KANSAS CITY, Kan. — While Minnesota United were disappointed after a 1-0 loss Thursday night to Sporting Kansas City, it won’t dampen their spirits ahead of the U.S. Open Cup final against Atlanta United Tuesday (8 pm ET | ESPN+) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Adrian Heath rotated his roster ahead of the final to ensure key players are rested and healthy. Abu Danladi and Darwin Quintero came on late in the match, and Ozzie Alonso and Angelo Rodriguez, who are carrying minor knocks, didn’t feature at all.
Still, Heath was disappointed at dropping points so late with Erik Hurtado scoring the lone goal two minutes from full time.
“We put a lot of effort in, created some good opportunities, were dangerous on the break and [the goal came] so late, it's a bit of a killer,” Heath said.
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A disappointing league result, but not a devastating one with the Loons comfortably above the playoff line. And with the biggest match in the club’s young MLS history on the horizon, they’re more than ready for that challenge that lies ahead.
“It's a huge game for us considering we're two-and-a-half years in, but we can look forward to it with excitement,” Heath said.
When Heath played for Everton, he appeared in his share of cup matches. He celebrated winning the 1984 FA Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup a year late and four straight Community Shields from 1984-87. But he was also on the losing end in the 1984 Football League Cup.
“I've said to the players before, I've played in cup finals and won them,” Heath said. “I've played in cup finals and lost them. People go, ‘We're going to enjoy it.’ Trust me, you only enjoy it when you win and that's what we're going to have to try and do.”
Ike Opara, who enjoyed a rousing ovation in his first match back at Children’s Mercy Park, knows the Loons have a tall task ahead against an Atlanta team that won MLS Cup in December and captured Campeones Cup — both at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“We're going to Atlanta, who it seems have hosted a final every week now,” Opara said. “They've got a bit of experience. We're a little young in that perspective as a team, but we do have experience with individuals.”
Opara is one of those, who played in both the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup finals with Sporting. He recognizes the opportunity that presents itself Tuesday in taking a first big step for a young club.
“It's special for sure,” Opara said. “It would be more special if we win the thing. We're trying to take the right steps to grow this team in the right way. Tuesday is really the first opportunity to send our best foot forward as an organization.”