Minnesota United FC vs. Toronto FC
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - With the thrill and nerves of opening Allianz Field and the disappointment of a 3-3 draw with visiting New York City FC in the rearview, it is with no small amount of relief that Minnesota United turns its attention squarely to soccer. Despite the vernal weather now descending on the Twin Cities in the wake of last week's snowstorm, the Loons will fly south instead of north in the spring to face a Toronto FC squad that has not lost at BMO Field and sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. MNUFC will have to cope with freshly arrived star Alejandro Pozuelo in the midfield and a rejuvenated Jozy Altidore as it looks to continue the solid early road form that saw them pick up nine points in their first five games away.
The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT 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.
"Part of me is glad it's all over now," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "We can concentrate on getting back to some normality. Last week was a different week for us. In the beginning of the game, when I look back, we probably got caught up in the emotion of it all. Certainly, considering scoring three goals at home, that should be enough. But I thought in the end that a draw was probably a fair result. I don't think we did enough to win it, I don't think they did. But we've got a difficult game coming up now. Back on the road again."
The only Friday night game on the Loons' schedule this season, the tilt against Toronto marks the start of a compressed run of games for MNUFC. Next week, the team will host the LA Galaxy on Wednesday and D.C. United on Sunday at Allianz Field, likely forcing Heath into some decisions about rotating players in a squad currently lacking defender Ike Opara (out following a head injury against NYCFC) and Miguel Ibarra (questionable with a hamstring injury), plus working on bringing both Darwin Quintero and Kevin Molino back to full health.
Add on the challenge of a shorter turnaround with a game on Friday instead of Saturday, and there was no rest for the weary as MNUFC got right back into it on Monday at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
"Losing the day will be different for us, playing a Friday evening game will be a little bit different, but it's right back at it," said midfielder Ethan Finlay, who picked up his first assist of the season on an Angelo Rodriguez goal in the home opener. "We're already in here Monday preparing for Friday's game. We have to change our mentality a little bit and come off the high of having a home opener. We need to go on the road and get points. We've proven that we can do it this year. Toronto's a tough team coming off a tough game against Seattle. We look to go there and get points whether that's one or three."
"There's always new players that come to the league," said midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, when asked about the addition of Pozuelo to Toronto. "Pozuelo is a great player but if we do our job and keep him away from reaching the ball, it'll be good for us. If we maintain possession of the ball and keep it away from them, we'll be good."
When the Loons have found success this season, it's often come through aggressive attacking play by the fullbacks Francisco Calvo and Romain Metanire, and the burgeoning partnership down the right side between Metanire and Finlay was on full display against NYCFC.
"You see his work rate and his ability to go up and down the line," said Finlay of the Malagasy defender. "As much running as I do, he does almost twice as much because he's running past me and then going past me the other way when he's on the defensive side of it. He's a tremendous individual player and I'm just trying to do what I can to get on the same wavelength as him and try to play off him and I think he's been able to find me the last couple of games."
The team's approach and understanding of itself continues to evolve in this young season. Although Heath's preferred approach is to build possession through Rodriguez's hold-up play followed by Quintero picking out attackers in space, they've shown a willingness on the road to dirty it up and play deep while looking for a few key passes over the top to get the ball to speedy players like Abu Danladi and Romario Ibarra. Tactical flexibility is key for any team with playoff ambitions, but so is something more intangible: the will to go on the road and get it done.
"I think we've gone out with a different mentality than we did at this time last year," said Heath. "Like most of the players, we were all fed up with hearing about our away form. I think there's a mindset of when we've been on the road of 'Let's make it as difficult as possible.' I honestly believe that we have got a different mindset, but we're going to need it. We're going to have to make sure we come up with the right gameplan and everybody sticks to it and everybody does their job. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance."
Minnesota United's next game is against the LA Galaxy at Allianz Field on Wednesday, April 24. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports Go and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Adrian Heath on how the team's mentality on the road has shifted this year...I think that we've gone out with a different mentality than we did this time last year, obviously we are all fired up about our away form. I do think we've had the mind set of going out there to make it difficult and I honestly do believe we have a different mindset but we are going to need it. Toronto is as tough of a place as anywhere in the league. We'll have a good chance if make sure we come up with the right game plan, everyone sticks to that plan and does their job.
Ethan Finlay on the meaning of having a professional team in the northern Midwest...It's incredible. It's incredible for this region, for the country and obviously I hope it inspires more kids to come this way and not go south to Chicago. For example, if you look at the Dakotas, we are their closest team. We are going to be able to draw from four to five states whether its fans or future players and I think our fan base will continue to grow because of that. Allianz Field is a tremendous piece of architecture, even if you watch soccer or not, that is definitely something you should come be a part of.
Osvaldo Alonso on Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto's new number 10...There's always new players that come to the league. Pozuelo is a great player but if we do our job and keep him away from reaching the ball, it'll be good for us. If we maintain possession of the ball and keep it away from them, we'll be good.
Dayne St. Clair was born in Pickering, Ontario, roughly 25 miles east of Toronto.
Tsubasas Endoh and St. Clair both played for the University of Maryland in 2015.
Toronto Assistant Coach Robin Fraser and MNUFC Sporting Director Manny Lagos played together on Columbus Crew SC in 2004-05. Both retired from playing soccer after 2005.
Miguel Ibarra has played with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore on the U.S. men's national team. He has shared the field twice with each player. All three played together once on February 8, 2015 against Panama (a 2-0 victory).
Altidore and Vito Mannone were teammates on Sunderland AFC from 2013 to 2015.
Toronto Assistant Coach Nick Theslof is a native of Minnesota and competed against Lagos during the 1998 MLS season.
Toronto Head Coach Greg Vanney had an extensive MLS playing career and was an opponent of Minnesota technical staff members Lagos, Amos Magee and Mark Watson.
Eriq Zavaleta and Osvaldo Alonso were teammates on Seattle Sounders FC in 2013 and 2014.
Laurent Ciman and Eric Miller played for Montreal Impact in 2015.
Richmond Laryea was a teammate of Kevin Molino and coached by Adrian Heath on Orlando City SC in 2016.
Osvaldo Alonso scored the first-ever goal at Allianz Field last week. Hisvolley in the 13th minute opened the scoring of a 3-3 draw with NYCFC. It was Alonso's first goal as a member of MNUFC.
This is Minnesota's fourth-consecutive game against teams from the Eastern Conference.
This is the only Friday game on the Loons' schedule in 2019.
The Loons have scored in eight consecutive games.
Angelo Rodriguez scored his second goal of 2019 last week against NYCFC. He is currently on a two-game point steak.
Jan Gregus and Ethan Finlay recorded their first assists of the season last week on Rodriguez' goal. It was Finlay's first point since March 17, 2018.
Darwin Quintero scored Minnesota's first MLS hat trick in the last meeting with Toronto on July 4, 2018.
Brent Kallman made his 50th MLS appearance last game against NYCFC.
This weekend, teams across MLS will be wearing special kits as part of an Earth Day collaboration with Parley for the Oceans. These limited edition kits are made of intercepted plastic waste from ocean.
MNUFC announced earlier this week it will host England's Aston Villa in an international friendly game on July 17 at Allianz Field.
Romario Ibarra is one of seven players in MLS with multiple game-winning goals.
Minnesota is tied for the second-most goals in the league with 14 so far in 2019.
MNUFC and TFC are tied for the most three-goal games with three each. They are also tied with five multi-goal games for the second-most in MLS.
Alejandro Pozuelo's four assists is tied for the second-most in the league.
Jozy Altidore has the second-best scoring rate in the league, averaging 1.25 goals per game.
Toronto has 19 assists, which is the second-highest total in the league.
TFC has taken the second-fewest shots in MLS, attempting just 62 through five games.
Toronto has committed the fewest fouls in the league with just 43 and has the fewest yellow cards with five.
MNUFC has now received two own goals this season. It has had five since joining MLS in 2017.
D - Chase Gasper (Hamstring)
D - Ike Oparra (Facial)
M - Miguel Ibarra (Hamstring)
D - Drew Moor (Adductor)
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. TORONTO FC
BMO FIELD | TORONTO, ONTARIO
4.19.19 | MLS Week 8 | MLS Game No. 7
7:00 p.m. CT (FSN+ / MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
MIN: 3-2-1; 3-2-0 on the road
TOR: 3-1-1; 2-1-0 at home
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