Ethan Finlay’s late penalty proved to be the game winner for Minnesota United in today’s match with the Portland Timbers.
The Timbers can’t hold their heads too low, however, as they have a chance at redemption this coming Wednesday, August 7, when they play the Loons again; this time, in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“That was a tough game, I was saying, this has to be one of the most expensive assembled teams in MLS - they’ve got quality throughout,” Heath said. “Obviously, there’s still a long way to go but I do know how important the three points were today.”
The Loons lone goal came courtesy of the VAR official, who deemed that there was a handling foul inside the Portland box in the final minute of regular time. Referee Chris Penso pointed to the spot, and Ethan Finlay converted from the spot.
Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark got a hand on the ball, but there was too much power behind the shot. Finlay and Clark were previously teammates at the Columbus Crew - Finlay had a feeling that Clark knew how to read him.
“I felt confident with my spot, ans obviously, we’ve got history - I've taken plenty of those in training against him and he’s probably seen me go that way most often,” Finlay said. “I felt good about the spot and thought I put enough power on it - he did get a good jump on it, and oh well, we might have to play a little mind game if it comes to more PK’s Wednesday night.”
For Minnesota, three points was crucial today. They only took a point last weekend at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Whitecaps are a team who sits at the bottom of the table, and for a lot of players, they felt that they missed out on two points in that match.
With a victory, the Loons moved up to second place in the Western Conference today.
Taking three points today was a top priority from Adrian Heath and his squad. In training Saturday, he mentioned that the team needed to take things “one game at a time.”
Wednesday has to be the teams mentality now; advancing to the Open Cup final has to be the teams priority. Today was a scrappy 1-0 win for Minnesota, and frankly, they were lucky to earn a penalty in the final minutes of the game.
The Loons have only scored two goals from open play in their past four matches - that’s something the team should probably be worried about. Darwin Quintero will be able to participate, but, there are limits on international players for the Open Cup.
Teams are only allowed five international players in the match, and Minnesota currently has nine rostered international players with two of the seven currently out on loan.
For Minnesota, they are going to have players with tired legs and players with nerves. This is the biggest match in Minnesota United FC history - every single person wants to advance to the final.
Some players who didn’t feature today, but who could feature in the starting XI on Wednesday are Brent Kallman, Hassani Dotson, Lawrence Olum, Dayne St. Clair and Rasmus Schuller.
For the Loons, today was a high-quality win. However, they have to focus-up for Wednesday. The biggest match in club history awaits.