Minnesota United’s switch to a 3-5-2 formation provided plenty of fireworks in a 4-3 Fourth of July victory over defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC.
Darwin Quintero scored the first hat trick in the team’s short history and did it in just 57 minutes as the Loons jumped out to a 4-1 lead and then held on to snap a three-game losing streak.
Now the question is, can it play on the road? Minnesota, which is 1-7-0 on the road and has dropped six in a row away from TCF Bank Stadium, next faces the Houston Dynamos on Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium.
It’s a key game for both teams in their quest to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. Houston (6-6-4, 22 points) trails sixth-place Vancouver by just one point while the Loons (6-10-1, 19) are four points behind the Whitecaps in the battle for the final playoff spot.
“I thought the first 30 minutes was as good as we have played in a long, long time,” Minnesota coach Adrian Heath told MLSsoccer.com of the win over Toronto. “We had a good shape, good passing on our play, speed of play, good combination play in the right areas, played short when we needed to, turned them around when we needed to — all of the things that makes a good team performance. In terms of approach to the game, I could not have been more pleased with the guys.”
It’s the third meeting between the two teams. Houston blanked the visiting Loons, 1-0, on June 18 in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 as Quintero banged a potential game-tying penalty kick off the right post in the 87th minute. Minnesota won the first MLS matchup, 2-1, on April 28 in Minneapolis.
“We have generally played well against Houston, even the game a couple of weeks ago in the Open Cup,” Heath said. “We missed a penalty and chance after chance. It is a game we know will be difficult because they are good at home, but it is a game that we can go there with a good deal of confidence.”
Houston comes in off a dramatic 2-2 draw with visiting Los Angeles FC on Tuesday night, scoring twice in stoppage time to garner a point. Defender Philippe Senderos booted in the tying goal in the 96th minute on a rebound of a Romell Quioto corner kick, just two minutes after Mauro Manotas scored Houston’s first goal.
“We have lost points in the last five minutes but also today we came from 2-0 to 2-2, which feels like winning,” Dynamos coach Wilmer Cabrera said after the game. “We didn’t get three points, we got one. But this one point could be a turning point for us.”
—Field Level Media