Minnesota United defeated Sporting Kansas City, 4-1, in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday at Allianz Field. Our soccer analyst Nicolas Hallett gives us his main takeaways from the match.
1. In what can only be viewed as a glaringly ideal result, Minnesota United take the win versus their nemesis in the U.S. Open Cup in Sporting KC but, furthermore, their comatose offense seemed to jolt back to life with a flurry of goals. This is exactly what head coach Adrian Heath and his attackers, specifically the highest profile ones, needed so desperately.
Star man Darwin Quintero entered this match on his coldest streak ever in a Minnesota shirt with nine games without a goal or assist. The Colombian looked like his 2018 self as he exploded for two goals and one assist on Wednesday. Including this banger:
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) June 13, 2019
He nearly had a second assist but Angelo Rodriguez was ruled to be offside. Speaking of Rodriguez, he too broke his duck with one goal and two assists. The two Colombians seemed to finally exhibit the chemistry United fans have been expecting from the two countrymen for some time.
“It was a really good evening for us because the goalscorers couldn’t have been three better players who needed a goal for their confidence,” Heath said. “Some of the guys needed minutes and some of the guys needed a little bit of a confidence boost in front of goal and we got all of that this evening.”
2. Hassani Dotson was stellar once again. The rookie has now started six games in a row, but this was the first time he’s actually got to play in his favored central midfield role. He showed that he might provide different attributes than those who regularly hold those positions. On Wednesday, he beat players on the dribble and found incisive forward passes. It was his perfectly weighted through ball that assisted Ethan Finlay’s goal. Midfield to forward is a common connection for goals, but has been far and few between for United this season. (Rasmus Schuller and Ozzie Alonso have combined for one assist this season; Jan Gregus has four assists, but the majority of those have come off corners or other set pieces.)
In fact, Heath went as far as to say that should United play with a three-man midfield (like they did Wednesday with a 4-3-3) then Dotson will be a part of it moving forward.
“We’ve always thought that’s where his best position is going to be [in midfield],” Heath said. “Probably guarantee that if we play three, he’s going to be one of them because he’s got a bit of everything.”
A bold statement from the manager, and one I would whole-heartedly concur with.
3. United fans got their first peek at rookie Chase Gasper at the weekend when he made his debut as a substitute in the loss to Colorado. But Wednesday provided Gasper his first full competitive start for the Loons. The left back looked sharp and rarely overwhelmed by the moment. Though, one must say the team Sporting KC fielded was certainly less than full strength. His splash upon entering the team didn’t reach the heights of Dotson’s; nevertheless, it appears United at minimum have a reliable backup at left back all of the sudden. At maximum, Gasper could be the starting left back of the future.
4. We discussed at length on the most recent episode of The Minnesota Soccer Podcast how United could tweak the offense to get it back into gear. I opined that allowing Kevin Molino to play through the middle whilst also moving Quintero out wide could be just what the doctor ordered. Heath made the first steps in that direction Wednesday when he played a 4-3-3 formation, which saw Quintero positioned at LW. The change didn’t infringe whatsoever on Quintero, who put in a man-of-the-match performance. Could Quintero be playing out wide going forward?
“We could do,” Heath told me after the match. “It’s something that we’ve spoke about.”
5. The MLS break comes at an ideal time for Heath as he can now give some of his regulars rest. This was evident Wednesday as key men Ozzie Alonso, Ike Opara and Brent Kallman were all in street clothes for the match. It was also revealed that Miguel Ibarra and Abu Danladi are currently dealing with injuries.
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