Minnesota United aim for US Open Cup title to validate three years of work

BLAINE, Minn -- Ahead of the 2019 U.S. Open Cup final Tuesday evening, Minnesota United are focusing on one single objective: winning.

The Loons travel to Atlanta to face their 2017 MLS expansion rivals in what’s expected to be a lower-bowl sellout at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (8 pm ET | ESPN+). Minnesota are rumored to have 500+ supporters, staff and front office members traveling as well, which the visitors hope will offer a boost.

“It’s going to be absolutely massive to have a bit of home with us,” defender Michael Boxall said. “It’s a match we’d all like to win, and we’d all like to bring the club its first cup and be a part of that moment.”

The Loons are coming off a disappointing 1-0 loss in league play against Sporting Kansas City, a match that head coach Adrian Heath said was “three points lost.”

However, they don’t see it as a dip in form, nor was it a fluke; they simply lost.

“After two years [in MLS] at the beginning no one thought we would be in the position we are now,” winger Miguel Ibarra said. “There have been a few games in the past couple of weeks that weren’t our best performances, but we don’t focus on those now, we are thinking about Tuesday and what we have to do to take home the Cup.”

The Loons have only won one of their last four in all competitions, but prior to that, Adrian Heath’s side went eleven straight matches undefeated, a team record.

Minnesota have dominated in the Open Cup this season, however, outscoring their opponents 15-5, including a 6-1 quarterfinal thrashing over USL Championship side New Mexico United.

“My best memories of Cup finals are of the final that I won, not the two that I lost,” Heath, who won the FA Cup with Everton in 1984, said. “I don’t want any of these guys to experience that, and they don’t either – every single player on the pitch in our kit wants to win.”

The MLS Western Conference is a tight race as teams head into the final stretch of the season, and the Loons lie dead-center in the midst of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoff hunt. There is only a three-point gap between second and seventh place, with eight teams in position to play for those six spots.

“We made it to the Open Cup final, somewhere no one thought we’d be, but our next stop is the playoffs, which is not a guarantee yet and it means we gotta start picking up results in the league regardless of if it’s home or away and regardless of who we play,” Ibarra said.

But first, Minnesota are aiming for their first silverware of their MLS era.

“We’ve improved a lot and we’ve surprised a lot of people, but until we qualify for the playoffs or win the Cup, there’s nothing to show for the hard work we’ve put in,” winger Ethan Finlay said.