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MNUFC Take Crucial Three Points from Rsl

September 15, 2019 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Minnesota United FC News Release

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - In a game with major playoff implications, Minnesota United hosted visiting Real Salt Lake at Allianz Field, looking to take more from the tilt than the points the teams split back in July at Rio Tinto Stadium. The game began with RSL sitting above MNUFC in second place, but it would end with the Loons in second (and eventually third on the evening after Sounders FC beat Red Bulls) and the Claret-and-Cobalt looking up. Minnesota came out firing on all cylinders but faltered briefly after conceding an early goal. The home side would come roaring back on the strength of a brace from Darwin Quintero and a late goal from sub Ethan Finlay to seal a 3-1 win.

"It's a huge win in light of the other results," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "We were looking at [RSL] in the week and you're thinking, we've put ourselves back under a lot of pressure again and then we respond. I'm really pleased with the response after going behind. I thought the energy levels were good. I thought our determination to get a result [was good]. I thought second half, we did some really good stuff. [We've] still got some stuff I'm not happy with and we'll talk about that but in light of the results, it's been a really good weekend for us."

The games opening minutes saw the teams vying for control of the game, as Minnesota United found seams in Real Salt Lake's defense and cut in between the lines. For their part, the Claret-and-Cobalt found opportunities to get out on the counterattack after absorbing the home side's attacking energy. In the sixth minute, midfielder Darwin Quintero flicked the ball out wide left to midfielder Robin Lod, but the Finnish national's first touch let him down as goalkeepers Nick Rimando dove at his feet and saved the ball wide.

MNUFC maintained pressure on the face of goal, though, taking whatever chances they could to test Rimando's reflexes. Forward Mason Toye unleashed a solid shot off of a through ball from midfielder Kevin Molino in the ninth minute that Rimando knocked down not entirely cleanly.

The Loons first quality chance came in the 15th minute as defender Romain Metanire pelted down the right wing and picked up a long pass from midfielder Jan Gregus. The fullback dropped the ball back to Molino, lingering just beyond the right corner of the box. Molino picked out Lod on the far post and his lofted cross found the midfielder, but he couldn't keep the volley down and sent it over the goal.

Given the run of play, then, it was a bit of a shock when the visitors nudged ahead in the 17th minute. Following an aggressive push by midfielder Jefferson Savarino into the right side of the box, the ball was cleared back beyond the box in the middle of the field, finding midfielder Albert Rusnak. Rusnak looked to pick out a target in front of goal, but then whipped a low shot toward the left post. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone, stumbled as he looked to dive to his right and the ball trickled past him and putting RSL up 1-0. All Mannone could do was kick the post in frustration.

Barely three minutes later, though, it would be Minnesota's turn. Again, it was Molino finding a seam through the defense, this time putting Quintero on goal ahead of a diving RSL defender. As Quintero closed on Rimando, he held up and dance the ball around the defense and past Rimando, dropping him to the ground before firing the ball back across his body and past flummoxed defenders and into the bottom right corner of the goal.

"I think I said after on the TV that if we are going to make a push from now to the end, we need our best players to come alive," said Heath. "Darwin [Quintero] is a difference maker. We know that but we need to see that on a consistent basis. We need to see him now, push on from that and if he does that will be really, really valuable for us moving forward. You hear me many, many times, talk about scoring goals and making goals and that's why they go for the most money. That's why you pay them the most money. It's the hardest thing in football to do and when he does it well, he's excellent."

With the game once again level at 1-1, the teams re-engaged and battled it out for the rest of the half without finding the back of the net, largely thanks to some heads-up defense from MNUFC and the hands of Mannone. In the 30th minute, Savarino once again wriggled his way into a sliver of space on the right side of the box off a pass from midfielder Damir Kreilach. As he dialed up the shot, Mannone came out aggressively and slid toward the attacker, raising a hand that deflected the ball out over the byline.

"I thought [in the] first half, we gave them too much space," said Heath. "I thought we could have defended even in the block that we had, I thought we could've been a lot further up the field. [The] line of confrontation could've been a little bit higher. But they possessed the ball well, they do well at getting out of from their back third into their middle third. [Damir] Kreilach is very, very smart, very experienced. [He] comes into the right pockets at the right time and gives them a bit of an overload in there. It was difficult but I thought our combination play at times in the first half was excellent when we got Robin [Lod] and Kevin [Molino] and Darwin [Quintero] on the ball because as I said, they are three of our better footballers and we need them to be on the ball creating and being as lively as they were at times."

As the second half opened, Minnesota quickly established its dominance, grabbing control of the action and refusing to relinquish it. In the 52nd minute, Darwin Quintero capitalized on a loose ball near the midfield line and took the ball himself all the way into the box, looking off a run from Toye and smelling blood in the water. As defender Nedum Onuoha backpedaled, Quintero lined it up and rifled a shot between his legs and onto the near post past the outstretched fingertips of Rimando to put Minnesota ahead 2-1.

Sensing vulnerability, the Loons piled on the chances. In the 54th minute midfielder Osvaldo Alonso corralled a long ball near the middle of the field and fired it back at RSL's net from about 45 yards out. The ball sailed over Rimando and kissed the top of the bar as it went out - a mark of the home side's burgeoning confidence. Minutes later, Gregus drilled another long shot from the edge of the box that ricocheted off a defender, earning the Loons a corner kick. These six minutes or so of attack took the wind out of RSL's sails, reducing them to pinging balls ahead on the counterattack as they absorbed chances.

Once the subs started to come in around the 68th minute, it looked for a bit like the Claret-and-Cobalt might be able to put together an answer. In the 76th minute, the visitors kept up a concerted attack in Minnesota's final third, earning set piece opportunities, but Heath responded by bringing out brace-scorer Quintero for Hassani Dotson and shifting the formation to a defensive-minded 4-1-4-1 that effectively ended Real Salt Lake's resistance.

The final nail in the coffin came in the 83rd minute when defender Romain Metanire wrangled possession and pushed up the right wing, looking inside and seeing Ethan Finlay - who had come on in the 68th minute - alone in the middle of the park. Metanire hit the early cross as Abu Danladi - who came in with Finlay - pulled defenders wide right with him, giving Finlay plenty of time to line up a shot and fire it past Rimando on the left. His ebullient celebration ended in a knee slide that stopped short and saw him tumbling before kicking the corner flag and coming up smiling - a fitting metaphor for a Minnesota United team that began brightly, stumbled early and now finds itself once again in third place in the Western Conference with only a handful of games remaining.

"[It's] getting people in the right spots," said Heath about the rejuvenated attack. "When you get really good attacking players and they know where to be and you can get the ball to them at the right time, it's difficult to stop. People come in here and they try to take the middle of the field away. Well that's okay because then we'll go wide and you've got people like Romain [Metanire], who now is getting back to his best. They want to do that, that's fine. We'll go out wide and we'll go up the field that way and we'll deliver into the box that way. I thought there was some really good things to work on. It's been a big week for us, mentally as well, to get over the disappointment of the performance in Houston. For them to respond the way they did, I'm delighted."

Minnesota United's next game is on Sunday, September 21 as the Loons head west to face Portland Timbers FC in another game rife with playoff implications that kicks off 3:00 p.m. CT at Providence Park. That game will be on ESPN, streaming on ESPN+ and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.

Lineups

Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat; M Jan Gregus, Ozzie Alonso, Kevin Molino (Ethan Finlay 68'), Robin Lod, Darwin Quintero (Hassani Dotson 77'); F Mason Toye (Abu Danladi 68')

MIN Unused Subs: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Brent Kallman; M Lawrence Olum, Miguel Ibarra

Real Salt Lake Starting XI: GK Nick Rimando; Donny Toia, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Nedum Onuoha; M Albert Rusnak, Damir Kreilach (Brooks Lennon 80'), Everton Luiz, Jefferson Savarino (Joao Plata 72'), Kyle Beckerman; F Sam Johnson (Corey Baird 72')

RSL Unused Subs: GK David Ochoa; D Marcelo Silva; M Kelyn Rowe, Luis Arriaga

Game Events

Goals

17' - Rusnak - RSL

20' - Quintero (Molino) - MIN

51' - Quintero - MIN

83' - Finlay (Metanire) - MIN

Discipline

NONE

MINNESOTA UNITED QUOTE SHEET

MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On how he sums up this afternoon given the other results in the Western Conference ...

"It's a huge win in light of the other results. We were looking at them in the week and you're thinking, we've put ourselves back under a lot of pressure again and then we respond. I'm really pleased with the response after going behind. I thought the energy levels were good. I thought our determination to get a result [was good]. I thought second half, we did some really good stuff. [We've] still got some stuff I'm not happy with and we'll talk about that but in light of the results, it's been a really good weekend for us."

On what he saw from Darwin Quintero ...

"I think I said after on the TV that if we are going to make a push from now to the end, we need our best players to come alive. Darwin [Quintero] is a difference maker. We know that but we need to see that on a consistent basis. We need to see him now, push on from that and if he does that will be really, really valuable for us moving forward. You hear me many, many times, talk about scoring goals and making goals and that's why they go for the most money. That's why you pay them the most money. It's the hardest thing in football to do and when he does it well, he's excellent."

On if he has any idea why it's been stop, start for Darwin Quintero this season ...

"Not really but the most important thing is [that] I'm sure that'll do his confidence a lot of good because even when you're Darwin [Quintero's] age and you've been through an awful lot in football, which he will have been, there's nothing like scoring goals to get your confidence going and trusting your teammates and trusting yourself [so] that you think that I'm back to what I should be. Hopefully that'll be a little turning point for him. We can piggy back on the back of him because like he did the first year that he arrived, that purple patch he had when everybody talks about the goals against Toronto. He scored them goals in that short period of time and if we can get him back to that level then it's going to be a huge boost for everybody."

On his feelings about being left out of the Open Cup Final ...

"There's a lot of ways to do this. There's not a right way and a wrong way of telling players that you're not playing. Bottom line is nobody likes being left out. I'll do it the way I've always done it. I've had managers who call you in, I've had guys who don't even tell you an hour before kickoff and they think they don't have to explain. At the end of the day, I'll do whatever I think is right for the team and for the club. I never pick players for any other reason than [that] I'm trying to win the game. If I feel that people will sit and people will give us a better chance of winning, I will always do the same regardless of the personnel so that's not going to change."

On what he wasn't happy with from the game ...

"I thought [in the] first half, we gave them too much space. I thought we could have defended even in the block that we had, I thought we could've been a lot further up the field. [The] line of confrontation could've been a little bit higher. But they possessed the ball well, they do well at getting out of from their back third into their middle third. [Damir] Kreilach is very, very smart, very experienced. [He] comes into the right pockets at the right time and gives them a bit of an overload in there. It was difficult but I thought our combination play at times in the first half was excellent when we got Robin [Lod] and Kevin [Molino] and Darwin [Quintero] on the ball because as I said, they are three of our better footballers and we need them to be on the ball creating and being as lively as they were at times."

On Robin Lod and Kevin Molino being interchangeable ...

"It is. It's strange because I think for different reasons, the three of them. Robin [Lod] came in at the end of the season. He was on three weeks' holiday when he got here so he's still getting his fitness but I think you can see some of the qualities that he has. He's fabulous on the ball, doesn't give the ball away. Could've conceivably had a couple goals today, got himself in good spots and moving forward - I've already told him - I expect him to be a double figures wide guy. He has enough in his locker to get in good spots and he's a good finisher. We'll work on it and we'll keep encouraging him to get in the right spots because he can score."

On if there was a lull in Romain Metanire's play after the AFCON ...

"I think he came back extremely tired, not only physically but mentally [also]. It was an incredible run for the country, they've never had it before, the enthusiasm and everything that was going on around that cup run for them. I'm sure it took its toll. When he's back to his best like he was today, my God, he's something to play against."

On hitting RSL on the counter attack ...

"[It's] getting people in the right spots. When you get really good attacking players and they know where to be and you can get the ball to them at the right time, it's difficult to stop. People come in here and they try to take the middle of the field away. Well that's okay because then we'll go wide and you've got people like Romain [Metanire], who now is getting back to his best. They want to do that, that's fine. We'll go out wide and we'll go up the field that way and we'll deliver into the box that way. I thought there was some really good things to work on. It's been a big week for us, mentally as well, to get over the disappointment of the performance in Houston. For them to respond the way they did, I'm delighted."

On prioritizing Kevin Molino to play a big role tonight ...

"Not really because Kevin [Molino] wasn't well in the week and we didn't [even] know until kickoff that Boxy [Michael Boxall] was going to be play. Boxy [Michael Boxall] hasn't been well for the last couple days as well so I thought it was an incredible shift by him today. He's been poorly for a few days. I thought the likes of him and Kevin [Molino], who haven't really done much for the last two or three days, it was a big game for them."

On what a home playoff game would mean to him ...

"I think anybody would prefer to play at home. You only have to look at this league in general. Sort of, three quarters of most team's points are taken at home. It proves that home field advantage is huge. This is becoming a really difficult place to play and if we can get a home playoff game - I've said it before and I'll say it again - I don't fear playing anybody here, anybody. The importance of the win today and the results that have gone on around us gives us an opportunity for that but we've still got some difficult games to come, trust me."

On what the team must do to secure a place in the playoffs ...

"It's [the upcoming games] are against everybody around us so every game is going to be like a cup final between now and the end of the season. We knew how important this game was before today and it's going to be no easier next week at Portland and then Kansas - if they were to get a result today - they'd still think they're in it. They have to come here [next] Wednesday. Hey, every game is going to be really, really important between now and the end of the season but we've given ourselves a good opportunity."

On what Wilfried Moimbé-Tahrat gave the team in Chase Gasper's absence ...

"He's experienced. He knows what his role is. He plays to his role and his responsibility. I was pleased with him."

On if we are seeing more defending from Kevin Molino ...

"Yeah. He's trying to get back in there. I think he's had a stop-start season and I'm not 100% certain that he's been at his maximum fitness all year. It's been one of them when he gets himself just about there and something's happened to him. As I said, [it's] a little bit like Darwin [Quintero]. If we are going to do what we want to do between now and the end of the season and then take that into the playoffs, we're sure we're going to need a really good Kevin Molino."

MINNESOTA UNITED DEFENDER IKE OPARA

On if he's seen the rest of the league results...

"Yeah, I think just focusing on ourselves is big for us. We need to respond form Houston and we did that tonight. Our destiny's in our own hands. Obviously if the results go our way that's great but we can control what we do from here on out so obviously it's a big win for us."

On what they learned from this game...

"Not necessarily, it's the type of thing where you learn from it and you keep it moving. This time of year especially where it's pretty much a sprint now it's no longer a marathon. You don't really have time to dole on games, you just have to respond and tonight we did that. Not we can have somewhat of a normal week of rest and training and get ready for Portland."

On when he got the ball...

"Not necessarily, obviously that's a strength of ours I just think that that's how the game flow was going the whole game, you know, Salt Lake is a possession team, to the possession line and obviously that leaves you exposed at times. When the space is there it's just kind of inevitable that you've got to take it. I think it was head up play by a lot of our guys to, to be able to run into that space and be willing."

On having Darwin [Quintero] find his form right before the home stretch...

"It would be massive. Him and everyone else. Obviously, what he can do on the attack can be special for us and I think if he's going to continue his form, hopefully, I like our chances moving forward."

On having a home playoff game...

"I think when I came to this club, the goal, obviously we'd make playoffs and all of these things but was also to show that we can build a franchise and a club here of consistency and a winning culture. Being able to do that with playoffs and hopefully hosting a home game I think is a good step in the right direction for this club. Hopefully we can get there and continue to build on tonight."

On some of his teammates being sick like Michael Boxall for the match...

"I realize that he definitely might be a little bit more fatigued, so it's just a little bit more work, but for those guys that gutted through it, that bugs been going through the whole team for the past week or two, and unfortunately they got it. To be able to respond and fight through it today, and be productive as well and not just being out there is impressive."

On Romain Metanire's hustle play on the sideline to keep the ball in, as well as him being involved in two of the three goals...

"It's been awhile since we've seen that, but man that was a game. Romain really changed the game for us just with pure willingness and hustle and desire. You can't teach that. It won't show up in the box score, but that was unbelievable."

On if him taking his time with coming back over the past month helped him hit his stride tonight...

"Yeah, I mean everyone's going through something at this time of the year. There's international break, the African Cup of Nations, I could just go down a list for all of our guys. Everyone finds their dips unfortunately, and he's just needed to get his feet back under him. He's had a lot of life changes in the past few months with another kid and whatnot, so hopefully he's hitting his stride."

On if RSL's slight delay on their first half free kick fooled him at all...

"No, I knew that they were doing it, but it was still an unbelievable ball. It left whoever the first two guys were on our line dead to rights and luckily I was there to make the play. Essentially, it was luck. That ball could've gone anywhere after deflecting off of me, and luckily it just didn't go into the back of the net."

MINNESOTA UNITED MIDFIELDER DARWIN QUINTERO

On scoring two goals tonight...

"Contento por el triunfo más que nada. Siempre es bueno colaborar al equipo, siempre es bueno estár presente en el marcador y nada. Siempre se trabaja para hacer goles, para aportarle al equipo, hay veces que no se dan las cosas pero disfrutar que hoy se dieron."

"Happy for the win, it's always great to help the team and always great to be on the scoring sheet. We work to score goals and to help the team as best we can, sometimes things don't happen but let's enjoy that tonight things went our way."

On the Open Cup final and hamstring injury playing a role tonight...

"Nada, del Open Cup ya ha tenido rato, eso es cosa del pasado. Después de jugar en Los Ángeles me lesione y trato de recuperarme de la mejor manera para volver bien y eso fue lo que paso."

"Well the Open Cup was a while ago, that's in the past. After playing in Los Angeles I got injured and tried my best to recover in the best possible matter to come back strong and that was what happened."

On speaking to teammate of what is to come for the playoff push...

"Entre algunos, que no importa lo que hagan los de más, tenemos que hacer nuestro trabajo, tenemos que sacar los resultados nosotros sin importar lo que puedan hacer los demás equipos."

"Among others, mainly it doesn't matter what [other teams] do. We have to do our job and we have to get the results without caring what the other teams have or could do."

On playing well against Nick Rimando...

"No sé, hay equipos que se la dan a uno, que siempre que los enfrentas les haces gol y es pura casualidad."

"I don't know, there are teams that when you play them you score. It could be by pure coincidence.."

On Kevin's pass...

"Kevin es un muy buen pasador. Siempre que tiene la oportunidad te da muy buenos balones y que saber aprovechar."

"Kevin is a very good passer. When he has the opportunity, he will give you a very good ball and you must know to take advantage of it."

On possibly having a home playoff game...

"Vamos paso a paso, no hemos calificado pero eso es lo que queremos que la primera etapa es estar aquí en casa pero no podemos celebrar nada porque aún no lo hemos conseguido."

"We are going step by step, we have not qualified yet. That is what we would like in the first playoff game, to be here at home but we cannot celebrate yet because we have not achieved it quite yet."

On finding the best playing form at the end of the season...

"Bueno eso es lo que se quiere no? Se trabaja para estar cerrar bien, para estar físicamente bien, esperemos en Dios poder seguir así sin ninguna molestia, sin ninguna lesión para poder cerrar de le mejor manera."

"Well that is what one wants, no? We work to close the season well, to be physically fit and looking to God to keep playing like this, without any bother or injury to be able to close out the season in the best possible way."

On responding immediately to Real Salt Lake first goal...

"Siempre es importante reaccionar bien a un marcador adversario. Eso fue lo que hicimos para poder darle vuelta al marcador."

"It's always important to react to an opposing score line, that was what we did to turn around the score line."


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