ST. PAUL — Minnesota United did little to earn much respect in its first two years in MLS. While their results have improved in their third season, the Loons still feel besmirched.
Last week, the Loons beat San Jose to move ahead of the Earthquakes in the MLS Western Conference standings but still found themselves scratching their heads over being behind them in new power rankings.
A belief within the club was October would be when a level of esteem would be minted with a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Now they’re finding higher regard can be earned this summer in the national tournament.
Minnesota’s attack continued to steamroll Wednesday with a 6-1 win over darling underdogs New Mexico United in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals at Allianz Field.
The Loons are two wins away from hoisting the club’s first trophy in its MLS era. They will play the Portland Timbers, which beat Los Angeles FC 1-0 in a late quarterfinal Wednesday. That semifinal is set for Aug. 7, with the location to be decided in a draw Thursday.
“It would give us prestige,” Minnesota forward Angelo Rodriguez said through a Spanish translator.
After scoring six goals in its previous nine games, United’s entry into the Open Cup’s fifth round on June 12 churned an offensive breakout.
Across their past six games, the Loons have scored 26 goals. That’s 13 goals in Open Cup wins over Sporting Kansas City, last year’s tournament champion Houston and New Mexico, a startup club from the lower-level USL which beat two MLS clubs to reach the final eight.
And that’s 13 goals over previously white-hot San Jose, last-place FC Cincinnati and a road comeback over above-average Montreal on Saturday.
But while it’s been a perfect recent run, head coach Adrian Heath was far from basking in the latest outcome.
“I thought at times we were really sloppy, at times we were outstanding. I thought at times some of the combination play was as good as you will see,” he said. “Then we’d have a five-minutes spell where we’d stop doing what we know we’re good at.”
New Mexico scored the game’s first goal in the seventh minute and looked like it could continue the magic it showed in upsets of FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids.
Then Minnesota’s attack ran up four goals in the next 13 minutes. Rodriguez tied it in the 10th and made it a 3-1 lead in the 18th. He then earned his first hat trick in Minnesota as he gave the Loons a 5-1 lead moments before halftime.
Darwin Quintero had given the Loons a 2-1 lead in the 13th and moved into the lead for the Open Cup’s Golden Boot title given to the tournament’s top goal scorer.