MNUFC Falls to Orlando in MLS Is Back Semifinals
ORLANDO, Fla. - After a lengthy delay thanks to thunderstorms rumbling through the area, Minnesota United faced Orlando City SC in the penultimate game of the MLS Is Back Tournament to see who would get the chance to face Portland Timbers in the Final on Tuesday. While the Loons came out strong and looked dangerous most of the night, it only took two beautiful moves from Nani - a feathery first touch on a long ball and a wicked curve on a shot from distance - to end Minnesota United's strong run through the MLS Is Back Tournament. Although Mason Toye would pull the Loons within one late, a stoppage time goal on the counterattack guaranteed Orlando's 3-1 victory.
Minnesota United began the game much as they did against San Jose, pressing high and keeping the opponent from getting comfortable with the ball. Within the first minute, a deflection off a cross by defender Hassani Dotson earned the Loons their first corner kick of the evening, setting the tone for the early going.
While the right side connection between Dotson and midfielder Ethan Finlay did much of the damage against the Quakes, this game saw a bit more bite from the left side. In the 12th minute, defender Chase Gasper got far enough up to send in a cross that turned into an effort on goal that goalkeeper Pedro Gallese had to tip over the crossbar.
But in the 15th minute, Orlando showed they were up to the challenge of breaking Minnesota's press. Defender Ruan and his world-class speed presented a problem for Gasper from the first whistle, and here, Ruan got around the edge and sent in a hard, low cross towards the feet of forward Tesho Akindele. Akindele's effort, though, went high as defender Jose Aja applied pressure from behind.
From there, Orlando seemed to build in confidence as they struck adventurous long diagonals and redoubled their efforts after losing possession and finding ways to get into space. It paid off for them in the 36th minute as midfielder Nani put a lovely first touch on a bomb of a pass from defender Robin Jansson down the left wing. It got him around Dotson and opened up a window for tremendous shot that put the Lions up 1-0.
Nani's first touch on his first goal was bettered only moment later by the curl on a right-footed effort from the winger near the edge of the box that painted the far goalpost and doubled Orlando's lead to 2-0. Minnesota's initial burst of energy and aggression had flagged and they headed into the locker room with much work to be done.
Not content to let the chip fall where they may, Head Coach Adrian Heath went to his bench early, bringing in Aaron Schoenfeld, Mason Toye and Kevin Molino in the 58th minute for Luis Amarilla, Jacori Hayes and Robin Lod. It gave the team a two-striker look that immediately looked more threatening and ultimately paid dividends in the 82nd minute when Mason Toye stuck on his defender's back shoulder before cutting ahead and finishing a long pass from Molino to cut the deficit in half.
Down a goal at 2-1, the Loons began to throw everything forward, with defenders Michael Boxall and Jose Aja making deep forays into the attacking third. A few times, the attack got decent looks at the ball, including a floating through ball that Boxall nearly banged home with a header and a chance for Dotson to drive home another banger on the right side as he turned and fired, but MNUFC struggled to find the back of the net.
In stoppage time, MNUFC continued to put the pressure on, but it ultimately resulted in an open chance for Benji Michel going the other way and, isolated against Miller, Michel got out wide and put home the insurance goal to make it 3-1 and send the Lions through to the Final against Portland Timbers.
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH: Defender Chase Gasper
36' | Nani lays a lovely touch on a long ball out of the back and goes around the defense before spearing a shot in on the far post. 1-0
43' | Nani gets the ball onto his right foot and just paints the edge of the far post with a curled ball. Little you can do about that. 2-0
82' | The Loons get one back courtesy of Mason Toye, who scooted ahead of the defense and took the pass from Molino before sending it into the back of the net. 2-1
96' | With Minnesota throwing everything forward, Orlando takes advantage on the break and Benji Michel gives the Lions an insurance goal to close out the game. 3-1
Minnesota United: GK Tyler Miller; D Hassani Dotson, José Aja, Michael Boxall, Chase Gasper; M Osvaldo Alonso, Jan Gregus, Jacori Hayes, Robin Lod, Ethan Finlay; F Luis Amarilla
Orlando City: GK Pedro Gallese; D Ruan, AntÃ´nio Carlos, Robin Jansson, João Moutinho; M Jhegson Méndez, Oriol Rosell, Chris Mueller, Mauricio Pereyra, Nani; F Tesho Akindele
MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH
On what the difficulty was in trying to defend Nani and his ability to strike ...
"His second goal was a quality goal. From a quality player. The first one, we should have done a lot more with it. It's a 75-yard ball and we shouldn't be getting done with one ball. But, there was not a lot in the game. I don't know how many corners we've had, how many free kicks we've had. And, perhaps the little bit of quality that we have had in the last few games was missing tonight. I don't think we had enough quality in the final third. Because, we started the game really well, the first 15, 20 minutes, and then they came into it. But, overall, I'm really pleased with the players. Proud of the players. What they've done over the last five weeks in a really difficult situation for the players and the staff and everybody who has been down here. Our players have handled themselves admirably I think. There's a lot of positives to come from the tournament."
On the attack coming to life after the triple substitution, and what the disconnect was on the front third before that point ...
"We didn't get enough bodies forward at times and we didn't have enough quality. I thought we rushed everything. After the first 15 minutes where we started the game really well, but we needed that extra pass in their final third, and we rushed it. We crossed it when there wasn't enough people in the box. We made a lot of wrong choices in the final third tonight and that's probably cost us dearly I think."
On starting the players who were successful in the previous game, how difficult it was to leave Kevin Molino out of the starting XI and if there was a thought to bring him on earlier ...
"No, no. I thought, he's been injured for a couple of weeks and he hasn't got an awful lot of work. So, we had to manage the minutes. And, then you're thinking, well, if we get a goal and we get back in the tournament, are we risking him for the next game? So, unfortunately, I haven't got the hindsight of making decisions after the game. We have to do them in the spur of the moment."
On the benefits of being together for six weeks in the Orlando bubble and playing six games together ...
"Well, the benefit will be that the lads are going to be fit. You know, we came into this, I think, undercooked, into the tournament. But, now they're fit. We'll give them some time away from each other, and some time away from me. And, we'll see where we are next week."
On why VAR didn't review the play when Aaron Schoenfeld's jersey was pulled in the box at the end of the game ...
"I'll have to see it, because, obviously, from where I am, I didn't get a great view. You know, I have to say, I don't think Drew [Fischer] had his finest game tonight. I thought his handling of the game, time wasting, etcetera, etcetera, was poor. And, you know, we were lucky that we didn't boil over a couple of times because of what was going on. But, I'll have to have a look at that decision again. I couldn't really see from where we were."
On the final result being the difference between Orlando having and not having Nani ...
"Not really. Oscar [Pareja] has done a really good job with them in a short period of time. We knew they were going to be a threat down the right-hand side with Ruan and [Chris] Mueller. I thought they handled that situation really well. So, no, it was obviously, the second goal is a quality goal. We know that. But, I thought, Hassani [Dotson] at times, handled him quite well. The first goal is our gault. You can't get beat with a 75-yard ball over the back four and Nani just controls it and puts it in the net. That's poor from our point of view."
On any added emotion for him due to playing Orlando City ...
"There's been a lot said about my relationship with the people here. And, that will never change. But, you know, as people know, the only thing on my mind tonight was to win. To try and knock them out of the tournament. So, I'm just disappointed for the players. Dissapointed for our supporters back home. I thought we had enough to of at least got to the final. But, it's not to be. There's a lot of positive to take from the tournament. And as I say, we'll give the guys some time off at home, and recharge and let's go again."
On what comes next for the Loons as a team and the plan for the next week and a half ...
"We'll probably get back tomorrow. And then, we'll probably give them at least three or four days. I think they need to get away from each other. You know, as much as the team spirit has been incredible, they need a few days away from each other, they need a few days away from me and the staff. So, we'll probably do that. And, we'll start to think about the resumption of the league play when we get back home in the middle of next week I would think"
On the first loss in 2020 and what he wants to tweak and adjust for the continuation of the season so the Loons don't face more of these defeats ...
"We've had a good start to the season. This was a Cup competition tonight, so, still undefeated in the league. But, a really good start. Difficult places where we've been and played. So, I'm optimistic with this group. We've brought one player in. We're trying to bring one or two more in. And, if we can, we will, and if we can supplement this group with one or two bits of quality, then I'm very optimistic of what the season ahead looks like for us."
On if he can go another nine months without a loss ...
"I'd like to. I don't know if it's possible, but we'll certainly try. We've had a good start to the season, and we shouldn't take away from that. Obviously, we're hugely dissapointed with the result tonight. But, even in this. Up until the third goal, we were pushing. I thought we were going to get another one. Maybe take it to a penalty shootout, but, it wasn't to be. As I say, good luck to them. They've had a really good tournament and I think they have a chance at the final as well."
On positives that he will take out of the weeks the team spent in Orlando ...
"The collective spirit of the group. The willingness to do everything that we ask of them. They've been absolutely magnificent. I can't thank the players enough for their response to be down here. And as I said in the week, I think it's very difficult for people back home to understand what it's been like down here for these players. Cooped up in a room for 20 hours a day is not ideal. But, they have been absolutely terrific of everything we have asked of them. Their commitment to working hard and training has been brilliant. So, there's a lot of positives to take. Mostly the chemistry within the group."
On how he would evaluate the MLS Is Back Tournament overall ...
"I think it's been an outstanding success. I think the people at the MLS couldn't have done any better than what they've done. The hotel has been good. The facilities here at Disney have been fantastic. And, I think it's been a huge plus for the league. Hopefully, we won't do it again because we will get over this virus that we've got at the moment that's making everybody's life such a misery. But, in terms of the MLS, it's been a huge success. Thank you to all the staff who have been terrific in and out of the hotel. I think when we all look back at it, it will be one of those things that we've never had before, and, maybe never have again. But it would be a huge success from MLS' point of view."
On his reaction when the ball in was coming to Mason Toye's head and if he felt like that was the moment ...
"Yeah. You know, we got the ball wide a lot tonight, and I don't think the quality in the box was good tonight. Well, you know, when we put some quality in there, we did look dangerous. And, yeah, the first goal was an unbelievable run. Great ball off [Kevin] Molino and a good finish. And. I honestly thought that we were going to get another one, and it was a good opportunity. I'll have to see it again. I don't know if it was too high for him, or he couldn't get over it. But, it was another good opportunity."
On anything in particular he is looking forward to being back in Minnesota ...
"Seeing my wife will be a positive I think. And, it will just be nice to get back home and get out of a bubble and be able to walk around the town and walk around the lake. Just, enjoy what Minnesota has to offer this time of year. I always enjoy coming to Orlando, but, trust me, me and the players will be happy to get back in Minnesota."
MINNESOTA UNITED MIDFIELDER ETHAN FINLAY
On Luis Nani's quality being the key factor of this game...
"No I don't that was the case. I think it was a case of ten minutes of where we maybe weren't as mentally checked on as we had been this whole tournament. For the first 30 minutes of this game, I thought we were the better team and they were struggling to build out the back and we were on the front foot for most of the time. [Nani] makes two great plays obviously but, I think this group, and we saw it as the game went on, we'll take away...we feel like we get rid of those moments where we could do a little bit better, I think all of us together were in this game. I think if we get something in the first half before they get their goals, I think it's a totally different game. Didn't happen tonight which is obviously disappointing but I still feel really good about this group, where we're at and what we can do."
On what was lacking in the attack in the final third...
"Just the final pass, a little bit of sharpness. I'll say I was disappointing there whether it be crosses, making that final, it wasn't there this evening and we need to do a better job of that. We've done a better job at that all tournament. Tonight it it just didn't happen. So it was a little bit of sharpness in the final third. I'll put my hand up, Luis [Amarilla] will out his hand up, we could have been sharper at time, Robin [Lod] as well in that first 30 to maybe, like you said, nick an early goal. You said we didn't have a shot until the 75th minute, yet it felt like we were very much on the front foot and we were right there. We got to clean up that area of the field, we got to be more dynamic, we gotta be just sharper in those moments and we weren't tonight. But don't take away from what the subs did when they came in. They all made a difference. It was that pass from Kevin Molino which was a decisive pass and good movement by Mason [Toye], we gotta get back to that kind of stuff and we've done that all tournament and unfortunately, we didn't do it tonight when we needed to."
On not feeling outplayed, but the team missing an opportunity...
"Yea, I really do. You got to give [Orlando] credit, obviously. They made plays when they needed to but I feel really good about what this group did here and what they accomplished and I think the disappointing feeling we have in our gut isn't the fact that we got outplayed tonight. That's the disappointing part about being knocked out of this tournament. You get to this point in this competition where you want to win it, not for the money but for the pride. We expect to go into every game and to compete and compete at a high level and that's what we did tonight. I think we feel like we let ourselves down tonight, not going to take away all the credit from Orlando but that's a team, I don't think, we're afraid of by any means. I love this group. This group of guys is disappointed because of that, not because we think we got outplayed this evening."
On the challenges of staying in the bubble while other teams leave...
"You're still here. When you hit the knockout stages you flip the switch a little bit and say ok, now you win one game against Columbus and now you feel a little taste in your mouth, let's make a real run here. That's exactly what we did, that's exactly our intentions. We kept on. It's not easy for anybody who's still here. But we were fully prepared and ready to be here for five more days and play in a final. At this point, when you come down this far of the path, that was 100 percent our intention. It is what it is. It's probably been one of the greatest challenges I've had in my career and I think most guys will say that too. Being away from your family, being away from your friends, literally living in a bubble. But this group, with everything we've had to deal with, outside of COVID, losing guys like Ike [Opara], losing Romain, making some adjustments in our lineup, losing Kevin, I mean this team has dealt with adversity and we've had the next guy step up and we've had good performances from guys off the bench. When I look forward after this tournament, I only have positives to be honest with you. [Boxall] just spoke about the back line, I think it's a tremendous job what Jose has done over the last six weeks. How many of you guys thought when Jose, when we were coming into this tournament, 'this team is in trouble in the back line?' I think that he's answered a lot of those questions along with the other three guys and other guys who got plugged in there. I come out of this tournament, of course, disappointed tonight but, I'm deeply excited about where we can go in this regular season. We set ourselves up in a good spot."
On what benefits they take away from spending six weeks together...
"I know what kind of underwear half these guys wear, I don't know. You saw this team grow. We gel. We get some new pieces and guys are really bought in to what we're doing here. When you think about what we had happen in our city back in May and a lot of the social injustice that's really happened right in our backyard, I think that was a bit of a rallying cry for our group already. I think this tournament has only made us stronger because we've been able to spend a lot fo that time together. There was a lot of great opportunity for a lot guys too who maybe haven't got a bunch of minutes to this point and they played big time minutes. That gives guys, whether you're in the 11 or not, gives guys faith that we've got a deep squad and that's what you need in this tournament and that's what you need in this league in general."
MINNESOTA UNITED DEFENDER MICHAEL BOXALL
On how the group sees themselves after the tournament...
"Anytime you leave a tournament without anything, without taking away any silverware, it's disappointing. Everybody outside this group might have had different expectations of us but we've gone into every game knowing we can win it and that was surely the case tonight. It's just very disappointing to lose whether it's an MLS Playoff game or some Mickey Mouse cup, it's hurts pretty bad."
On how he asses the defensive performance of the team throughout the tournament...
"For the most part it's been pretty good but there's still lapses that come with not having super familiar combination. Obvisouly Jose [Aja] has been absolutely brilliant but it's just when you have a new player come in and then Romain [Metanire] go out, just breaks up that familiarity. So you're kind of learning on the go which kind of leads to a few lapses and sloppy goals. But I think for the most part, we've had 11 committed guys behind the ball, like absolutely grafting it out to keep the ball out of our net. It's not just a back four thing, not just a goalkeeper thing, we've had guys like Ethan, Luis tracking back and working their asses off."
On his opinion of Hassani Dotson's defensive work...
"Every time he's been asked to play, I mean he's like, I don't know, six or seven different positions on this team? Each time he steps on and he does so well. There's just little things that if you've not been a defender for most your life, just like little things habits that you see Chase [Gasper] and Romain do week in and week out that we kind of expect from that position. That comes from the players around him as well. [Hassani's] got a lot of experience around that needs to communicate with him the whole time. When you got players that are as good as Nani that have played in some high pressure games and some big league games, you give them a bit too much space, he can take advantage that was the case tonight. I think [Hassani] has got a massive future ahead of him but it's up to this whole group to get around each other. Season's not over, we'll just wait and see what we've got next. We're disappointed but we'll get ready to go again."
On the expectations for this team moving forward...
"Pushing on for those home playoffs spots. Everyone who finished with this team last year has a still huge amount of disappointment in the way we didn't win that home playoff game last year. It's doing the same again. Securing a home playoff game, once again being a team that other teams do not want to play in the playoffs and then taking that extra step and making a deep playoff run. That's our expectations. We've got a group that's more than capable of that."
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Major League Soccer Stories from August 7, 2020
- The Dance Continues: Lions Punch Ticket to MLS Is Back Final - Orlando City SC
- MLS Reimagines Fan Experiences from Home During MLS Is Back Tournament - MLS
- Nashville SC Loans Tanner Dieterich to Chattanooga Red Wolves in USL League One - Nashville SC
- MNUFC Falls to Orlando in MLS Is Back Semifinals - Minnesota United FC
- Orlando City Secures Spot in MLS Is Back Tournament Final, Defeats Minnesota United 3-1 - Orlando City SC
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