Because of how his players — and his supporters — responded, it’s the Montreal Impact that loom as the next, most important opponent on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | TVAS, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US).
Minnesota vaulted above the Quakes and now sit fifth in the Western Conference table with the 3-1 win, in which Darwin Quintero and Michael Boxall scored go-ahead goals, Vito Mannone made seven saves to keep the hosts in front, and Kevin Molino sealed victory in stoppage time.
“I said to you before, I thought it was the most important game of the season,” Heath said afterward. “I was so proud of the players.”
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The Loons are now on their own modest two-win run after returning from the Gold Cup break with a victory over FC Cincinnati last Saturday.
And for a team that has never previously made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, there’s no choice but to continue to try and get results wherever and whenever they play, even three days after an emotional high like Wednesday.
“We know we needed to get these two wins at home to start the second half of the year,” said defender Ike Opara. “But I look at every game as the most important, so Montreal’s next.”
What an hard fought win yesterday— Vito Mannone (@VitoMannone88) July 4, 2019
Everyone was immense 👏🏻
Top atmosphere!crowd pushed us to very last minute 🖤💙
Heads on another big one on sat #allianzfield #wonderwall #MNUFC #scarvesupmn pic.twitter.com/aVGeB94WE6
That doesn’t mean Heath believes he can send out the same XI again at Stade Saputo. After withstanding San Jose’s second-half pressure, it’s just not prudent.
“I wanted to win the game,” Heath said of fielding a mostly first-choice squad vs. San Jose, a team they are likely to battle down the stretch for playoff positioning. “Chances are there will be some changes for the weekend because we just can’t go again. It’s impossible to put that amount of energy in three times in a week, with traveling as well.”
Wednesday’s win may also have been a coming out party of sorts for Allianz Field as one of the league’s most intimidating venues.
Mannone noticed it throughout while he was going his best to keep the home side in front.
“The crowd was incredible and pushed us either way, when we attack or when we defend,” Mannone said. “We need to thank them as well, because we will need them even more. The more games at home that we play, we need that last push.”
Heath agreed, making sure to applaud his supporters before walking off the pitch.
“I thought they were incredible this evening,” he said.