Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath had simple advice for his players ahead of the team’s first penalty kick shootout in its MLS era: For the shooters, be positive in their approach. For the goalkeeper, don’t dive too early and give it away.
That proved to be good coaching, as the Loons took a 0-0 score line after 120 minutes of soccer in the U.S. Open Cup and turned it into a 3-1 shootout victory against FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 15,486. United avenged its first-round exit from last year, while Cincinnati, a second-division United Soccer League team that will join MLS in 2019, failed to repeat its impressive semifinal run from 2017.
“I’m not silly. I know that probably everybody was thinking we’d get beat here tonight on the back of the way we played at the weekend,” Heath said of his team’s 4-1 loss Sunday at Sporting Kansas City. “So I’m delighted at the players’ attitude and delighted to get through. Because at the end of the day, that’s all you do you: Win and advance or you lose and go home.”
Heath said he asked the players ahead of the shootout if they wanted to take a kick and didn’t force the few who deferred. But of the Loons’ four kickers, the only player to have his shot saved was midfielder Collen Warner. Christian Ramirez, Collin Martin and Brent Kallman all scored.
On the other end, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made two big saves, including one to seal the victory.
The Loons started a mixed lineup and a different 4-3-3 formation. The new part was the midfield, where bench players Martin, Warner and Maximiano all started. Forward Abu Danladi also started up top. United made an early change in 13th minute when left back Eric Miller came off with a hamstring injury. Rookie Carter Manley replaced him.
United now has about a week off before returning to prepare for the fifth round of the tournament. That game should take place either June 16th, 17th, or 20th, with a draw happening Thursday.
“Three or four games’ time, you can be in the final, and who knows where that leads you,” Heath said. “It can be a springboard for things.”