Minnesota United thrashed FC Cincinnati, 7-1, on Saturday at Allianz Field. Our soccer analyst Nicolas Hallett gives us his main takeaways from the match.
1. The wounded animal that is FC Cincinnati provided an ideal punching bag for Minnesota United in its return to MLS play. The Loons had lost their last three MLS matches, but thanks in large part team-wide revival that was aided by playing the first stringers in the U.S. Open Cup matches during the league break, United have found new life in front of goal.
After the seven-goal barrage, United, which was previously mightily struggling to score with any regularity, is now tied for third place in the league in goals scored with 30.
We’ll get to the Loons and their sudden rampant form, but it must be said that Cincinnati, an expansion franchise in its first MLS season, is utterly abysmal at present. The burgeoning franchise has now lost 11 of its last 12 games, has the fewest points in the league with 11 and has allowed the most goals in MLS by some margin.
On top of all that, reports indicated that Cincy entered this contest missing nine first-team regulars due to injury, suspension or otherwise.
Still, you could still argue this was a landmark win for Minnesota as not too long ago, they were the expansion franchise getting their faces rubbed in the dirt. Maybe this was further indication that United are well and truly past all their early growing pains as a franchise.
2. The record-breaking win — most goals scored in a game in franchise history — will certainly leave Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath beaming, but what will really have him feeling bullish about the future is the return to form of his main men. Angelo Rodriguez, Darwin Quintero and Ethan Finlay continue to look reinvented after an ugly dry spell plagued three of the team’s most experienced attackers. All three aided and abetted goals in a rambunctious first half, which essentially killed the game right there and then.
Combining the performances from the last two U.S. Open Cup wins for United, the top Loon attackers are unequivocally soaring at present and you couldn’t possibly have written a better prescription for what was previously ailing Minnesota.
“We’re starting to take the chances when they come,” Heath said. “And it brings confidence. I said to you after the 4-1 win here against Sporting Kansas City, it’s hard to say to people how important that can be to get Darwin [Quintero] firing. To get Angelo [Rodriguez] getting his confidence back. And them two are playing with a lot of confidence now. And you need it, no matter who you are. You need to be playing with confidence. And this group at this time is playing with confidence.”
3. When it rains, it pours. To seemingly pile on to the leading men of United finding their feet, the youngest of this Loons squad are contributing at unprecedented rates. Minnesota’s sure-bet as the team’s rookie of the year Hassani Dotson chipped in with yet another BANGER of goal when he unleashed a thunderous bomb from outside the box. The kid can do no wrong and I don’t know what’s crazier: that he scores only beautiful goals or that he does so from outside back positions. Stunning.
“I think a few weeks ago, you remember when I said he might be one of the best finishers in the club?” Heath said. “I said it after his goal here against Philadelphia. He’s got a great strike on him. And if we can keep getting him at any of the spots around the penalty area, that can happen because he’s got incredible power and not much back lift.”
Meanwhile, rookie Chase Gasper received his first-ever MLS start and looked completely assured. His touches, his passes, everything looked calm and composed. Now, again the quality of opponent could be brought into question, but this has been what Gasper has shown in every appearance this season. The sample size is small, but it’s starting to feel sustainable.
“All aspects of his game. He was in the right spots defensively. Got forward. Used the ball well. Some of his balls down the touchline to Miguel Ibarra especially, were outstanding,” Heath said. “Because there wasn’t much room for error where he was playing it. But he’s sort of taking off where he started, because he had a really, really good preseason, and then he got an injury. But, he’s done terrific.”
If that wasn’t enough, the cherry on top is second-year forward and former No. 7 overall pick Mason Toye was able to slot his first-ever MLS goal in the 75th minute. It could be a major boost for the raw prospect who had a tumultuous rookie season. This could be the beginnings of him becoming a regular part of the squad as Rodriguez’s backup.
4. It was revealed during the broadcast that Heath told ESPN that United are currently in negotiations with two players, who could possibly join the club once the MLS’s secondary transfer window opens on July 9.
This could be massive as United push for the first-ever playoff appearance in franchise history. The team sits somewhat comfortable in playoff position right now, but the team has major depth questions and the Western Conference is showing high levels of parity this season.