BLAINE, Minn. – Following a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers this past Sunday, Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath stressed the importance of obtaining three points against a Western Conference playoff contender.
But league points aren’t the club’s immediate focus this week. Rather, they’re set to host the Timbers again on Wednesday evening (8 pm ET | ESPN+) with a berth in the U.S. Open Cup final on the line come late August.
“We know how important it is, there’s no disguising the fact that we’re one step away from competing in a major final,” Heath said. “Some of my greatest memories in my career have been playing in cup finals and semifinals winning them.”
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The nature of the match wasn’t lost on striker Mason Toye, who has cooled off some after scoring four goals in as many games earlier this summer.
“If you lose the game, you’re done, and if you win, you’re moving on,” Toye, 20, said. “It’s pretty self-explanatory that you [have to] put your best foot forward and give everything to try and get the result.”
This is Minnesota’s farthest ever run in the Open Cup, one that has coincided with the opening of Allianz Arena and the club moving to second place in the Western Conference standings.
“In the results that we’ve had, we’ve won games that probably in the past we would have lost,” Toye said. “We’ve pulled out results in big moments and we’ve capitalized on opportunities in those big moments. This year, we’ve got a special group of guys and I think that we can hopefully get the win tomorrow, but also make a push in this league and take home a trophy.”
Heath sees this as the most important game in club history, only because “it’s the next one” on the team’s slate.
But with a win, Minnesota would come one step closer to an automatic spot in the Concacaf Champions League – all in the club’s third year in MLS.
“I think that the progress that we’ve made is fantastic when you compare everything that’s gone on with this club, compared to other clubs,” Heath said. “We’re really pleased with where we are at the moment.”
As for the visiting Timbers, they stayed in Minnesota after Sunday's Week 22 league match to prepare for the Open Cup semifinal at Allianz Field: