No rest for the wary as Minnesota United seeks U.S. Open Cup semis berth

By Souichi Terada

Star Tribune

Despite Minnesota United mired in a busy stretch of games and fighting for the MLS playoffs for the first time in club history, coach Adrian Heath has no plans to rest any players when it plays Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup.

The Loons are back in action for the third time in the national tournament that pits all levels of U.S. soccer against one another. They draw upstart USL side New Mexico United in a 7 p.m. match at Allianz Field.

“Full team, as best we can do,” Heath said. “I will pick the best team I can for Wednesday. We need to win the game.”

In the round of 16 on June 18, Minnesota went on the road and defeated the Houston Dynamo in a 3-2 comeback thriller. The victory advanced the Loons to the quarterfinals for the first time in their three years of tournament play.

A victory against New Mexico would put the Loons in the semifinals, where they would face either MLS opponents Los Angeles FC or the Portland Timbers on Aug. 7. The tournament’s winning team receives $300,000.

The Loons have been red-hot of late, winning their last five matches starting with their Open Cup victory against Sporting Kansas City on June 12. That stretch includes their most recent victory — 3-2 on the road against Montreal last Saturday — when regulars Ike Opara, Ozzie Alonso and Darwin Quintero did not play.

“We had a chance to rest some players,” said Heath, whose team plays seven games in a three-week stretch from June 29 to July 20. “You just can’t go Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday … it’s impossible. It’s been really good to give a few players a break. We’re going to be nice and fresh for Wednesday.”

It put players such as forward Mason Toye in the starting lineup, and the 20-year-old capitalized. He scored two goals against Montreal, continuing his torrid pace he started when he netted the game-winner against Houston in the Open Cup match.

Kevin Molino assisted on both of Toye’s goals with a pair of well-placed kicks. It’s a chemistry on display going back to Toye assisting on a Molino goal in the 7-1 victory against FC Cincinnati on June 29.

“Being able to put it on in the game is one thing,” Toye said. “But consistency and training have been giving me a lot of confidence as well.”

With the MLS summer transfer window opening Tuesday, the Loons did not officially make a move to strengthen their squad. Sporting Director Manny Lagos and Director of Player Personnel Amos Magee, though, were seen making calls throughout the day.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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