But it didn’t translate to a win at Allianz Field, of course, as they fell 2-1 to USL League One side Union Omaha. For the second time this tournament, the third-division side eliminated an MLS one, all after Chicago Fire FC fell on penalty kicks to the Nebraska-based group in the Third Round late last month.
So, where did it all go wrong? Heath pointed to the Loons' mental approach.
“As I’ve just said to them, I’ve been here before and the longer I’m in football I’ll be here again,” the Englishman said. “The game is littered with it all over the world, Premier League clubs getting beat by fourth division clubs, and it’s invariably because you don’t approach the game in the right manner. I couldn’t have said any more to the guys from Monday, Tuesday and tonight’s game of what to expect and what was to come.
“We have to shoulder the responsibility of that and I do. It’s my responsibility to make sure they don’t play like that. But sometimes along that way, you have to as an individual stand up and go ‘That isn’t going to be me. He’s not going to label that at me after the game.’”
Minnesota's starting XI included both of their Designated Player forwards, and Adrien Hunou rewarded that decision with a sixth-minute tally off Franco Fragapane’s feed. Even still, Heath said he expects more out of the Frenchman and Luis Amarilla, the Paraguay international they brought back this past offseason. He also lamented "I expect more out of the group, full stop."
That 1-0 lead evaporated in first-half stoppage time when Union Omaha’s Hugo Kametani drew level. The Owls then went ahead in the 51st minute when Joe Brito, a former New England Revolution academy standout, volleyed past goalkeeper Eric Dick at the near post.
The Loons had the possession (73.4%-26.6%) and shots (16-8) advantages, yet the final product proved lacking on too many occasions.
“I’ve played in these games. I’ve been the underdog,” Heath outlined. “I remember going with Orlando City as a USL team to Sporting Kansas [City] and winning to go to the quarterfinals like they’ve done today.
“And if you don’t approach the game properly, these are professional kids who, for some of them, it might be the biggest game they ever play. In fairness to them, they played like it might be a huge game for them. And we didn’t. So many of ours just coasted through the game and thought that will be enough. It’s not.”
To reach this point, Minnesota had beaten USL League One side Forward Madison FC in the Third Round. Then came a rain-delayed victory over the Colorado Rapids that spanned two days, with torrential storms throwing a wrench into the schedule.
MNUFC couldn’t keep the run going, and this setback follows a 1W-3L-1D stretch in the league. It all left Heath summing up the match with one word.
“Embarrassing,” Heath started his press conference with.
“As I just said to the group there,” he later added, “we’re kidding ourselves if we think we did enough tonight to impose ourselves on another team. And we didn’t.”