One of the ingrained images from Minnesota United’s prompt playoff exit in 2019 was striker Angelo Rodriguez’s header sailing over the crossbar in the 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
It was a final misfire for an attack that lacked finishing skills in the final third of the field toward the end of last season.
On Sunday, the Loons’ attackers scored three goals. Two from Kevin Molino and one from Robin Lod in a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in a MLS Cup Playoffs first-round match.
“I don’t think there are many better attacking midfield players behind a striker in the league than them, I really don’t,” United manager Adrian Heath said. “I thought some of our combination play and imagination to play with each other, to get people in on goal. I know they’ve had chances. Conceivably, we could have had six or seven with the chances we had.”
In the past four games, Molino has four goals, Lod three and pivotal attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso one. Across that same stretch, Reynoso has seven assists, Lod three and Molino one.
“The boys are on fire now,” said midfielder Jan Gregus, who added one assist Sunday. “I hope that the form is going to stay with them. … Rey, obviously him, especially in those holes can create so much space and so many chances.”
Reynoso could have had a goal of his own. The Argentine got it on his favored left foot and, despite plenty of space and angles to work, his shot hit square off the right post in the first half.
Loons manager Adrian Heath said the club is confident Molino will sign a contract extension after this season. The Trinidadian’s deal is set to run out at the end of 2020.
“You are never 100 percent when players are entering the final year,” Heath said. “We have had lengthy discussions with him and I think we are very, very close. Hopefully we can get to the stage where he signs a new deal and stays here.”
With the help of MLS setting up charter flights, three of the Loons’ four players returning from international duty were able to arrive in Minnesota in time for the playoff game.
Loons right back Romain Metanire was the lone exception. He had complications in his return from Madagascar in the African Cup of Nations games last week.
Gregus (Slovakia), Lod and Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone) returned in time and tested negative for COVID-19 and were eligible to play. Gregus and Lod started, while Kamara was a second-half substitution.
Without Metanire, Hassani Dotson started at right back, and Heath praised his shift.
Sporting Kansas City, the Loons next playoff opponent in early December, had a thrilling win Sunday.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia made a stunning three saves during a penalty kick shootout to propel Sporting Kansas City to a win over San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
“I’ve never seen that before in any game ever,” K.C. coach Peter Vermes said on FS1.
Drama kicked up at the end of regulation. After San Jose’ Chris Wondolowski’s header was saved by Melia in the 89th minute, Gianluca Busio scored the apparent winner in 91st minute.
But Wondolowski, the MLS’ all-time leading scorer, netted the equalizer in the 97th minute to force a 30-minute overtime and eventually the the shootout.
Minnesota is 3-6-2 versus Sporting K.C. in MLS games since 2017. The Loons knocked off K.C. 2-1 with two late goals in the MLS is Back Tournament in July.
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