A first half hat trick from Colombian striker Angelo Rodriguez provided the momentum Minnesota United needed to steal the slippers out from underneath this years Open Cup Cinderella side, New Mexico United.
The guests at Allianz Field scored the opening goal in the seventh minute of play, but a powerful and transitional Loons offense proved to be too much for the USL Championship side.
“I want to congratulate New Mexico, I think they’ve done incredibly well,” coach Adrian heath said. “They’re really well coached, Troy (NMU head coach) has a bright future. Their support was fantastic and they can be really proud of what they’ve done in this competition, considering it’s a first year club.”
New Mexico united had previously knocked off two MLS sides in the round of 64 and round of 32 in the competition, defeating the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas.
“The one thing I said to the guys before the game, you might have to be patient because they do possess the ball well, and they’re really good at that,” Heath said.
Angelo Rodriguez opened up the scoring for the Loons in the 10th minute of play, heading home the ball after receiving a cross from fullback Hassani Dotson. Following the opening goal for Minnesota, the Loons scored three more times in the following 13 minutes to go up 4-1 over New Mexico United.
Highlighting the first four goals was a sensational free kick from Slovakian international Jan Gregus, who curled a low, beaming, shot into the bottom corner.
Jan Gregus makes it FOUR for @MNUFC from the set piece! #USOC2019 pic.twitter.com/H0RLZaiFmD— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 11, 2019
When asked about the 13 minute span of goals, Heath remarked that he was happy with the quality of movement, speed of play and thought as well as the clinical ability of the scorers and the movement of passes and opportunity creating.
“I have a favorite saying: Give it to people when they want it, not when you’re finished with it; and that’s what we did tonight,” Heath said.
In the 45th minute of play, right before the stroke of the halftime whistle, Angelo Rodriguez completed his hat trick bringing his goal-scoring total to nine goals on the season, with four of them in the Open Cup.
“Obviously the objective of a forward is to score goals, even more so a hat trick, but what’s most exciting for me is to know that our team is through to the next round and one step closer to our objective of winning the cup,” Rodriguez said.
The Loons came out of the second half fairly quiet, coasting for the first 15 minutes of play. Coach Adrian Heath felt that every counter the team provided in the second half was a “great goalscoring opportunity” but that the final touch was never there.
Minnesota did add one goal in the second half however, with Miguel Ibarra flanking down the right wing and dribbling around two defenders and the goalkeeper for his first goal at Allianz Field.
“I’ve been waiting for it, so just getting out there, getting the goal, was amazing for me. It’s been a couple games that I haven’t scored, so coming back and getting on the score sheet is big for me.”
There was mild frustration from the technical staff as Heath felt that the team was “a bit sloppy” in certain moments, but overall, there was mutual satisfaction among players and managerial staff with the win.
With the win, the Loons move one step closer towards the open Cup final, but to get there, they will have to play one more match against the Portland Timbers on August 7.
There will be a draw later this afternoon to determine who will host the semifinal contest.
The Loons return to MLS play this Saturday, July 13, when they host FC Dallas in a Western Conference matchup.