Picturesque Goal from Mason Toye Sends MNUFC to Open Cup Final
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - With a berth in the U.S. Open Final against Atlanta United on the line, Minnesota United defeated the Portland Timbers 2-1 - the second result of its kind in four days. A first half penalty kick from Darwin Quintero and a second half breakaway finish from Mason Toye cancelled out Brian Fernandez's lone goal for the Timbers. In a near replica of Sunday's MLS game, the Portland Timbers looked the most dangerous in transition while the Loons found success by attacking down the flanks. Ironically, it was a route-one through-ball over the top from Kevin Molino that found the feet of Mason Toye and made the difference. Toye calmly received the ball in stride and dispatched Portland's Steve Clark for the game-winner, his second in Open Cup play.
"[I'm] obviously delighted for everybody," said Head Coach Adrian Heath. "I thought the noise in the stadium was incredible. [The] players have worked so hard recently. If you look at the games that we've had in probably the last month, it seems like everyone's been really, a must win and that weighs on you mentally as well as physically. To come through again like we've done again is a testament to all of the players."
The first 10 minutes set the tone for the game as each side had chances that personified their play styles. In the eighth minute, Portland's Diego Chara won the ball in midfield and charged forward into an open pocket of space down the center of the field. He then opened his body and slid a pass wide to a cutting Sebastian Blanco who took an early shot that was parried to safety by Vito Mannone. The early chance came through Portland's transition offense which had the alarm bells ringing for the Loons. Minutes later Minnesota responded through an out-swinging Jan Gregus corner kick that found Michael Boxall's head in the Portland penalty area. Boxall dragged his header just wide of the target and from only seven yards away, the defender will feel as if he should've scored.
Spurred by their early glimpse at goal, the home side turned up the heat on the Timbers and found the first goal of the game in the 23rd minute. Starting in place of Angelo Rodriguez, Mason Toye was bundled over just outside of the Portland penalty area as he checked to receive a ball at his feet. On the ensuing free kick, Darwin Quintero attempted to send a curling effort over the wall set by Portland but his effort was blocked by the outstretched arm of Jeremy Ebobisse. Right on the scene, the referee immediately pointed to the spot and awarded a penalty kick to Minnesota United. Quintero made no mistake from 12 yards as a he sent a sprawling Steve Clark the wrong direction and calmly slotted the ball home to give the Loons a 1-0 advantage.
Determined not to let another lone penalty kick goal sink them - as it did on Sunday - the Portland Timbers clawed their way back into the game. Just before the halftime whistle, an early Portland cross sent into the Minnesota box was knocked down by Jeremy Ebobisse and found Brian Fernandez. The Argentinian, who is notorious for playing on the shoulder of the defender, snuck onto Ebobisse's redirection and fired past a diving Vito Mannone to draw the Timbers level on the stroke of halftime. In what was truly a bang-bang play, Fernandez was kept just barely onside by Boxall's foot as he attempted to spring the offside trap.
"I thought we were at our worst, the last ten minutes, the last fifteen minutes of the first half," said Heath. "When you don't do your job properly, you start turning the ball over and you start losing your discipline and losing your shape against good players, you're going to get punished and that's what we had."
Determined to flush out the frustration of conceding a deflating goal just before halftime, the Loons came out of the locker room looking to run directly at the Portland defense. Wide midfielders Robin Lod and Kevin Molino - who replaced Ethan Finlay and Miguel Ibarra in the starting XI - looked creative out wide as they continually fed overlapping fullbacks Chase Gasper and Romain Metanire. A bit of wide play almost led to a second Minnesota goal in the 54th minute as Robin Lod - who drifted between Portland's lines all night - latched onto a Darwin Quintero pass and sent a through ball wide to Chase Gasper. The fullback crossed on his left foot first time and found the head of Kevin Molino, whose effort rolled agonizingly wide of Portland's far post.
Just 10 minutes later the Loons came back hungry for more as they could feel the momentum tipping in their favor. In the 65th minute, a clean body check by Jan Gregus on Brian Fernandez allowed the Slovakian to roll a pass into the feet of Kevin Molino. As Molino turned and picked his head up, he spotted the run of Mason Toye who had darted in behind Portland's Claude Dielna. Molino sent a deftly weighted through ball over the head of the centerback and into the path of Toye. Showing off his pace and composure, Toye raced through on goal, settled the ball in stride and pulled off a Thierry Henry-esque finish as he opened his body and curled a right-footed shot past Steve Clark to give the Loons a 2-1 advantage.
Holding a slender lead, Minnesota United looked to put bodies behind the ball and hit Portland on the counterattack - a bit of the visitors' own medicine as the Timbers had relied heavily on the counterattack in both recent games. In the last 20 minutes, Vito Mannone faced a barrage of shots from Brian Fernandez and Sebastian Blanco, who looked to be a threat for the Timbers all night. Standing his ground, Mannone was there time and time again to stifle the efforts of the Timbers as they looked to equalize for the second time on the night.
The best chance of the second half for the Timbers came in stoppage time when a wickedly struck cross flew into the Minnesota penalty area, careened off a helpless Mannone, bounced off a Minnesota body and then back off the post, somehow staying out of Minnesota's net. To Portland's dismay, Mason Toye's winning goal stood as the final whistle blew, sending the Loons into the U.S. Open Cup Final against Atlanta United.
"Sometimes you earn your luck and I thought that we earned our luck tonight," said Heath. "Vito came up with a couple of really big saves when we needed him. He's been immense the last two or three weeks and the top goalkeepers always save you when they need to, the big save, the crucial moment. You know, he's done it again for us tonight, a couple of outstanding saves and a little bit of luck."
Minnesota United's next game - in only three days' time - is a reverse fixture against FC Dallas as the Loons travel to Toyota Stadium on Saturday, August 10 at 7:00 p.m. CT. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports Go and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Chase Gasper; M Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso, Kevin Molino (Ethan Finlay 76'), Robin Lod, Darwin Quintero (Hassani Dotson 72'); F Mason Toye (Abu Danaldi 71')
MIN Unused Subs: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Wyatt Omsberg; M Rasmus Schuller, Lawrence Olum
Portland Timbers Starting XI: GK Steve Clark; D Claude Dielna (Tomas Conechny 89'), Jorge Moreira, Larrys Mabiala, Zarek Valentin; M Cristhian Paredes (Andres Flores 66'), Dairon Asprilla (Diego Valeri 72'), Diego Chara, Jeremy Ebobisse, Sebastian Blanco; F Brian Fernandez
POR Unused Subs: GK Kendall McIntosh; D Jorge Villafana; M Bill Tuiloma; F Marvin Loria
22' - Quintero (PK) - MIN
45+2' - Fernandez (Ebobisse) - POR
64' - Toye (Molino) - MIN
26' - Gregus (YC) - MIN
37' - Boxall (YC) - MIN
51' - Opara (YC) - MIN
76' - Dielna (YC) - POR
90+3' - Valentin (YC) - POR
MINNESOTA UNITED QUOTE SHEET
MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH
On how it feels to make his first U.S. Open Cup Final ...
"[I'm] obviously delighted for everybody, [the] ownership group. I thought the noise in the stadium was incredible. [The] players have worked so hard recently. If you look at the games that we've had in probably the last month, it seems like everyone's been really, a must win and that weighs on you mentally as well as physically. To come through again like we've done again is a testament to all of the players."
On what Mason's goal means for him ...
"It means that the kids getting better and if he keeps working hard, he's still in the beginning of his development but the thing about the kid is [that] he wants to be good and he's prepared to put the hours in to try to make himself good. That's why there's not a person in the coaching staff who's not absolutely delighted for him because nobody works harder at trying to be better than he does."
On if he saw what he expected from Robin Lod in his first start ...
"I thought considering that he's not played much football, I thought he was outstanding. [He] got in great holes, he's got great feet, really soft feet. [It] goes to him and you never feel as though he's going to lose the ball. He's going to link up real well with players so I'm just delighted for him because he hasn't played a lot of football of late but for everybody connected with the club, when you're building your club, you have your issues in the beginning. I've been through it a couple times and we've had that but there's been no way really, we've all kept going, sticking to the plan and as I said to you guys, at the end of three years, let's see where we are. I actually think that we've made unbelievable progress. We keep adding. It's a great day for the club. We're going to the first final, we've added a young DP, paid a lot of money for a kid that we think is going to be outstanding for the future. So, things are good but have a guess what, I know that when I look back on my career, I didn't like when I got beat in the final. So, it's nice, it's great tonight. Now we'll dust ourselves down. We are in, in the morning and have a guess what, we've got to go and try to do it at Dallas on Saturday."
On Mason going down with what appeared to be an injury ...
"No, he's probably fell off his ego, Mason. He's just had a kick. He'll be fine, trust me."
On if he made any adjustments based off what he saw on Sunday ...
"Not really, we tried to put in a bit of energy, a few fresh legs in like they did. We still played the same system. We brought Darwin in. Obviously, Ethan Finlay's effort at the weekend was incredible. The numbers were off the charts, the hardest he's ever worked and we felt as though that might be a problem for him so we put Kevin in. Obviously, Robbin finished the game as well and then we just thought the extra energy of Mason would held us. The back six was the same and they've done an incredible shift again as well tonight."
On if it was difficult to leave some of the usual first choice starters out of the 18 tonight ...
"It always is and now we've got a situation where we can't make that choice. As I've said, I know when I was a player, once I got in the team, it was up to make sure I stayed in that team. That's going to be the same now for this group. I picked the team. As I've always said, the players drop themselves by the level of their performances. The one great thing that we have at this moment in time is that if you don't perform, there's somebody there waiting just to take that chance and then you might have to wait a long to get it back and in some cases you never get it back. So, that's going to be up to them moving forward."
On if Mason would've started if not for the five-overseas rule ...
"Probably tonight, yeah."
On his reaction to the ball off the post ...
"Well, sometimes you earn your luck and I thought that we earned our luck tonight. But Vito came up with a couple of really big saves when we needed him. He's been immense the last two or three weeks and the top goalkeepers always save you when they need to, the big save, the crucial moment. You know, he's done it again for us tonight, a couple of outstanding saves and a little bit of luck."
On his impressions of Thomas Chacon ...
"I think he's going to be outstanding, [he's] still young. It's still early days for him but he's somebody that we've had our eyes on for over a year. I think everybody connected to the club realized that if we didn't do it now, we might be too late and certainly the price that we paid for him would probably double or triple if he starts to mature and develop the way that we think he will."
On if he's tired of the comparisons between Atlanta United and Minnesota United ...
"I am because it's nice when you spend 17 million, whatever it is on your team because you don't have to build a stadium so that's nice for us. But no doubt, I don't know what MLS[soccer[.com are going to say. Flags will be half-mast and that, that building tonight, the fact that Minnesota are in the final."
On what it means to be second in the Western Conference and in the Open Cup Final ...
"It means we are getting better and that's always got to be the plan. No crazy decisions, let's keep moving forward, getting better each time we can. If you look at each window, I think we've get better. We've certainly got better this window. We added what I think is three really good pieces but we can't stand still because everyone else is improving. But, if we stick to the plan, know what we're doing, believing in what we are doing, we are going to be fine."
On where making the cup final ranks in his coaching career ...
"Well, it's the best because now it's the thing I'm doing now. I know how far we've come and I know how hard we've worked to get to where we are today. Second in the Western Conference, you know how tough the West is at the moment and now we've reached the final as well. You can dress it up whichever way you want. We haven't spent what everybody else has spent. We didn't have a DP for 18 months but we've got better when we could and when it was the appropriate time and if we continue to do it, we're going to be fine."
On how much credit he gives the front office to where the club is at now ...
"Well, it's a collective for everybody. People are have got to pay for these players. We've got to do our job properly and do it diligently and find the right pieces. Maybe in the first year, people could point the fingers and quite rightly I think. But since then, we've done a lot of really good stuff and the people that we are bringing in have helped us. I don't think that anybody would think that the five players that we brought in, in the offseason have not helped the team. Fact, it's there for all to see."
On having three weeks to prepare for the final ...
"Well, we've got three days to prepare for Dallas. I'm not going to look at that one. We've got Colorado here next Wednesday, Orlando here the following Saturday. That's going to be our focus and our aim over the next three days. Then, we go on to Colorado, can't take our eyes off it, it's so tight in the West and then we'll realize that the final is around the corner and then we'll pick the team accordingly."
On Portland's controversial goal just before halftime ...
"I thought we were at our worst, the last ten minutes, the last fifteen minutes of the first half and the first ten minutes of the second half. After that, I think that we were the better team. When you don't do your job properly, you start turning the ball over and you start losing your discipline and losing your shape against good players, you're going to get punished and that's what we had. I haven't seen it, the lads thought he was offside. Where's VAR when you need it?"
On what he said to his team following the last 15 minutes of the first half ...
"We've got to get back to what we are. We've got to get back to what's got us results lately. It's been discipline and the team coming first, not individuals running all over the place, doing what they think is right at that particular time. That's not right. We stick to the plan, keep disciplined, keep organized, everybody does what everybody wants, we'll be fine."
On what Osvaldo [Alonso} said when he ran to Darwin before taking his penalty kick ...
"Probably score, I would think. It's funny because Darwin only goes to the keeper's left and he's switched it up again today. Hey, penalties, people think it's easy but nobody can recreate the pressure. We practiced penalties this week, doesn't mean anything because you're not in the emotion of the game, you might not carrying a knock, you might not be having a great game but to step up and take the penalty, kudos to Darwin."
MINNESOTA UNITED FORWARD MASON TOYE
On what it means for him to score his second gaming-winning goal during this Open Cup campaign...
"Well we won both games, and that's really all that matters. I'm just super stoked that we're going to be able to go to a cup final."
On what he saw and did before he went in to score...
"Whenever Kevin [Molino] gets the ball and has space and time, I'm just going to run and try to get myself in a good spot. That's basically what I did, he found me. I just stayed composed and then finished it."
On why there seems to be so much chemistry between him and Kevin Molino...
"I don't know honestly, but the chemistry is there. After practice yesterday, we did a little bit of finishing, it involved clipping balls in towards me, so maybe that helped a little bit. I just know that he's a really great passer of the ball, so I just need to get into good spots and he'll find me."
On what it means to have a chance at redemption, having lost the only two cup finals he's ever been in [high school and college]...
"I mean for myself, obviously I'm just really excited that I get another shot at a championship. Just for this club and this city in general, I'm just really excited that we all get to experience this and hopefully we can put another good performance in and bring back the cup."
On what it means to score a goal in front of his father tonight...
"It meant the world honestly, because that was my first professional goal that he got to see live. This is a really special one for me. The most special one that I've scored so far. It was amazing to have him in the stands and to have him be able to see it."
On sitting second in the conference and being able to head to a cup final...
"We're riding high right now, and we're just going to continue to try to keep it going. That's basically it. We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing, working hard in training, working hard in the games, and hopefully the results keep falling our way."
On how far this team has come since he first arrived with this team...
"It's come pretty far. We've made some changes, we brought some really great guys in, and we have a great coach in Adrian [Heath] that believes in us, and we believe in him. I'm just really happy that I'm able to be a part of this team."
On how the team plans to deal with a congested schedule heading into the cup final...
"We've been doing it for the past couple of weeks anyway, the past month really we've been playing a lot of midweek games. It's nothing new for us. We're all competitors and we all want to win championships, so we're going to do whatever we have to do to get prepared for the game and put our best foot forward."
On what the scene was like in the locker room after they won tonight...
"I was outside for a bit, so I didn't get to see the beginning of it, but everybody's just super stoked to get this win. With every win at home, it's gotten more and more crazy in this locker room and a lot more dancing and stuff, so we're really coming together as a team and I'm just really excited and really happy for these guys."
On if there was any doubt that he was going to be the first one to get to Kevin [Molino]'s ball over the top of the defense...
"No. I knew I was going to get it. Once I took a good touch, I knew I was going to score."
MINNESOTA UNITED DEFENDER MICHAEL BOXALL
On the game itself ...
"I kind of expected it. I thought tonight, Vito [Mannone] didn't' really give them many chances. I've seen Vito make some big saves, but, you know, they're kind of shots from further out. Scrambles here and there. And I thought we created enough to win by possibly more than one goal tonight. But, obviously, delighted for the fans to be heading to Atlanta."
On what inspired his victory lap postgame ...
"I'm just obviously grateful for our fans, and that's something I've been doing after most games. Yeah, just obviously, with such loyal fans, especially from the seasons we've had in previous years, and honestly, it feels amazing to reward them with how things are going this year. And the job is only half done. It'll be fantastic to finish it off."
On what the mood has been in the MNUFC locker room ...
"I think it's positive. I don't know who is playing the music at this point, but that's how it is. An even four games. I mean, feel so comfortable stepping on the field against any team, that, everyone just has, like, a natural lift the last few weeks. And, even when we haven't been playing our best, we know that we're still giving ourselves a chance to win the game with how we play and how resilient we've been in the past week. Not losing four for a few weeks definitely helps the mood. Showing up to training every week, it's a little more pleasant to be around."
On if there are certain things that he can put his finger on that have made this run possible ...
"It's hard to put it on a single thing. I think it's something we've built since the beginning of the season, with the addition of such experienced players, who have played on such big stages in this country, and overseas, I think that those experienced players, like Ike [Opara], like Ozzie [Alonso], that just try to lift everyone. When we do go through rough patches, they, in the game, they're not losing their head late. It's not a huge deal. I guess not a huge deal when we're under pressure for 5, 10 minutes. We can handle that and I feel like we have against some top teams."
On if he could see more excitement or more enthusiasm after this win ...
"I think that might be the first time I've seen Chris Wright and Dr. Bill waiting for us there. I think the first time I've seen them after a game. After a win. And, I think that's the loudest I've heard Wonderwall as well. When I did my lap, it didn't seem like many people had left and usually when I do, a few people have scrambled and rushed to beat the traffic. So, it's awesome to see how delighted everyone in and around the club was for making this final."
On if he was shirtless after the game because he exchanged or gave away his jersey ...
"Yeah. My boy plays for Portland. We played national team together."
MINNESOTA UNITED MIDFIELDER OSVALDO ALONSO
On getting a win against Portland in a semifinal...
"You know when there a chance to play in a semifinal, against Portland or another team, you try to win the game to go to the final. I think we did a good performance today to get to the final."
On reaching a final as captain in first season with Minnesota United...
[SPA] "Muy contento, muy feliz. Tener la oportunidad de ayudar este equipo que nunca a llegado a una final de U.S. Open Cup y estar en esta institución y llegar a una final es algo muy grande que soñé desde que vení aquí y se me dio. Ahora enfocado para tratar de darlo en Atlanta."
[ENG] "Very happy. To have the opportunity to help this team final of the U.S. Open Cup and in this stadium and get to the final is something big that I dreamed of since I came [to Minnesota] and fortunately it happened. Now focus to give it all in Atlanta."
On advice preparing teammates mentally for this upcoming final...
[SPA] "Mentalizado que es una final. Las finales se ganan y hay que sea y darle todo en Atlanta. Estamos mentalizado, sabemos que tenemos la oportunidad es esta y no hay que dejarla pasar."
[SPA] "Mentally prepared since it is final. Finals are meant to be won and hopefully in Atlanta, we know that we have the opportunity and we cannot let it slip."
On all the attention on Minnesota United after securing a final spot for US Open Cup and 2nd place in the league...
[SPA] "Nosotros hacemos nuestro trabajo, nosotros nos enfocamos en nuestro trabajo y tratar de hacerlo lo mejor posible y nada, poco a poco ganando partidos llegando como estar en la final es nuestro objetivo no importar si le haga bien ni mal, nosotros hacemos nuestro trabajo."
[ENG] "No we do our job, we focus on our job and we try to do it in the best possible way. Step by step we won games and now we've reached the final, this is our objective. It doesn't matter if they like it or not, we just do our job."
On Minnesota's growth since playing them the last two previous years...
"You can see today, our performance was unbelievable. We gave everything we had because it's our chance to go to the final. We fight for each other we play for each other and we get the result we wanted."
On beating the same team twice in four days...
"It's a little weird but I'm happy to beat Portland twice in [four] days and go the final."
On Minnesota having a shot at MLS cup...
"I think we have to play like we did today, game by game. We don't worry about nothing on the table, we try to do our best every time we step onto the field. We don't care what others have to say to us, we have play our game and do our best for us."
On Mason's recent form...
"He's great. If everybody in the team played like we did today I think we have a good chance because no matter who played everybody do the same thing so it's good for him, he scored a goal. We go the next round."
On having any doubt Mason would get at the end of Kevin's pass...
"I never doubt him because he's fast, he can score goals, he's showed it and he's proved it before so when I saw him 1 v 1 to the goalie, I said he's going to score and he did."
On Robin Lod's performance...
"He's a great player, you can see. He played ninety minutes, he's been out for so long, I think he did good today. He showed he's quality, he can play with the ball and we are happy to have him on the team."
On speaking to Darwin right before the penalty...
"I saw Paredes telling [the goalie] he's going to [the right] because I think Paredes played with him in America so I tell him Paredes telling him [goalie] that you're going to shoot that way so I told him to change it and I think he listened to me and changed it."
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