With Minnesota United continuing its run in the U.S. Open Cup to the round of 16, coach Adrian Heath has some decisions to make regarding his lineup.
While some teams rest their star players in the tournament ahead of returning to the grind of MLS play, the Loons have elected to remain competitive — as seen Wednesday in their 4-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City.
So Heath has to strike a balance between keeping players fresh for the season ahead and picking who to represent the Loons when they meet the Houston Dynamo at 6 p.m. Tuesday. While Heath said the season and playoff push in the MLS are important, the schedule also contributes to the team’s mind-set.
“We brought the ones who are fit to play,” Heath said Monday from Houston. “Everybody who’s eligible to be involved will be here.”
The Loons’ victory over Kansas City brought a near-perfect mix for Heath and the club. Players who needed minutes got them. And two regulars who needed confidence-boosting goals — Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez — broke scoreless streaks.
Which brings United to a rematch with the Dynamo on the road at BBVA Stadium. If the details — opponent, tournament, round, date — seem familiar, they are.
The Loons faced the Dynamo in Houston last year in the same round in the tournament, which pits all levels of U.S. soccer against each other. Even the June 18 date is the same.
“It’s never an easy place to play,” said Heath, whose team lost to the Dynamo in last year’s tournament matchup. “We just got training now, and it’s 90 degrees or something. So it’s going to have its own challenges. But we’re ready for the game.”
The Dynamo went on to win the Open Cup. The last time the teams played in Major League Soccer action, United won 1-0 on May 25 at Allianz Field.
Houston will be without Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, key starters gone for international duty.
“They have a very distinct style,” Heath said. “They have one of the best home records in all of MLS. We know it’s going to be tough for us.”
The Loons, who a broke a three-game MLS losing skid with their tournament victory over rival Kansas City, look to continue that positive momentum.
If United defeats Houston, it will host the winner of FC Dallas vs. New Mexico United to round out the Midwest region.
“Last year was a tough one for us,” Heath said. “I think we’re going in with a little bit of a different team.
‘‘Obviously, it’s a mentality. We’ve changed the group around slightly from this time last year, so we’ll see how we go.”