Minnesota United has done it again and advanced further in a knockout tournament than anyone expected them too. After a thrilling last minute win against Sporting Kansas City then draws with Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake the Loons were set up to face the Columbus Crew SC. Robin Lod’s 19th minute goal seemed to be the match winner for most of the night before Jose Aja fouled Derrick Etienne resulting in a PK for the Crew. Gyasi Zardes would take the PK which Tyler Miller would save the penalty but Zardes put in the ensuing rebound. This setup a penalty kick shootout which Minnesota would win 5-3 off the back of a Tyler Miller save and a Chase Gasper closer.
San Jose Earthquakes on the other hand has had a complete opposite start to the season and the tournament. The Quakes drew Toronto FC 2-2 to open the year then lost to MNUFC 5-2 back in March. San Jose would then draw Seattle 0-0 to open the tournament but has been on fire since then. The Earthquakes have since beaten Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3, and Chicago Fire 2-0 in the group stage before beating RSL 5-2 in the Knockout Round of 16.
As noted earlier this is the second game between United and the Quakes in 2020 and the series overall has been very streaky. San Jose won the first four straight games in 2017 and 2018. The Loons took the series last year winning both games by scores of 3-0 and 3-1 before beating San Jose 5-2 back in March.
Unlike in March where MNUFC and their reworked attack were new, which allowed them to score 8 goals in two games, the Loons have struggled in this tournament. With that they have been labeled by some as underdogs in this match as well as the last. Adrian Heath doesn’t seem to mind stating:
“Well, probably, on what people would perceive as current form, maybe that’s, you know, the bookies aren’t often wrong, are they? I don’t see many poor bookmakers. Certainly, I haven’t. We know what’s coming. I have tremendous respect for [Matias Almeyda]. I think the conviction of his actions with his group are incredible. Because it’s something that everybody doesn’t do. And, you know, there are bad spells, there are bad losing streaks, but he never waivers. And the players have obviously all bought in. You only have to see their reaction to goals and their reaction to victories after the game, to see that they’re all bought in on what they’re trying to do. So maybe they are favorites. I don’t know. But, at the end of the day, I know that it’s going to be a tough game and that won’t be swayed either way with what the bookies think.”
Tough game is correct even with Minnesota’s streak against San Jose and the team’s stout defense recently they’ll need to be even more up for the task. The Earthquakes have scored 11 goals in their last 3 games and a total of 15 in 2020. San Jose is led on the scoring front by Midfielders Cristian Espinoza and Magnus Eriksson and Forward Chris Wondolowsk. Espinoza has two goals this season, one in each of the last two matches, Wondolowsk has three also in the last three matches. The real one to watch will be Eriksson who also has three goals. Those three have all come on penalties this year, two against RSL and one against MNUFC earlier this season.
Knowing that San Jose has a penalty kick threat and scoring threats like that the Loons will need to play a tighter defense tonight then any other time in 2020 and also score first to set the tone. Something Adrian Heath also knows is important.
“Well, every game is different. I always think against San Jose the first goal is very important because of the way they play. As I said, once they start to get up a head of steam, they get some momentum going within the game, they’re very difficult to stop. They keep pressing. They keep putting you under extreme pressure. And when you’re playing a goal down early on, you actually start to make decisions that, probably, you wouldn’t do normally. So, I think the start is going to be massive. I think the fact that we know each other really, really well will help both teams. I think they both know what we’re gonna try and do. So, yeah, I think it’s going to be a tough game for us. And, I don’t really think the 5-2 win for us in San Jose – which seems an eternity ago – will have much bearing on what’s happening tomorrow. We both had four months off. We both have been going through a lot of difficulties our way from football. It’ll be 90 minutes on its own. We’re just going to look at the next 90 minutes and not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Minnesota United FC
- Questionable: Kevin Molino (Hamstring) and Romain Metanire (Hamstring)
- Out: Ike Opara (undisclosed)
San Jose Earthquakes
- Questionable: Luis Felipe (leg)
- Out: None
Minnesota United will play San Jose Earthquakes tonight at 7:00 PM CT on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and TSN. Join our own Eli Hoff and Jacob Schneider with special guests David Naylor and Jeremy Rushing on Periscope at 6:30PM CT for a one of a kind match preview.