ORLANDO CITY SC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex | Orlando, Florida
08.06.2020 | MLS Is Back Tournament | Semifinals
7:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
Between a deep run in the U.S. Open Cup last year and now the MLS Is Back Tournament, Minnesota United is building up quite the resume as a tournament team. But don’t tell them. Head Coach Adrian Heath would far prefer to stoke the competitive fires by positioning the Loons as overlooked, underrated, disrespected. Missing three of their top five players in Ike Opara, Romain Metanire and Kevin Molino, MNUFC nonetheless went out and dropped San Jose out of the tournament in the Quarterfinals to the tune of 4-1. The Loons have now beaten three teams (Sporting KC, Columbus Crew, San Jose) that at one time or another were tabbed to win it all in Orlando. Are they at last ascending to the role of favorites? Don’t tell Vegas, who has Orlando at +150 and Minnesota at +175. All things considered, Heath and the boys will take those odds.
California (𝙙𝙤𝙚𝙨𝙣'𝙩) know how to party... pic.twitter.com/o5xrJSTrb2— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 5, 2020
Since letting Adrian Heath go halfway through the team’s second year in MLS, Orlando City has largely been adrift, cycling through head coaches and rifling talent, but never making the playoffs. With the hiring of Head Coach Oscar Pareja, that all seems to have changed. Without overhauling the roster, the former FC Dallas coach has maximized his existing personnel and gotten the Lions playing attractive, effective football. Those who scoffed at Orlando’s top seeding in the tournament as a sort of homefield advantage were likely surprised by their strong run through Group A and especially by their penalty shootout win over one of the field’s favorites, LAFC. With midfielders Mauricio Pereyra and Nani clicking at a new level and the defense stepping up to allow just five goals through the tournament, Orlando City — much like Minnesota — are showing themselves to be legit contenders.
OSVALDO ALONSO ON PREPARING FOR ORLANDO
“We need to focus on ourselves. We know no one believes in us, but we’re calm, humble and working like we have been. Keep working, show what we’re made of, work like a team and trust in who we have up front. Do the work and keep going like we have been.”
ADRIAN HEATH ON THE BOND BETWEEN TEAMMATES
“It’s a good job; they get on after having had five weeks in this bubble. It’s the best group we’ve had. We talked about adding players in the offseason who we knew could come into the team, but not only come into the team, come in and respond with the performances they’ve done. That only keeps the first team players on their toes in every training session. The attitude of the players has been unbelievable since we’ve been here and that’s got us through some games we haven’t played quiet as well as we would have liked. But the one thing I can never fault with this group – their honesty, their integrity to do what you’ve asked of them.”MORE
not done yet... pic.twitter.com/LlsdgXvPvZ— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 4, 2020
Storylines don’t come much tighter or cleaner than this. After being sacked by Orlando City, Adrian Heath was given the full three years he wanted in Minnesota and has taken the team from woeful to dangerous in that timeframe. Heath had a large hand in decisions about the Lions’ Exploria Stadium, but he never had the opportunity to lead a team as the home coach there. Now he has the opportunity to knock out his former team in the venue where the Lions last tasted glory, Orlando City having won the Commissioners’ Cup — the USL Pro equivalent of the Supporters’ Shield — in its final lower division season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in 2014.
This will be the fourth meeting between these teams, none of them having been played in the same venue (TCF Bank Stadium, Orlando City Stadium, Allianz Field, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex).
SOUND OF THE LOONS: SEMIFINALS + SWEATER WEATHER