Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino and his coach Adrian Heath remain undefeated at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, thanks to Molino’s goal late in stoppage time of his team’s 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
Teamed as player and coach in Orlando for four minor league seasons and one more full major league one, their USL Pro team played the 2014 season there on the sprawling sports complex’s soccer field 17, where they went 13-0-1.
Now Molino and Heath are 1-0 there after a comeback victory in the Loons’ MLS is Back Tournament opener. The team plays the second of three Group D games there Friday night against Real Salt Lake, which defeated Colorado 2-0 in its tournament opener Sunday.
“Only happy memories, really,” Heath said in a Thursday video conference call from Orlando. “What did we lose, nine games in 100, I think, in all our time there? We played a lot of games here at Disney. I can’t remember how many we got beat, but it wouldn’t be many. So this generally has been a good place for us.”
They didn’t lose a home game that 2014 season and outscored opponents 39-8 in those 14 home games. Molino scored a record-setting 20 goals and led his team to its third Commissioner’s Cup in four seasons in Orlando’s last season there before it moved to Major League Soccer.
On Sunday the Loons trailed Sporting K.C. 1-0 for more than 50 minutes before scoring twice in extra time to go into the hot, humid Florida night with a victory they didn’t exactly earn.
Midfielder Jan Gregus’ curving free kick deflected off a Kansas City player’s chest and into the goal in the 92nd minute. Five minutes later, Molino scored a left-footed goal after second-half sub Raheem Edwards kept the ball in play and directed it to Molino just outside the 6-yard box.
“Let’s hope Kevin can continue his rich vein of form,” Heath said of a player who has torn his ACL in both knees, “because we’re certainly going to need a healthy and fit Kevin Molino if we’re hoping to achieve all the ambitions we’ve set for this group.”
Molino celebrated the goal — and victory — as he always does: by making the sign of the cross on his forehead, chin and cheeks and gesturing a kiss toward the sky.
Back home in Trinidad, his 6-year-old son did the same and added a twist he learned from his father. He pulled off his pajama top — as his father has done with his jersey — and twirled while he hopped about in a video clip spread widely on both MLS and Minnesota United’s social media.
“It means a lot to me,” Molino said in a Wednesday post-practice interview with a team employee made available to the media. “It means everything to me. He was crying. I can inspire him in many different ways. But it’s not just him. It’s kids all around the world. All of us players who have kids, we can motivate those all around the world while we all go through a difficult time in our life.
“That’s what sports do: Sports unify and keep people together.”
Molino, 30, leads the Loons in goals scored while playing the “No. 10” attacking midfield position. He has scored three in their first three games, a 3-0 start that makes them the very early leader for MLS’ Supporter’s Shield.
“We’re going to need him,” Heath said in a Wednesday interview conducted by a team employee. “Kev pretty much epitomizes the whole performance Sunday, really. There were times in the first half when he was a bit sticky and we didn’t move the ball well, like we can. But once he comes alive, he gives this club so much. Not only energy, but craft and guile and things in the final third.
“That’s why people who score and create goals go for so much money, because that’s the hardest thing in football. When Kevin’s is at his best, that’s what he can do.”