Minnesota United veteran midfielder Kevin Molino’s team-high goal total this season grew to 11 with another pair scored in Sunday’s 3-0 playoff victory over Colorado
They came after a regular season in which he finished runner-up to Los Angeles FC’s Bradley Wright-Phillips for MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
Molino scored the Loons’ first and last goals Sunday at Allianz Field in their first playoff victory, in their fourth MLS season.
Molino, 30, overcame torn ACL injuries in 2015 and 2018. Wright-Phillips is a two-time MLS Golden Boot winner who has revived his career in L.A. at age 35 after injuries nearly ended it.
“We’re always biased for our own players, aren’t we?” said Loons coach Adrian Heath, who has known Molino since he was a teenager and brought Molino with him from Orlando to Minnesota in 2017. “I’ve known the kid since he was 18 years old. I’ve got an incredible amount of belief in his ability. I’m so pleased he has come back so fit and healthy. The one thing I know is, if we’re going to go far in this playoff run, we’re going to need Kevin Molino to play as well as he can. If he does, he’s a difference-maker.
“Bradley must have had a really good comeback year to beat Kevin Molino.”
Molino becomes a free agent after this season, and Heath said he’s hopeful that negotiations already begun will yield a deal.
Minnesota United played on with three of its four players back from international competition overseas in time for Sunday’s first-round MLS Cup home playoff game.
The only man missing: Starting right back Romain Metanire didn’t get back in country from playing for his Magagascar team in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.
Versatile young midfielder Hassani Dotson started in Metanire’s right-back spot on a back line to which veteran Michael Boxall returned after missing the regular season’s final two games because of an injury.
Finland’s Robin Lod and Slovakia’s Jan Gregus both returned by Saturday. They returned by charter flight so they wouldn’t be quarantined upon their return to the United States. Lod started up front as he did in his team’s regular-season finale against FC Dallas, just ahead of Molino, Emanuel Reynoso and Ethan Finlay.
Heath on Friday said Metanire had been delayed getting back after MLS stepped up and chartered aircraft for its players competing for their national teams.
No fear of the road
Fifth-seeded Colorado, at 5-3-1, is one of five teams that had a winning road record in the regular season. Toronto, New England, Sporting Kansas City and Portland are the others in a season when teams have traveled on game day by chartered flights.
“You have to be mentally tough for every game,” Colorado attacking midfielder Cole Bassett said. “I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I enjoy playing on the road. I like going to different stadiums, seeing the new pitch, the new stadium, going up there and trying to take my game to the home team and make them feel like they’re actually away. We have that mentality. We don’t really care that we’re on the road, to be honest.”
• Bassett played his first playoff game Sunday, after much anticipation. Only one thing was missing. “I wish there definitely were fans because that stadium with fans is pretty special,” he said.
• Medina’s Caden Clark scored his first MLS playoff goal in the New York Red Bulls’ 3-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday. He signed with the Red Bulls in October after they acquired his rights from the Loons. At age 17, he became the youngest player in league history to score a goal in each of his first two games.