Houston – The U.S. Open Cup was within touching distance for Minnesota United on Tuesday — literally, as the gleaming silver trophy stood on display by the players’ tunnel at BBVA Stadium.
There is still a ways to go before the Loons can think seriously about hoisting it aloft in triumph, but they moved within two wins of the final by staging an improbable 3-2 comeback victory over the Houston Dynamo to oust the reigning champions.
Like last year, Minnesota traveled to Texas for a round of 16 match. Like last year, they fell behind against a team with a formidable home record. But this time, they turned it around, digging their way out of a 2-0 halftime deficit with two goals from Darwin Quintero and a late winner from substitute Mason Toye.
“The guys just persevered, we’ve grown a lot since last year,” Toye said. “I think last year we don’t come back from that game. But over the course of this year we’ve done a great job of learning how to get results out of games and we’ve had a tough go at it every time we’ve come down to Houston.
“We were like, ‘It’s going to change tonight’, and we’ve proved that. It’s a really big opportunity for us to possibly get a championship. It’s definitely a winnable tournament.”
The Loons will host the winner of Wednesday night’s match between FC Dallas and New Mexico United of the USL Championship in the Open Cup quarterfinals July 10.
“We know the coach at New Mexico [Troy Lesesne], he’s a good friend of our staff, so no doubt they’ll put a good performance up — and obviously Dallas have got a terrific young side,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said.
“I fancy us against anybody in our stadium. Hopefully, we can get through that and then we’re one step away [from the final].”
The game kicked off with the temperature pushing triple digits, yet the visiting defense looked frozen to the spot in the ninth minute as Ronaldo Peña gave an understrength Dynamo lineup the lead from a corner.
The advantage was extended eight minutes before halftime thanks to a grim midfield giveaway by Jan Gregus. The error set Tomás Martinez clear and he beat goalkeeper Vito Mannone with ease.
The second half was a complete contrast, as United forced fine saves from Dynamo goalkeeper Michael Nelson before Quintero scored twice — the first an easy finish in the 66th minute, the second a long-range screamer in the 82nd.
After nine games without a goal, the striker has four in successive matches; he also found the net twice in last week’s 4-1 win over Sporting Kansas City in the previous round.
“Sometimes a little break like that and you get on a roll. Hopefully that’s the turning point for him,” Heath said.
As Houston wilted, Toye claimed his first goal for the club in the 89th minute with a tap-in. “Really excited to get a goal, but even more excited to move on to the next round,” the 20-year-old said.