As we prepare for Minnesota United’s first-ever home playoff game on Sunday, October 20 against the LA Galaxy, we’re taking an opportunity to look back at 10 of our favorite moments from what was a historic, dramatic and action-packed 2019 regular season.
“It’s so tough to turn around and win twice in a row against a team as tough – especially on the road – as the Portland Timbers,” remarked MLSSoccer.com’s Calen Carr ahead of Minnesota United’s U.S. Open Cup Semifinal at Allianz Field against Portland.
Maybe nobody told the Loons.
Coming off one of the busiest stretches in the season and amid a club-record unbeaten streak, MNUFC was tasked with a Sunday afternoon Western Conference showdown and a Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup Semifinal – both against the dangerous Portland Timbers – which presented a major obstacle for Adrian Heath’s side.
With the Timbers entering Sunday’s MLS fixture unbeaten in their last seven games and rapidly ascending the Western Conference table, many people began to consider a precarious question with back-to-back games: ‘Which game would you rather win … if we can win at all?’
Answering that question was midfielder Ethan Finlay. Under immense pressure and in front of a very tense Wonderwall, Finlay stepped up in the 90th minute to deliver a game-winning penalty kick that secured an exhilarating three points and brought Portland’s unbeaten streak to a screeching halt.
With just two days to make the quick turnaround for Wednesday night, Adrian Heath made three changes to his starting XI – bringing Darwin Quintero, Robin Lod and Mason Toye into the fold for a momentous Cup Semifinal. It was clear that the fresh legs of three attacking players made a decisive impact as a Darwin Quintero penalty kick gave Minnesota United an early lead only for it to be canceled out by a Brian Fernandez goal just before halftime.
But Mason Toye stepped up to the fore with a 64th minute goal that sent the Loons to their first-ever Cup Final. Receiving a lobbed through ball from Kevin Molino in stride, the young forward took a perfectly angled touch toward goal – leaving Portland’s Claude Dielna in his wake – and opened his body to send a curling shot past a helpless Steve Clark for a 2-1 MNUFC win.
Portland never seemed to fully recover from losing both games. Limping into the playoffs, the Timbers posted an underwhelming 5-5-2 record to close out the season and left it until Decision Day to finally clinch a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. More importantly, the wins demonstrated both Minnesota United’s strength as a defensive squad and its flexibility, not to mention burnishing Allianz Field’s reputation as a fortress.