ATLANTA – Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath altered his starting 11 Tuesday in the biggest game his team has played in its first three seasons, tweaking his team’s formation, too, when he put rookie Hassani Dotson in the midfield and designated star Darwin Quintero as a substitute in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.
This year’s Open Cup leading scorer with six goals in four games, Quintero came on in the 74th minute. He did so on a night when his team allowed two goals in the first 16 minutes and never got the second-half equalizer after it scored its only goal just after halftime.
Afterward, Heath said he decided on his starting 11 players a few days before Tuesday’s final against Atlanta United.
“You just pick the team that you think is right,” Heath said. “It’s nothing personal in any of that. You pick the team that you feel looks sharp in training, players who will help you do what we wanted to do tonight. That was what I did.
‘‘Like I say, nothing personal. I just picked the team that I thought would win us the game.”
Newcomer Robin Lod scored Minnesota United’s only goal, in the 47th minute while the Loons had all kinds of chances to tie the score after that. Quintero didn’t have any of those in his nearly 20 minutes played.
Quintero declined an interview request.
Afterward, Heath praised Dotson’s performance while playing all 90-plus minutes.
“I thought he was excellent again,” Heath said. “He’s growing by the week. He’s going to be a top player. We’re really pleased with him. I thought the younger ones were terrific again. Chase [Gasper)]was really good as well. Mason [Toye] had a few chances. The future is bright for them.”
Hitting the road
The Loons traveled with a party approaching 750 or more that included their entire staff and supporters who bought more than 500 tickets for the midweek game. They filled parts of three sections in the second level, just below the press box.
“Fantastic effort from the fans,” goalkeeper Vito Mannone said. “We heard them. They were loud throughout the game. It was great to come out for warmups and feel a piece of Minnesota was with us.”
Captain and veteran defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso limped to the locker room at game’s end after he played the first 74 minutes on a healing thigh that kept him out of last Thursday’s game at Kansas City and limited his mobility Tuesday.
“You can see he hasn’t trained much for the last week,” Heath said. “He felt OK. I thought he got better as the game went on.”