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MNUFC Dominate in 5-2 Win in San Jose

March 7, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Minnesota United FC News Release

SAN JOSE, Cal. - On a rain-slicked night in Northern California, Minnesota United tangled with the San Jose Earthquakes and came out on top, riding a combination of aggressive passing and off-the-ball running along with clinical finishing on set pieces to a resounding 5-2 win, despite having way less of the ball. Defender Ike Opara opened the scoring early with a header off of a corner kick, and he would later earn a penalty off a corner and get his brace to close out the scoring on another header off yet another corner. In between, midfielder Kevin Molino found Luis Amarilla for his second goal and header of the season and Robin Lod would clean up a missed penalty from Amarilla for his first goal in MLS. Jan Gregus would finish the night with two assists and a goal.

MNUFC started where it left off against the Portland Timbers in Week 1, getting forward and putting the opponent on the back foot. Just 12 minutes in, the Loons earned a corner kick with Jan Gregus taking it from the right corner. Defender Ike Opara skied in from the right side to catch the ball and deliver an authoritative header into the back of the net to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.

But in the 19th minute, the Quakes struck back as defender Tommy Thompson drew a foul right on the edge of the penalty box as Chase Gasper challenged him. San Jose captain Magnus Eriksson stepped to the spot and sent it low and hard to goalkeeper Tyler Miller's left as he guessed right.

Minnesota, though, would not be cowed, instead redoubling its commitment to run on every possession with its fullbacks racing ahead on the flanks and its midfielders flying up the pitch to push San Jose's man-marking scheme to the breaking point. In the 26th minute, Luis Amarilla picked up the ball in space before tapping it out wide with the outside of his right foot. Gregus ran onto the ball and zeroed in on the near post, blasting it low past Vega to put the Loons back on top, 2-1. Minutes later, with the rain really pouring down, the visitors doubled the lead after Kevin Molino picked out Amarilla alone in the middle of the box. For the second time in two weeks, the Paraguayan rose up and fired a header into the back of the net.

Ten minutes later, Molino would have to leave the game with what appeared to be a leg issue, making way for second-year player Hassani Dotson. Not satisfied with going into the locker room up by two goals, MNUFC continued to press the issue, earning a corner kick in stoppage time. Opara once again aimed to work his way loose and get up for Gregus' delivery, but he went down in the box, earning a penalty. Amarilla lined it up, but his shot went straight at Vega, who guessed correctly but couldn't secure the ball. As it bounced loose, Robin Lod pounced on it and drilled it with a left-footed shot past a recovering Vega to open his goal-scoring account in MLS.

The second half opened with the Loons in control 4-1 and working to shift down the tempo and control more of the ball. The result was more opportunities for San Jose almost immediately, and the Quakes took advantage of the Loons' deeper lines off a short corner in the 53rd minute. The initial cross into the box was cleared, but only as far as midfielder Vako, who loosed a low shot that beat Miller and pulled the home side back within two goals.

San Jose, though, was unable to capitalize on the goal, instead spinning its wheels while MNUFC applied more pressure. In the 71st minute, the visitors put the game to bed off yet another corner kick, and it was once again Ike Opara who elevated and buried it, earning his brace and pushing the score to a 5-2 final.



12' | Ike Opara nails the header off the corner kick in the right corner, skying into the box and putting it past Daniel Vega on the far post. Jan Gregus with the assist. 1-0

19' | Magnus Eriksson drills the PK after Tommy Thompson draws the foul near the right edge of the box. 1-1

26' | Jan Gregus picks up the ball on the right wing off a tap ahead from Luis Amarilla. Gregus zeroes in on the near post and blasts it low past Vega. 2-1

32' | No one picks up Kevin Molino and Molino hits the early cross into the center of the box to find Luis Amarila, who heads it confidently into the back of the net. 3-1

47' | Ike Opara gets taken down in the box on the corner kick as he tries to get to the far post. Penalty is awarded. Amarilla shoots left and Vega gets in front of it, but Lod is there to blast it with his left foot straight through the hands of Vega. 4-1

53' | Short corner for SJ leads eventually to a cross that's cleared, but only as far as the edge of the box where Vako finds it and puts it on the ground past Miller. 4-2

71' | Opara gets his brace. Off of the corner kick from the left side, Opara again elevates and taps it into the far corner. 5-2


Minnesota United: GK Tyler Miller; D Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Chase Gasper; M Ozzie Alonso, Jan Gregus, Robin Lod, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay; F Luis Amarilla

San Jose Earthquakes: GK Daniel Vega; D Nick Lima, Oswaldo Alanis, Guram Kashia, Tommy Thompson; M Magnus Eriksson, Jackson Yueill, Vako, Andres Rios, Cristian Espinoza; F Danny Hoesen


Minnesota United vs. New York Red Bulls

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota

03.15.2020 | MLS Week No. 3 | MLS Game No. 3

6:00 p.m. CT (FS1, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)



On what impressed him in his team's win...

"Our defensive shape, and the ability to counter-attack quickly. We did really well with it last week at Portland, really dangerous on the transition moments, and I thought we were again today. It's not an easy place to come here, everybody knows they play a little different than most teams and they make it tough for you. But I did say that if we could stand that pressure, there are moments to counter and if our first ball out of defense into the front man is good, then we can get ahold of the first one, there's plenty of room for runners to run into and that was very much the case. You know, if you look at the score line, you can see we put up two or three others as well. You know so, I thought we were worthy winners."

On the impact of Ike Opara...

"The great thing about Ike is, what you see is what you get. He gives you everything he's got, he's a great competitor. He's not as quiet as people think, he has an opinion in the locker room. The great thing about this particular group, it's the best I've had since I've been in Minnesota. There's a great collective spirit, they do what's asked of them, and they hold each other accountable which is always important. And it doesn't surprise me, the start we've had. Maybe didn't think we'd score eight goals in two away games, but you know, I knew that we'd be competitive and we will be all season."

On what he studied of Matias Almeyda and San Jose...

"Yeah, you know so, the way that they set up, I believe that there are certain things that, if you do them well, then you have a great opportunity, certainly in transition. Because they do put lots of men forward. You know, full backs are nearly always as high as the wide guys. They flood the box when he goes wide. But they do leave themselves a little bit vulnerable on the counter. You know, that was what we'd been talking about and working on for most of the week."

On the expectations of this season compared to last season...

"The expectations were that we had a really good year last year. We got to the cup, the final, we made the playoffs. We feel as though the squad's upgraded, the team's upgraded, and now we have to keep holding each other accountable. The one thing I said before, just to the guys there, it's a start. And I told you this, it's a long year, lots of travel, you know. So, but we gave ourselves a good platform, we've got four home games now. You know, but, it doesn't count for anything if you don't perform at home. If we can perform like we can at home, and take these kind of performances on the road, then we should be in good shape."

On the effectiveness of set pieces...

"Yeah, well when you've got size and people who can attack the ball, and you put quality in the box, which is what we did this evening. You know some of the quality is fantastic, and a great lot of desire to get on the end of it. As I said to the guys before the game, both boxes it's so important that you're the first to the ball. We were most, in defensively and in attacking."

On Kevin Molino's injury...

"He's, he's got a slight hamstring strain, we hope it's not too bad. And he could just feel it. And you know, we did say to the guys, 'anybody feels anything, give us a shout.' Hopefully we've caught it early enough and he'll be available for next weekend, but we'll probably get a better idea in the next 48 hours."

On the main difference between last season and this season...

"Well, I feel that we have a stronger group. And I believe that the chemistry that we have within the group is as good as anywhere I've been since I've been in America. And they're a great group to coach, they get along with each other, and I think that shows on the field."

On defensive lapses vs. Portland and San Jose...

"Well as I said to you before, I thought it probably -- I'm not sure, I'll have to see the penalty, the incident again. But the second goal, I wasn't as pleased with that. Like you say, scrappy, we've got enough bodies there. You know, sometimes you have too many bodies and people think other people are going to do the job, instead of going and marking people and trying to confront it at source. So we'll have a look at it and see where we are."


On scoring his first MLS goal..

"Yeah, yeah, it's relieving, one for sure. I've been waiting so long for that moment, so I'm happy to get it done and I hope it's the first of many."

On the chemistry of Minnesota's offensive line...

"Yeah, it's been great, we have a really good chemistry, me and the four guys in the front with all the team, we have been really effective. And we of course have had goals, and even though it wasn't the best game for us today, we showed that we are effective."

On how the team can take momentum back to Minnesota...

"Yeah, I think we need to keep a little bit more of the ball and, yeah it's been good two away victories and now we just have to show the home fans that we keep going with their support and we're going to be even better for sure."

On playing a counter-attacking style through two games...

"Yeah, it's been good the results have been good and the tactics have done really well for these two games, but I think we've got to have the ball for sure a little bit more."


On Minnesota's dominance in aerial play...

"Not necessarily. Obviously that's one of my strengths, but I was upset with myself last week actually. Jan [Gregus] was putting in great balls and my runs were poor to be honest and so it was one the things I wanted to correct. Didn't know I would get three opportunities to cause and create goals, so I'll take that. But you know, it's just one of the things where we have a lot of guys with height and good ability in the air. It was just me tonight and hopefully next week it's [Michael Boxall] and so forth."

On the results in recent matches versus the San Jose Earthquakes...

"I'm not sure because I'm a huge fan of this team. Honestly, I love watching them play. I know they struggled a bit at the beginning of last year but by the summer time, I thought, behind LAFC, they were the second best team for a while. It's just one of those things. We come ready to play. Maybe it's just matchup; we match up well with them and we're going to see them again in a few weeks. Hopefully we can continue the momentum we've had over the last three matchups with them."

On Minnesota dominating the match...

"I think we just have a lot of guys who have a high IQ and we will take what the game gives us. Obviously if we have a game plan and it's not working, we have guys that can adjust on the fly and we all fall in sync really quickly. I think that's a credit to all the guys on this team. We're pretty fluid and adaptable and it's just one of those games that everything was clicking. Unfortunately, we gave up two goals. I'm not happy about that one but I think we took a lot of positives out of tonight."

On taking advantage of set pieces...

"Honestly, Jan [Gregus] is great with his services and if we do our runs consistently, we've got enough guys more than capable of getting chances. It wasn't San Jose, that's just how much we believe in what we can do and tonight it finally came through."

On sharing the field Chris Wondolowski...

"It's memory lane. It's wild. It seems like so long ago that we were teammates. We've had a lot of battles over the years. First off, he had the greatest underdog story in MLS history, no doubt about it. To see what he's done and to be on the field with the guy who's had to put in and earn every single bit of respect, it's special. I'm glad I was his teammate and I'm glad I finally got his jersey. It's one of those things where it's good to compete against him. Unfortunately, I had to score when he was marking me so maybe I'll have the final word there but it's good to be playing against him."

On speaking with Chris Wondolowski...

"You know what's funny. Beforehand, I said 'Wondo, I'm going to take it easy on you. I'm not going to even go near post.' Poor thing came right to me and I'm thinking, I'm sorry, but had to go win it. I'm sure I'm going to get some hate in this text from him and deservedly so."

On correcting mistake in order to keep a clean sheet...

"I guess two of the three goals were correctable mistakes. My foul was not a smart decision from me and Chase's [Gasper] was probably not a smart decision as well. Two of the goals we've allowed have been on set pieces, off [penalty kicks]. From a getting broken down perspective, we're doing okay there. It's just we're giving up soft goals. Even the corner kick today, it just deflects, and no one put pressure really on the shot. We just needed more urgency in a couple moments."

On Minnesota building off the last two wins...

"You know, obviously, confidence can be a shaky thing at times, but I think we just have to keep riding the good waves that we're on. We have a great group of guys in our locker room that believe and love each other and enjoy being around each other. I don't expect anything to be different moving next week. We just have to keep our head down and keep working because obviously we are not a finished product. No one really is [at] this time of the year, but I think we're off to a really good start obviously."

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