Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Image: Minnesota United FC

Following a thrilling (and life-shortening) PK shootout victory over Columbus Crew in the Leagues Cup round of 32, Minnesota United fans returned to Allianz Field Tuesday for “sweet 16” matchup against another LIGA MX foe, Toluca FC.

Once again, the match couldn’t be settled after 90+ minutes. But once again, Minnesota found a way to get it done in PKs and keep themselves alive in the tournament, besting the visitors 4-2 in the shootout following a controversial 2-2 draw after regulation.

“Overall, just so pleased that we’re through and we’re in the next round. Because we’ve beaten a really good team,” said Heath. “Really well coached, well organized, and it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve done quite well.”

Match Recap

The Loons wasted no time getting on the board, as Emanuel Reynoso found Rosales with a nice little chipped pass over the top, and the Honduran one-timed the shot past the Toluca keeper Tiago Volpi for the opener. Rey now leads the Leagues Cup with six assists.

Less than 20 minutes later, Minnesota’s best player in this tournament added to his goal total. Off the throw-in, Franco Fragapane and Reynoso played a 1-2 passing combination, and the ball ended up at the feet of Bongokuhle Hlongwane. The young winger showed a lot of patience to find his opening and finish with the left foot to double the MNUFC lead.

“I think we saw where Bongi’s [Hlongwane] came from to what he is now. The composure,” said Heath. “We spoke about it last year and I remember sitting here on numerous occasions saying, ‘Bongi’s had three or four chances and we have to get him to relax and we have to get him to actually compose himself a little bit more.’ That was a perfect example of it. Could’ve rushed it, but he didn’t. He took his time, checked the ‘keeper and then put it in.”

Bongi’s seventh goal of the tournament keeps him tied atop the golden boot race with one Lionel Messi.

Bongi thought he had his fourth brace of the Leagues Cup just after halftime, tapping in a great low cross from DJ Taylor, but the flag was raised for offside.

In the 65th minute, Toluca got one back, After a bit of chaos in the box, Michael Boxall attempted a clearance. Unfortunately, it found Valber Huerta outside the top of the box, who fired a missile on goal and there was nothing Dayne St. Clair could do to make a stop.

“We had three opportunities to clear the ball. Three,” said Heath. “Nobody wants to play football more than I do, but when you’re under pressure and you don’t know what you’re going to do, put your foot through it and we’ll discuss it later. We had three opportunities to clear the ball and we didn’t.”

Not too long after the visitors’ opener, Hassani Dotson made contact with Marcel Ruiz in the box. Originally not called a foul, the official went to VAR and eventually overturned the call, much to the chagrin and confusion of the 18,000+ in attendance, granting a penalty and giving Dotson his second yellow-card of the night. 

Volpi stepped up and buried the spot-kick in the 75th minute, ironically sending the match to more of them, but not before some heroics from Dayne St. Clair in goal and the post to keep things level after full time.

In PKs, St. Clair made a big save, Toluca also hit the post, and the Loons scored all four of their attempts, including Sang Bin Jeong’s winner.

“We’re all pleased for [St. Clair],” said Heath. “We had a penalty shootout last year where he got a little bit of a stink for not saving them. Went the wrong way for four out of five of them. He had a big night. He did everything that we expect of him.”

On Tap

Minnesota are now flying to the quarterfinals against Club Americ-wait…the match is against Nashville SC at Allian-wait…the match is actually at GEODIS Park on Saturd-wait…turns out it’s actually on Friday.

Got all that?

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