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Notebook: The game plan worked to perfection

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Minnesota United’s game plan gave the team it’s fourth straight win over San Jose.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at San Jose Earthquakes Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Last night Minnesota United defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 4-1 in the Loons most dominating performance of the tournament to date. Not only did this send MNUFC to the MLS Is Back Semi-Finals but it also gave them their fourth straight win over the Quakes. Defensively Minnesota was able to play a fluid shape bouncing between a 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3 as needed. The flexibility allowed the Loons to not hold San Jose out and away from the 18 for a good part of the match, but also in turn allowed the offense to break out of the Quakes man to man coverage and counter attack. Adrian Heath was asked about the game plan in the post match presser and said:

“I said before the game I thought the first goal was going to be huge because they’ve come into this game with a lot of momentum on the back of some really good performances. But, as I’ve said before, I’ve probably got more faith in this group than anybody else. Certainly, more than you, the press, and the people everywhere else who continually seem to think we struggle to get through. It’ll be interesting to read the narrative tomorrow when we look at the score line. Because, conceivably, they had a little bit more pressure than we would have liked in the second half. But, had we taken our chances and had a little bit more care on the break, it could have been a lot more than four. But, we’ll see what’s said.”

Jacori Hayes, who scored his first goal for the Loons last night, said about the game plan and the preparation for it:

“We went over the film on how they played and there was a lot of communication on the field to which guys we wanted to press. And, you know, fortunately it worked out. We were all over them in the first couple of minutes like you said and it led to the goal. So, we came out with a lot of energy and I’m happy with the group for that and in these knock-out games you want to come out on the front foot to dictate the tempo and it felt like we did that with our pressure.”

Speaking of Jacori Hayes, Adrian Heath echoed a statement he said about Robin Lod before; he’s not surprised at how good Hayes performance was:

I thought he came on and did really well the other night. The hardest job that we have, is when you’ve got really good players who are not playing, but you see them every day training the way that they do. And that’s been an incredible compliment to them guys that they come in every single day and push the guys who are ahead of them. And, Jacori [Hayes] has been that since the day he got here. So, I’m not surprised that he’s come in and give us the performance that he has, because he does it every single day. And that’s incredible reward for players when they keep turning up, they keep doing it, and they don’t get playing time. But, as I always say to them, this is a squad game. Especially here. Especially, we’re a few numbers light at the moment. I’m really pleased for them guys.”

Minnesota United’s domination over San Jose has only come since Matias Almeyda took over as manager for the Earthquakes, Adrian Heath has known that but he still has respect for the coach and what the team does. Saying after the match:

“You think about it, but, I think it’s so embedded what they do. As I said before the game, I have a tremendous amount of respect for their coach. I think it’s incredible that somebody can go, ‘this is the way I’m going to play,’ and then go about it with the conviction that he does. Even tonight, you know that they’re never giving in. They keep going. And at 3-1 I’m looking at the clock and I’m going, this is still not over yet. Because, the one thing that is instilled in the group is a belief in what they do. So, yeah, it looks as if a comfortable win if people haven’t watched the game. Anyone who has watched the game would say it’s far from comfortable.”

Next up Minnesota United will face Heath’s old club Orlando City SC on Thursday night. As many know Heath spent a lot of time with OCSC and their predecessor the Austin Aztex. He coached the USL Aztex from 2009-2010 and kept the job when the moved to Orlando in 2011. He then coached the Lions from 2011 to July of 2016 seeing the team in both USL Pro and transitioning them to MLS. Heath has a combined record of 132-59-77 (W-D-L) with the Aztex/USL OCSC/MLS OCSC. During his time with the club he won the USL Pro Regular Season Championship in 2011, 2012, and 2014 while winning the playoff title in 2011 and 2013. During the teams time in Austin, Heath faced Thunder and Stars coach Manny Lagos going 2-2-1 against Lagos. When asked about his time with the Lions, Heath said:

“Everybody knows my feelings towards Orlando City. You don’t spend the time that I did there and not have an incredible fondness for the club. But as I say, we’ll start to concentrate on them tomorrow. I just want to enjoy the evening with my players. And, we’ll start to think about the next game, tomorrow.”