Chase and Vito

Quote Sheet: MNUFC vs. Portland Timbers

MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On if that was how he drew it up …

“Exactly, yeah. I thought we got a dubious penalty in the last minute. It was one of them that I thought, it was like a training session at the end, attack against defense, who was going to get the break and we got it today. I feel for them a little bit because I know if we’d had been on the receiving end of the penalty, it would’ve been probably a little bit disappointing. But, you know, we always think that things even themselves out and if they do, we actually probably, deserved that. Not today but over the last weeks, we’ve deserved better than what we’ve got out of games. So, pleased for the players. I thought their effort was magnificent. It was a tough game, I’m saying it, it must be one of the most expensive assembled teams in MLS. They’ve got quality throughout and we knew it was going to be tough. I thought we created some good opportunities in the first half. [It was] a little bit like the last home game against Vancouver, I don’t think our final ball was the right ball at times but as I said, I can’t fault the players for their determination to see it through, to get a result.”

On how it feels to currently be tied for second in the Western Conference …

“It feels good. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go but I do know how important the three points were today because certainly they’re going to be there or thereabouts at the end with all their home games to come and the quality that they have. So, the next few weeks, as I said, probably the next 20 days are going to the most important time of the year certainly. We got the big game on Wednesday, we’ll treat that with the respect that it deserves because it’s a huge game for us. Then it’s Dallas who are in and around us in the league and then we’ve got Colorado and Orlando here. So, by the end of that little stretch, we’ll have a good idea where we are.”

On how this afternoon set up Wednesday’s game …

“Well, there’ll be changes from both teams I would think on Wednesday because it’s going to be difficult for everyone to play plus the fact you’re only allowed five overseas players. So, that will certainly affect us so we’ll have to make one or two changes but I’m just pleased to get the three points.”

On Robin’s debut in the second half …

“I thought his qualities were there for people to see. Composure on the ball, [making] the right pass. He knew when to keep it simple. He knew when to hold possession, knew when to play forward. He’s going to be good for us.”

On if he feels like the process of VAR is getting better after three years …

“I do today, yeah [laughs]. Ultimately, we want the right call, don’t we? If VAR is going to give us that, then it’s going to be good for the game. Sometimes, I still feel as though it’s arbitrary. It’s down to the referee’s interpretation. There’s been four of five this year that I’ve disagreed with and it’s gone to VAR. So, you’re in the hands of the referee every game. Today it went for us. No doubt, at some stage, [it’ll] go against [us] like it has done a couple times.”

On if he was iffy on who would take the penalty without Darwin and Kevin on the field …

“I think Ethan pretty much made his mind up. It was a pressure penalty, wasn’t it? The timing of it and the importance of it. The keeper did his best but overall, I was really pleased that he took it. Obviously, it’s a feather in his cap. He wanted to take it and then he’s gone and executed because it was a pressure penalty.”

On if it was fitting that Ethan took the penalty …

“Yeah, he worked really hard. He made some really good runs inside the fullback first half and second half. He’s just got to get better in quality, not just from him but when we get in the final third. We’ve had so many final third entries in the last two or three home games and we have to do better. It’s something that we need to speak to the players about in terms of where we are making runs in the box, positioning, where we are looking to feed the ball into the box but that’s something we can work on. If we continually keep getting into the final third as often as we do, good things will happen.”

On if he felt like they maintained better pressure in the second half …

“It was, as I said, probably both coaches were thinking, this is too open, this is too end to end. They attacked once and I looked back and we had five players the wrong side of the ball. So, there’s five defending. Then we’d attack and we’d be exactly the same and it was who’s going to come up with that moment of quality. Actually we didn’t but then we get a decision.”

On Vito Mannone today …

“[He] had a huge save at a really important time. I don’t want to say that’s what we pay him for but that’s what we pay for. That’s his job. I expect him to come up with big saves in big moments. That’s what good goalkeepers do and he’s starting to prove that. When we need him, he comes up.”

On if he’s getting what he wants from Abu Danladi off the bench …

“I thought that he looked sharp today. [He] put in a great ball across for Mason, worked really hard, went and played wide left in the last sort of, give or six minutes. He did his shift and was very diligent in the work that he had to do. But no, I’ve still got a lot of faith in Abu. We just need to get a bit more of consistency out of him and that’s getting him on the field, not from his play because if he can stay consistently fit, we’ve got a player that I know can play in this league.”

On if he’s seen enough from Chase to hold his starting spot …

“Yeah, that’s his position to lose at this moment in time. Obviously, Wilfried [Moimbe-Tahrat] isn’t available at this moment. It’s going to be another week, seven or eight days but Chase is doing everything. I always say, when I pick the team, players drop themselves by their performances and certainly he’s not playing that way to lose his place.”

On if he saw anything that worried him for Wednesday …

“About eight players for them. No, they’ve got good players whichever way they go. You know, they’ve got really good attacking pieces. We think they may change one or two but trust me, it’s going to be difficult for us again on Wednesday now. The one thing that I do know is that Gio is smart enough to know that it’s going to be difficult for them as well.”

On Timbers players not getting a second yellow card …

“You know, I’m not the referee but I’m sure that if Diego [Charra] hadn’t had the first yellow then the second one probably would have been. I’m not an advocate of getting players sent off. I don’t want to win by players getting sent off when they don’t deserve to but it was a little bit strange, that one.”

MINNESOTA UNITED DEFENDER IKE OPARA

On stopping Fernandez from scoring tonight …

“Today was a little bit of luck on our side, Vito, a little bit of [the] post. [We] tried to minimize the opportunities, the guys always active, always busy. He’s a hell of finisher and luckily he didn’t find a way to ripple the net somehow today. He quality though.”

On waving arms calling for handball …

“I didn’t see it, I don’t think I waved my arms, Boxy did. Boxy was crazy. I had a good idea that something probably happened, I haven’t seen the replay of it. I’m just glad he gave it to us. Jan was putting in great balls today and I was finally able to get at the end of one and luckily we got the PK and Ethan finished it.”

On getting a VAR PK …

“Yeah I mean if it’s the right call for sure, that’s what VAR is there for to get the calls right. If it was the wrong call it tends to balance out hopefully for Portland's sake but it never feels good I guess if it wasn’t the correct call but as of now I have not seen it so I’m going to operate that it was the right call.”

On making an adjustment from first half to second half to prevent Portland’s chances …

“Yeah, we tried to limit their transition and we knew that was going to be the key to the game and in the first half they just waited to get on it and get forward quicker than we were able to get setup and organized in the back. I think in the second half at least at keeping our numbers and keeping our shape. We still had too many turn overs that were crucial but luckily they didn’t capitalize but I thought we were better at that in the second half.”

On playing for trophies …

“Yeah you play for trophies, there’s probably few things in the game of soccer that you play for and trophies are one of them and they will have a forever lasting memory. I remember all the trophies I’ve won in Kansas City in MLS, they stick with you forever. Moving forward on Wednesday we have a big opportunity we have chance to get our place in the final.”

On tonight’s win making Wednesday’s game harder …

“I think both team are dealing with a couple different challenges. I think luckily for Portland they don’t have to travel, they can just stay here and maybe they can get a little used to the environment our field and our fans so it shouldn’t hit them as much of shock. For us, obviously we have a lot of games coming up that we need to prioritize moving forward with Wednesday and some restrictions in the open cup with the internationals you can have so I think we are going to be juggling a couple things ourselves.”

On Ebobisse changing the game when he came on …

“He’s direct, he was able to help Fernandez get another number up top so Fernandez wasn’t doing everything on his own. Jeremy was able to penetrate runs and doing what he does when he’s out there, he’s probably not a natural when he’s up there but I think he’s adjusting well. I’d be curious to see where he plays on Wednesday.”

On U.S. Open Cup being unique …

“I mean not really, it’s just an opportunity to win a competition. It’s in front of us and we need to grab it by the horns and take it.”

On record breaking shutout defense …

“Pride, I spoke to jerry in preseason when I came to this team. There was a lot of pride in this locker room, especially in our defenders especially how things have gone the last couple years. I don’t know what it’s like to give up 70 goals a year but that’s not going to happen while I’m here. I refuse to pick up the ball in the back of the net 70 times. Boxy, I and Co are tired of it and so I think we have set a goal to keep as many clean sheets and try to keep the goals allowed as low as possible. I think our organization, our communication and our trust that were having is immense. We’ve had different faces and different players back there, chase, Romain, Hassani, the list goes on and on the guys are prideful when they come on and try to give up no goals.”

MINNESOTA UNITED MIDFIELDER ETHAN FINLAY

On what’s going through his mind when he’s lining up over the ball …

“Just, you know, picking my spot and taking a deep breath. You know, it always feels good when you know the guys behind you are confident with you taking the PK. Right away when I went over during the VAR decision, Adrian [Heath] just said, you’re taking it. Just those little things like that, that you know you have people around you that believe in you in that moment. And, obviously, I personally believe in myself. It’s a big three points for this group.”

On what he thinks about the placement, because Steve Clark went the same way …

“Yeah. Like I said, I felt confident with my spot. Obviously, we’ve got history. I’ve taken plenty of those in training against him. He’s seen me go that way probably most often. But, I felt good about the spot and I felt like I could put enough power on it and that’s what I did. He did get a good jump on it. And, we’ll have to play a little mind game if it comes to more PKs on Wednesday night.”

On choosing the other side of the net in Montreal and if he intended to go opposite …

“I mean, you know, sometimes in the moment you just kind of pick spots. Montreal was actually a situation where I had just seen Evan Bush go to his right quite a bit. [Kevin] Molino had a PK against him, I was to say 2017 – late ’17 – I think in that game, and I had watched those highlights earlier in the day. I watched a couple other PKs and he likes to go to that side, or at least, what I was learning, he likes to go to the side… If a left footer, he likes to go to his left. If it was a righty, he’s going to his right. That’s just a little thing I picked up and that’s why on that day I went the other day. Every time it’s a little bit different situation. The goalie and you know, any tendencies I can pick up.”

On how the last-minute win tonight sets things up for Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal …

“Well, totally different competition and that’s what you have to shift your mind to. Obviously, this is great. We jump into second place for the time being. Very exciting. Home win. Continuing to keep a winless streak here. But this is a totally different competition. And, you know, Wednesday night could require 120 minutes. We have a short turnaround, both teams have it. They’ll obviously be here all week. So, the mindset has got to change, and we’re probably going to have to call upon some guys that maybe played some minutes today and some guys that maybe didn’t play any minutes, to step up for us in that Open Cup. And that’s really been the backbone of our run in Open Cup, is those guys stepping up. I’m excited about it. This team and this organization is going to continue to make strides in the league, but we also want to win Open Cup and I think we’ll make a really good lineup out Wednesday.”

On what the plan for PKs was before Kevin Molino left, because he has taken a lot for the club …

“Yeah, you know, it’s, I think Darwin [Quintero] has obviously taken most of our PKs when he’s been in. And sometimes, it’s a situation where a guy is feeling it, we have enough guys who are confident and have taken enough in this league, where I think we kind of have the pick of the litter. I think Jan [Gregus] is the guy that can easily step up and can take a penalty kick, and he was obviously still in the game. So, you know, I think there’s not a real, necessarily, pecking order. I wouldn’t say it’s been clearly defined by the coaching staff by any means. But I think within our organization, within the team, we have an idea of, sometimes, the moment. Sometimes, it can be a guy who needs a goal, needs the monkey off his back, needs the confidence kind-of-thing. And I think we have a group that’s unselfish, that sees those moments. We have a lot of guys that can take them.”

On if he had to lobby or ask Adrian Heath, at all, if he could take the penalty kick …

“No, no. That goes to the whole confidence thing. I just went over there, honestly, to get a drink of water, and he said, ‘hey, you’re taking it’ kind-of-thing and I said, ‘yeah. Yeah.’ Like I said, the little moments right there give a player confidence and kudos to them for having faith in me.”

On the team having 50 crosses in the past two games but no goals in the run of play, and if there is something wrong with the final ball …

“We were really close today. To me, it’s a little bit of our timing in the box and our runs. And on the other side, it’s the timing of the ball. And I think getting those two moments coordinated is what we have to work on. We had some opportunities from the righthand side, where we’re getting balls in the box. [Steve] Clark is coming out to the near-post balls, and he didn’t really give up any rebounds. So, we’re there, we’re putting the ball in the right area. You really just hope that the floodgate is open for us, but you definitely like to see more opportunities making contact with balls going across. We have too many plays where we’re getting nothing on it kind-of-thing, the ball is going right to the goalie. We gotta work on that but the service also needs to be improved. And we have to start really mixing it up. The cut backs, the cut back was open a couple times today and we didn’t hit it. I missed a couple. I should have cut one back to Ozzie [Alonso] late in the game. So, those little moments in the game, we just have to be a little bit sharper and have to be clear with our move in the box and clear decision making.”

On even with the VAR call so late in the game, if he still feels like he can walk away deserving a win …

“Well, you know, that’s just how it works. We’ve been on the opposite side of that. I think it was a real hard-fought game, and I think it could have went either way in all honesty. You saw that last 10-15 minutes. The game absolutely opened up. [Brian] Fernández hits the post. So, the game totally could have tilted the other way. They could have won 1-0 today. You could say that would have been a fair result. But, yeah, you know, maybe we’re a little fortunate to get a VAR penalty decision, but they went to VAR – it was clear and obvious – we step up in a moment and take three points. You can’t fault the effort today, obviously, we’d like to have some more goals from the run of play and it’s obviously something that we need to get better at. But a win is a win.”

On stuff like scoring goals in the run of play evens out during the season …

“Well, I mean, you hope so. You have a 7-1 game over Cincy this year where we couldn’t miss. And, right? So, you absolutely hope that that will regress to the mean again, I guess, if you will.”

MINNESOTA UNITED GOALKEEPER VITO MANNONE

On what he saw during the sequence that led to his double save in the first half…

“It was a ball put through on the back of our defense, and actually they were overloading on the right because it could have been many different guys taking that first shot. So I thought to make myself big for the first save, and then I tried to get up and react to the second one. It was a very quick moment, but probably a very important moment for myself to come up big for the team and for the clean sheet. That gives confidence to the team to go forward and win the game.”

On if moments like that are why he makes all that money, like Adrian Heath said …

"Yeah if you say so. It’s a pleasure for me to make important saves, like I always say. Today we were magnificent in defense, and it wasn’t only my moment but there were other moments where my teammates helped me out, and I just tried to do the same.”

On if there’s anything in particular from today that he wants to credit to his defense …

“I think Ike [Opara] was massive today. But as I always say, everyone did the perfect job at the back. We didn’t give too many chances away, and that was against one of the best teams offensively that we’ve faced. At least I think so. To keep the shutout, it’s massive. It’s massive for moments like the penalty shot because, as the gaffer always says, one moment can change a game. The penalty changed the game, but I think our build up and our job defending, keeping the ball and creating more with the ball was all excellent.”

On what it feels like to be in second place …

“It feels great, but as I said before, that Vancouver game we did nothing. As good as it feels, it’s another step towards our objective, and it’s a big step. We keep this team away from us, and as we’ve seen the Western Conference is difficult because there’s a lot of teams in form. You just have to keep chasing points. We didn’t lose a game in ten matches, so it’s important. That’s why I said last week, don’t be down and don’t dwell on the tie against Vancouver. That can happen. We saw yesterday that Vancouver won again, so everything is tough in the MLS. Today was a massive three points, and four points in the space of a week.”

On what he thought of Ethan [Finlay]’s penalty placement …

“It was a great [penalty]. That is the perfect spot to place a pen against a keeper because he needs to reach, and he didn’t get there. It was a good attempt, he almost got it, but thankfully didn’t because of the placement and power. As a player, when you hit the side net, you put the keeper really under pressure to make the save.”

On how much he feels that this game will influence Wednesday’s match …

“It’s big, it was big to get the three points in the first game of the two. Again, we showed that our own form was great and that we can bear anybody. This team was in form too, they have top strikers, and we shut them up. It’s a big step towards Wednesday, but once the ball is down and it’s a new kickoff, it’s a new 90 minutes and it’s a new fight. It’ll be interesting, but we need to focus on ourselves and recover from today because there were a lot of heavy legs towards the end, for them too I think because the weather wasn’t helping. Massive three points, massive win, and hopefully it’s the push that we need for Wednesday.”

On if the post was his friend today …

“Yeah, you need it sometimes. I was at full stretch and he took it very quick, that’s why they paid big cash for him, he’s an amazing striker and it takes a moment to produce a great effort. In general we deserved it. We deserved it because of the way we defended. This is a team that kills you in transition when you lose the ball in attack, they come at you really fast and hard, but if you do preventative marking and you place yourself well and you switch all 90 minutes, then clean sheets happen. That’s what we did all game.”

On if the win still feels deserved despite the possible controversial penalty …

“Yeah, I totally feel we deserved it. There were three or four moments where we were really close with an open goal but couldn’t put it in. Sometimes we need to beat a team like this, we defended hard. Defend hard, defend for your life, and then we had the quality to create upfront.”

On if he thought it was a penalty …

“Yeah. Definitely, because they talk about not putting your hands outside of your body, and the defender wasn’t in the right shape. I know it’s very close, I was chatting with [Brian] Fernandez about it at the end. When they say your arms are outside your body shape, and it blocks a shot, then in the end it’s a handball for me."

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