Despite Minnesota United being in the midst of a busy stretch of games and fighting for the MLS playoffs for the first time in club history, coach Adrian Heath has no plans to rest any players Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup.
The Loons will play their third time in the national tournament, which pits all levels of U.S. soccer against one another. They draw upstart USL side New Mexico United in a 7 p.m. match at Allianz Field.
“Full team, as best we can do,” Heath said. “I will pick the best team I can for Wednesday. We need to win the game.”
In the round of 16 on June 18, Minnesota went on the road and defeated the Houston Dynamo in a 3-2 comeback thriller. The victory advanced the Loons to the quarterfinals for the first time in three tournament appearances.
A victory against New Mexico would put the Loons in the semifinals, where they would face one of two MLS opponents, either Los Angeles FC or the Portland Timbers, on Aug. 7. The tournament’s winning team receives $300,000.
The Loons have been red-hot of late, winning their past five matches, starting with their Open Cup victory against Sporting Kansas City on June 12. That stretch includes their most recent victory — 3-2 on the road against Montreal last Saturday — when regulars Ike Opara, Ozzie Alonso and Darwin Quintero did not play.
“We had a chance to rest some players,” said Heath, whose team plays seven games in a three-week stretch from June 29 to July 20. “You just can’t go Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday … It’s impossible. It’s been really good to give a few players a break. We’re going to be nice and fresh for Wednesday.”
Forward Mason Toye was in the starting lineup against Montreal, and the 20-year-old capitalized. He scored two goals, continuing his torrid pace he started when he netted the game-winner against Houston in an Open Cup match.
Kevin Molino assisted on both of Toye’s goals with a pair of well-placed kicks. It’s a chemistry on display since Toye assisted on a Molino goal in the 7-1 victory against FC Cincinnati on June 29.
“Being able to put it on in the game is one thing,” Toye said. “But consistency and training have been giving me a lot of confidence as well.”
With the MLS summer transfer window opening Tuesday, the Loons did not make a move to strengthen their squad. Sporting Director Manny Lagos and director of player personnel Amos Magee, though, were seen making calls throughout the day. Heath said on Monday that the Loons are expecting to make a move in the coming days to upgrade key positions amid a playoff push.
The Loons are nearly back to a full strength, though Wyatt Omsberg and Carter Manley are with their affiliate team, Forward Madison, for a spell. Heath said Abu Danladi, nursing a right leg injury, is out for Wednesday’s match. MLS All-Star defender Romain Metanire is still with Madagascar on international duty.
Heath, as a former USL coach in Orlando, is familiar with games in which an MLS squad faces a lower-tier opponent. New Mexico comes to Allianz Field after defeating two MLS teams on the road.
“We have to treat them with the respect they deserve,” Heath said. “If we don’t, I know what’s going to happen.”