2019, Toye was a thorn in the Impact’s side. The forward was decisive in his movement, made ghosting runs off the shoulders of Montreal’s centerbacks and used his athleticism to receive the ball in behind the defense. Assisting both of Toye’s goals was Kevin Molino – who has battled back from injury to rack up three goals and two assists in his last four MLS appearances – and he is now giving Heath a serious but welcome headache moving forward.

“Obviously, Mason’s come to the forefront, he’s playing with so much confidence, that gives us a boost,” said Heath. “We’ve always been confident of his athletic ability and his willingness [to work]. What we needed to see from him was the training ground stuff that you work with him all the time about the pulling off the back shoulder, the movement in the box. Kevin Molino’s performance was outstanding [as well]. We are now getting to the stage that everybody is fit and healthy which is what we are going to need because we’ve got a couple of big weeks coming up.”

Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal provides Heath with another opportunity to implement squad rotation ahead of a massive Western Conference matchup against FC Dallas this coming weekend. Playing their fourth game in 12 days, the likes of Abu Danladi — who is finally regaining fitness — Rasmus Schuller, Collin Martin and Lawrence Olum may be called upon by Heath to provide valuable minutes against New Mexico. Midfielder Ethan Finlay, who has cemented his place in the Minnesota starting XI, heaped praise upon those who have received limited minutes earlier in the season but stepped up against Montreal on the road.

“I think we’ve had 18 or 19 guys play pretty big roles in the last two weeks,” said Finlay. “That’s what you need this time of year especially if you want to be involved in the Open Cup late. Guys like Collin Martin stepping up, Ras [Rasmus Schuller] hadn’t had a bunch of minutes up to this point. To step up in an MLS game, on the road, in a tough place to play and play well, that speaks volumes. Lo [Lawrence Olum], that’s a 34-year-old guy traveling. For those guys to respond and play well on the road is a testament to how deep this team actually is.”

New Mexico United visits Allianz Field with the hopes of upsetting their third consecutive MLS team in the U.S. Open Cup. While the USL side has yet to host a cup match, they have been fearless in their travels, turning in gutsy performances in wins at Colorado and at Dallas. The Loons will have to ward off any of the complacency that can come with facing a lower league side, especially one that has already proven more than capable of getting results in tough environments. Midfielder Darwin Quintero – who is tied for the lead in the Open Cup’s Golden Boot race with four goals – was cautious ahead of New Mexico’s visit.

“You can never be too confident. Everyone wants to win, and everyone wants more,” said Quintero. “We saw how [New Mexico] beat Colorado Rapids and Dallas so we cannot be too confident just because they are a team from a lower league. They can always give us a surprise and we don’t want that. We must prepare and play as if we are facing another team from the MLS.”

Eight teams remain in the cup competition and of these eight, New Mexico and Saint Louis FC are the only non-MLS sides remaining. The larger stage can provide players who haven’t received national exposure on the scale of MLS with an opportunity to be thrust into the limelight. Having that potential spotlight on your team can boost the motivation of a team like New Mexico to even greater heights. The visitors will come in looking to spoil the rich vein of form that the Loons have hit in MLS play.

“I’ve known Troy [Lesense] now, for a long period of time, [and he’s] done a great job at New Mexico,” said Heath. “Speaking to people in the USL who have played them recently have said that they are really well organized and they are going to be incredibly motivated for this game. We have to treat them with the respect that they deserve and we will do and if all things being equal, we should get a result.”

A win will send Minnesota United into the Semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup in which they will face the winner of the Portland Timbers and LAFC. The host of that game will be determined by a draw held on July 11, following the Quarterfinals. Regardless of Wednesday’s result, the Loons return to MLS action on Saturday, July 13 in an important home game against Western Conference foes FC Dallas at 7:00 p.m. CT, presented by Allianz. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to benefit Keystone Community Services, a nonprofit serving the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+ and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United FC

  • QUESTIONABLE: F – Abu Danladi (right hip)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • This is Minnesota’s first game against a lower-division team in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup.
  • The Loons have scored 20 goals in their last five competitive games. The equals the amount they had scored in their previous 15 games combined.
  • New Mexico United has beaten two MLS teams in the Open Cup. They dispatched the Colorado Rapids in penalties in the Fourth Round and beat FC Dallas 2-1 in the Round of 16.
  • This is the furthest MNUFC has ever advanced in the Open Cup. A win this round would tie it for the deepest run for a Minnesota team. The Minnesota Thunder reached the Semifinals in 2005, losing to eventual champion LA Galaxy.
  • The Loons have won all five of their last competitive games. The first two in that stretch were in the Open Cup.
  • Darwin Quintero is tied for the lead in the Open Cup’s Golden Boot race. He has scored four times in the Loons’ two games in the tournament, tying him with Brandon Vazquez of Atlanta United and Charles Boateng of Richmond Kickers.
  • The winner of this game will face the winner of LAFC and Portland Timbers in the Semifinals. Hosting for that game and the Final will be determined by a draw on July 11.
  • New Mexico United currently is in its first season in USL Championship.
  • New Mexico has not hosted a game in this tournament.
  • New Mexico and Saint Louis FC are the only non-MLS teams still playing in the Open Cup.
  • This is the fourth of seven games in 22 days for the Loons.
  • This is the first time Minnesota has played two home games in a single Open Cup since 2010.
  • The Loons’ last game against a USL team was in the 2018 Open Cup Fourth Round at FC Cincinnati. MNUFC won that meeting in penalties.
  • The Round of 16 was the only round of this Open Cup where the home teams did not win the majority of the games. Winners were evenly split with four home wins and four road wins.
  • Excluding play-ins and Finals, the last time more away teams won in a round was the Third Round of the 2015 Open Cup.
  • None of the eight Quarterfinalists have ever won the Cup.
  • Six former champions (LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, New England Revolution, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew SC) were eliminated in the Round of 16.
  • Ethen Sampson was in the Vancouver Whitecaps FC academy while Michael Boxall played for the first team in 2012.
  • Cody Mizell, Sam Hamilton and Eric Miller played for the Colorado Rapids in 2017. Hamilton and Miller played together on the Rapids in 2018 before Miller was traded to MNUFC.
  • Josh Suggs and Ike Opara were teammates on the San Jose Earthquakes in 2012.
  • Chris Wehan played for the Seattle Sounders FC U23 team in 2014 while Osvaldo Alonso was on the first team.
  • David Estrada and Alonso were teammates on Sounders SC from 2010 through 2014. Estrada also played for Sounders FC 2 in 2018 when Alonso was on the first team.
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