Adrian Heath and Minnesota United FC don't mind being the underdog.
It's a familiar role for the Loons, who advanced past Columbus Crew SC in the Round of 16 at the MLS is Back Tournament to set up a clash with the San Jose Earthquakes in the quarterfinals Saturday (8 pm ET | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes; TSN). Similar to the Crew, the Quakes have received plenty of plaudits for their play so far in Orlando.
Once again, Minnesota are considered underdogs, per BetMGM.
“Probably on current form [they’d be favorites]," Heath told media. "The bookies aren’t very often wrong, are they? You don’t see many poor bookmakers, certainly I haven’t.”
Minnesota actually already played San Jose earlier this season, storming to a 5-2 win. They were able to play around San Jose's unique defensive system and contain their high-octane attack, with a little help from three set-piece goals. That game had Quakes coach Matias Almeyda arguing the Loons should be considered as having the upper hand.
"We have a precedent where they scored five goals on us," Almeyda said. "So maybe they should be the favorites, not us.”
Sights & Sounds from Loons and Quakes quarterfinal wins
"Against San Jose, the first goal is very important because of the way they play," Heath said. "Once they start to get up a head of steam and get some momentum going, they’re very difficult to stop. They keep putting you under extreme pressure and if you go a goal down you start to make decisions that you probably wouldn’t do normally. The start is going to be massive."
Heath doesn't think the first match between the clubs in March is indicative of how Saturday's game will go. A lot has happened since the beginning of March and a lot has changed at the tournament. Minnesota will be without reigning MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, while the status of each Romain Metanire and Kevin Molino is still up in the air.
The familiarity of San Jose's system, though, is real.
"They kind of play man marking all over the field so we have some things we know will work and we’ll try to use it against them," Minnesota midfielder Jan Gregus said.
If all of that fails, they can always hope Tyler MIller's mustache can work as a good luck charm. The goalkeeper helped steer Minnesota to glory in the penalty shootout against the Crew with a big stop in the third round and then produced one of the best GIFs of the tournament.
Miller said the new look came out of boredom and inspiration from teammate Aaron Schoenfeld. Heath and Gregus weren't very complimentary of it, both immediately starting to joke around when asked about it. They did assert one thing: He can't shave it now.
"I can’t tell you what I think about it because it looks awkward," Gregus said. "But I told him there’s no chance for him to shave it now so he needs to keep it. If he looks that way or another, he needs to keep it now."