Image: Minnesota United
Minnesota United FC bowed out of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night, falling on the road to the Houston Dynamo 4-0 at Shell Energy Stadium.
The Loons seventh match in 24 days saw them concede three times in the second half, with Dynamo forward Corey Baird netting a hat trick across the contest. MNUFC midfielder Kervin Arriaga was also sent off after receiving two yellow cards in the first 38 minutes of the match.
It was Arriaga’s sixth and seventh yellow cards of the campaign in all competitions, bringing the Honduran’s lack of discipline center-stage.
”There’s only so many times you can tell people,” manager Adrian Heath said of the Honduran International’s recklessness of late.
While Heath saw the red card being distributed as the true match-changing moment, he also noted a lack of ambition from the entire group on the night. The Loons boss was was notably disappointed in the group of players who had an opportunity to make an impact who don’t often find themselves in the starting XI or being used off the bench.
“I can be critical of when we made some changes but whatever you say, the turning point of the game is the red card. Playing a man down on the road, a place like this with the heat and everything that goes with it, it’s not easy. We had a couple of moments early on but overall, we didn’t compete enough. And that’s on certain players. Certain players have got to understand that when you get opportunities, because that’s what everybody wants- ‘I need to get a game, I need opportunity’ when them moments come ‘round, you better take them. I don’t think enough players did enough to take that opportunity this evening.”
Baird’s goals for the Dynamo came in the 33rd, 68th and 89th minute while attacker Ibrahim Aliyu netted the other lone goal in the 79th minute. Despite a strong start to the match from the Loons, they never found themselves in the match after Houston’s opening goal.
“I knew it was going to be difficult in the second half, and obviously in a perfect world – Micky [Tapias] had a bang on his knee – I’d liked to have taken [Michael Boxall] off and give him some rest as well, because he’s pretty much played every minute of every game. But, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to risk Micky,” Heath said. “And the rest were basically, as I’ve said to you before, with the amount of effort that Bongi [Hlongwane] has put in over the past few weeks, I thought giving him a rest might be ideal as well. At the end of the day, I’ve tried to protect some of the players for the weekend, but keep a competitive team on the field. And we weren’t competitive enough when we went down to 10 men early in the second half.”
The Loons return home to Allianz Field Saturday evening to host Real Salt Lake on Memorial Day weekend. MNUFC is on a two-game win streak in the league and will look to extend that while earning their third win of the season (all competitions) at home.
Minnesota United’s quest for silverware in 2023 has not ended, as the debutant tournament The Leagues Cup still awaits them this summer.
The Loons will play Liga MX side Club Puebla and midwestern compatriots Chicago Fire in the group stage of the tournament, with the top two sides advancing to the knockout rounds. The action begins July 21 and goes until August 19.
“Yeah, I think everybody’s excited about the Leagues Cup. I’ve been watching the playoffs down in Mexico. They’ve been unbelievable games, the atmosphere’s been great. When Mexican clubs come to town, generally, there’s a big atmosphere, a big crowd. So, like everybody, we’ll look forward to it,” Heath said on the tournament. “It’s going to be difficult for coaches up and down the league in terms of how many minutes they give teams and give their players, but it is what it is. It’s a big prize to win if you win it, financially. We will try and give it our best. We’ve got [Club] Puebla at home, and then we’ll see what type of crowd we get in, and then we’ll go from there. But no, I’m looking forward to it.”