Minnesota United FC vs. Orlando City SC Preview
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - After its 1-0 handling of the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday evening, Minnesota United welcomes Orlando City SC to Allianz Field in a game presented by Allina Health. In what was a frustrating night filled with missed chances and close calls for the Loons, a scintillating through ball from Kevin Molino to Darwin Quintero - who five-holed goalkeeper Clint Irwin - made the difference. Saturday's matchup against Orlando City SC promises heightened emotions for Head Coach Adrian Heath and midfielder Kevin Molino, both of whom came to Minnesota following stints with the Lions. While the Lions have dealt with their fair share of struggles this season, they come into Saturday unbeaten in their last three MLS games, taking a point from a 1-1 draw on the road in Toronto and grabbing all three points from Sporting KC in a gritty 1-0 home win.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North. Allina Health's theme for the game is "Pedal to the Pitch," and anyone who bikes to the game can pick up a complimentary bag check voucher at the Allina Health tent. The first 7,500 fans through the gates will also receive an embroidered "Pedal to the Pitch" patch.
In what proved to be a difficult win for Minnesota United, the Colorado Rapids came to Allianz Field with a clear game plan - sit in defensively, break on the counterattack and create danger from set pieces. The Rapids were resolute, tough to break down and did indeed almost score from two corner kicks on two separate occasions. Kevin Molino - who has been back in the Minnesota starting XI in the last few games - was the key in breaking down the tenacious Rapids defense. Three of his passes resulted in key chances for the Loons, the first being a penalty kick, then an assist to a Darwin Quintero goal and an early cross that set up a free header for Angelo Rodriguez who should've buried the ball in the back of the net.
"I've always said this, if we can get Kevin [Molino] in the right little holes, the right little seams, invariably, he'll pick a pass," said Adrian Heath. "You look at the ball for Mason [Toye] against Portland, you look at the ball for Angelo [Rodriguez] last night, you look at the ball for Darwin [Qunitero] last night, I think the last three or four goals he's had a hand in. When he's on good form and he feels confident about himself and his body, he's a really, really good player. He gets as much satisfaction out of making a goal as he does scoring a goal."
One of the other bright spots on the night was Minnesota United turning in a club-record ninth clean sheet of the season. The stout defensive performance was driven by the ever-physical presence of centerbacks Michael Boxall and Ike Opara, the machine-like running of right back Romain Metanire and yet another display of industry and discipline from left back Chase Gasper. Gasper was ultimately assigned one of the most difficult tasks when facing the Colorado Rapids: man-marking Kei Kamara from set pieces. While two of the Rapids' best chances came from corner kicks, Kamara was nowhere to be found, proving that Gasper had done his job and then some.
"They were on the road but they've got Kei Kamara up top," saidd Gasper. "They [our coaches] said, don't give up set pieces, try not to give up corners but if you do, shut down Kei [Kamara]. Do not let him get [a head] on it. The coaches actually told me before the game that your man marking Kei [Kamara]. He's going to touch the ball somehow but they said don't let him get a clean header. Do everything in your power to make it hard as possible for him to get a clean header. That's really tough to do because he's freakishly athletic but luckily it worked out last night."
While the defensive tests have come thick and fast for the rookie fullback, it doesn't stop with Kamara and the Colorado Rapids. Saturday's opponents, Orlando City SC, have proven that they have offensive and defensive talent all over their squad including the likes of Sacha Kljestan, Dom Dwyer, Tesho Akindele, Kamal Miller and Chris Mueller. The prolific figure of Portuguese winger Luis Nani stands out from the rest. An MLS All Star, Nani has led his team from the front with eight assists and eight goals in 2019 for the Lions. Gasper already expects to be assigned defensive duties to the Portuguese winger and has begun to mentally prepare himself for such a task.
"[Sporting] Lisbon, Manchester United, he's one of the best Portuguese wingers ever," added Gasper. "It's definitely going to give me some chills. [I'm] going to have to pinch myself before the game. I used to study this guy and worship him but now I've got to mark him. [I need to tell myself] just stay calm, don't get overtaken by the moment and just do what I've been doing for the last 12, 13 games or whatever it's been and just play our game, focus on ourselves, hopefully the result comes."
While Gasper grew up watching Luis Nani, Adrian Heath and Kevin Molino spent the early parts of their American soccer careers with Orlando City SC. The pair enjoyed success with the Lions from 2011 to 2016, winning two USL league championships and bringing the team to MLS. While facing your former team can be daunting, Heath has maintained his focus on getting a result on Saturday. With the Loons narrowly grabbing three points against Colorado, Heath knows that his team will have to turn in a better performance come Saturday evening.
"We knew how important these two home games were going to be," said Heath. "If we were to pick [up] three points to go to 44 points on Saturday night, we've given ourselves a really good opportunity of getting in the playoffs and that was the sole aim at the start of the season. The fact that it's Orlando won't make an awful lot of a difference to me in terms of the three points. The performance against Colorado won't be enough to win the game this weekend, trust me. The only thing we've been thinking about is getting three points."
Minnesota United's next game is on Thursday, August 22 as it is back on the road with a visit to the struggling Sporting Kansas City. Kickoff at Children's Mercy Park is set for 8:30 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 8:00 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Preview interviews with Head Coach Adrian Heath and defender Chase Gasper.
Head Coach Adrian Heath on what last year's away win against Orlando meant to him... "It's the first time that I had been back in the stadium in a proper capacity. A little bit like this [Allianz Field], we had a hand in an awful lot of stuff that went into building that stadium, design, stuff that we wanted to try to implement. It was nice to go in. I think any player loves going and playing against his old club or coach and likes to go back and likes to win. You want to show people maybe, what they're missing. I've always said this - and people who know me would tell you this is true - I give everything I've got when I'm working at a club but as soon as I move on I want to beat them like everybody else the minute I can. As much as I'm going to look forward to welcoming James O'Connor and Sean McAuley and one or two members of the staff that are still there this weekend, my own sole focus is getting three points for us now. I think everybody would understand that."
Adrian Heath on having plenty of options around the team... "Yeah, plenty of options, plenty of decisions to be made which is great from the coach. As I said a few weeks ago, we are now at a really good stage of, [if you don't] play well, somebody is going to take your place and they have an opportunity. We are nearly at that stage where if you don't perform then we've got somebody who can come in and I don't think it changes the standard of the group in any shape or form."
Defender Chase Gasper on holding their focus and neutralizing the Rapids from set pieces... "That's a great question. That was our main focus point during the week in preparation [for the Rapids]. The coaches were saying that they were probably going to sit in. They're on the road but they've got Kei Kamara up top and so they said, don't give up set pieces, try not to give up corners but if you do, it's shut down Kei [Kamara]. Do not let him get [a head] on it. The coaches actually told me before the game that your man marking Kei [Kamara]. He's going to touch the ball somehow but they said don't let him get a clean header. Do everything in your power to make it hard as possible for him to get a clean header. That's really tough to do because he's freakishly athletic but luckily it worked out last night."
Chase Gasper on any keys to beating Orlando on Saturday... "We'll go over that tomorrow but they just have awesome players on their team. Nani, I know that's going to be my matchup in that game. Sacha Kljestan, Dom Dwyer, Kamal Miller, Chris Mueller, they have a lot of talent. We're going to go over the film and I'm going to hear what the coaches have to say the main focus points [are]. I can just tell you that if we keep playing how gritty, blue-collar, hard-working, we've been playing and really focusing on not conceding goals and getting another shutout, we are confident we can hang with anyone. Right now, that's the mentality and tomorrow we'll get into more tactical focus points of how we're going to deal with them specifically. I think if we just focus on ourselves and play our game, we'll be good."
Adrian Heath coached Orlando City SC from 2011 to 2016, leading the club to two USL titles and three Commissioner's Cups.
Minnesota Assistant Coach Ian Fuller was on Heath's Orlando staff from 2011 to 2015 before joining the Loons.
Kevin Molino played for Orlando from 2011 to 2016. He won two USL MVP awards (2012, 2014) with the Lions.
Greg Randitsingh, Kamal Miller and Dayne St. Clair were born in neighboring Toronto suburbs Scarborough and Pickering.
Brian Rowe, Abu Danladi and Chase Gasper all played for UCLA in college.
Dom Dwyer, Ike Opara and Lawrence Olum were teammates on Sporting Kansas City in 2013 and 2014.
Minnesota has kept a clean sheet in its last four MLS games at Allianz Field.
Vito Mannone is now tied for the second-most clean sheets in MLS with nine this season. He now holds the club career record after Wednesday's 1-0 win against Colorado Rapids.
Darwin Quintero scored his eighth MLS goal of the season last game.
Quintero has scored 14 goals across all competitions this season.
Mason Toye was suspended an extra game by the MLS Disciplinary Committee and will be unavailable for Saturday's game.
Quintero joins Toye, Ethan Finlay and Romario Ibarra with multiple game-winning goals this season.
Quintero's first half penalty kick on Wednesday was saved by Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin. It was the first unsuccessful penalty kick for MNUFC this season.
Kevin Molino provided his third assist of the 2019 campaign. It was his second game-winning assist this season.
Molino was the last MNUFC player to not convert a penalty kick back in 2017 against Toronto FC.
Molino suffered a season-ending knee injury against Orlando in 2018.
This will be Minnesota's first game against an Eastern Conference team since July 6 at Montreal.
This is also the Loons' last game against a team from the East during the regular season.
The Loons have won both of the previous meetings with Orlando by one goal.
The Loons' 43 goals in MLS ties them for the third most in the league.
Orlando hosted the 2019 MLS All-Star Game. The Loons' Romain Metanire took part in the game, facing off against Atletico Madrid at Exploria Stadium.
This will be the third different venue in the three games of this all-time series between the teams.
M - Osvaldo Alonso (leg)
M - Christian Hiquita (hamstring)
D - Joao Moutinho (hamstring)
D - Ruan (hamstring)
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