Tag Archives: US Open Cup

Oh, Darwin Quintero – Will He Ever Throw It Back to You?

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

The US Open Cup Final was a winnable game (as winnable as any big game played by a Minnesota team can be – take that however you wish). Adrian Heath’s favored lineup was well rested, new acquisitions eligible for selection, and the opponent a known quantity. The Loons needed only to keep their shape and begin the match on the front foot. They did neither of those things.

The players can hardly be faulted. They were on the back foot from the moment the Starting XI and formation had been decided. The two most puzzling factors for fans? The omission of Darwin Quintero and the switch to a 4-3-3.

Darwin Quintero

Minnesota could not have made it to the final without Darwin Quintero. He earned the 2019 USOC Golden Boot, scoring at least once in every round played en route to the final. He stood alone atop the table with 6. Four players were tied runners-up with 4 goals, including Quintero’s fellow DP Angelo Rodriguez and Atlanta’s Brandon Vazquez. So why leave him on the bench in the final?

If there were any doubts as to whether he was worth the DP money when he joined the club in March of 2018, Darwin Quintero quickly quieted them, notching 11 goals and 12 assists through 27 appearances. His sophomore season has been less impressive, with 6 goals and 5 assists being overshadowed by countless missed opportunities in his 18 appearances.

Ironically, the same supporters who had yelled for Quintero to be taken off the field in league matches (Overheard in the Wonderwall: “He doesn’t know how to strike the ball,” “His first touch is s–t!,” “What the f— is he doing out there?!”) were the first to decry his omission from the Starting XI in Atlanta. *You could swap Angelo Rodriguez for Quintero as the subject of this paragraph and those points would still ring true, but his omission from the 18 was more understandable given recent injuries.*

Coming to the fore of Minnesota Soccer Twitter once again is #HeathOut. Heath had carefully managed Quintero’s minutes in a tight league schedule leading up to the final. Why bother to do that with a player you plan to sit? Longtime fan-favorite Miguel Ibarra got the same treatment, a painful move given his history with the club and the implications of the match.

Quintero and Ibarra, observing the first half in Atlanta. Image: ESPN+ broadcast

Ibarra has been struggling in 2019 as well, with a single goal in 17 appearances. But his biggest impact has always been off of the score sheet, his work rate up and down the pitch never going unnoticed. Have Quintero and Ibarra played themselves right out of Heath’s favor, ‘dropped themselves’ as Heath is wont to say, by not being the flashy difference makers they once were?

Mason Toye and the 4-3-3

Minnesota’s first- and second-year rookies have been holding their own this season next to the veterans. After a short, but fruitful, loan spell with USL-affiliate Forward Madison SC, Mason Toye is showing promise with the first team. Despite a red card-earning show of poor sportsmanship in early August, the sophomore striker has made an impact, credited with 4 goals and 3 assists in just 10 appearances. Toye also scored the winning goal in the USOC semifinal against Portland Timbers. Was this enough to earn the start in the final? Possibly.

Heath left his favored back four (lined left to right: Gasper, Boxall, Opara and Metanire) intact, but sent Gregus, Alonso and Dotson out as a midfield trio and put Lod and Molino on either side of Toye. Heath had adopted this formation previously in desperate moments (in cases of injury or other absences), but never with these eleven players, who were only just beginning to build chemistry in the favored system.

The midfield shape limited the squad’s wing play, an essential piece of the club’s midfield transitions, and the Loons appeared lost through the first half, struggling to maintain any semblance of order when moving in either direction. Up front, Lod and Molino struggled to create chances on the rare occasions when the midfield successfully won them the ball. Toye was left wandering alone into the final third, flirting with an offside call, but failing to get behind the Atlanta defense.

With a history of odd tactical decisions made to prove a point to his players, it is quite possible that Heath’s late announcement of the Starting XI (Players were not told until Tuesday morning whether they would play that evening.) and the implementation of the 4-3-3 was meant to send a message.

By selecting a 4-3-3, Quintero and Ibarra’s positions were effectively eliminated. Had the Loons managed to win, Heath’s message to Quintero (in a contract year) and Ibarra (his market value likely at its peak) would have been loud and clear: We’ve won with you, but we can win without you. The man from Manchester may be taking Minnesota’s passive-aggressiveness to another level.

Playoff implications

The two main goals of Minnesota’s Three Year Plan were to win the Lamar Hunt trophy and make the playoffs. With that first opportunity squandered, all eyes turn to the playoffs. As of Saturday morning, United sits at 5th in the West, just 5 points ahead of Portland who sit just below the playoff line in 8th with a match in hand. With such a tight race, United needs every point it can get from a tough September schedule, beginning on the road at LAFC.

Quintero helps Ibarra celebrate his goal against LAFC on July 22, 2018, which MNUFC won, 5-1.. Image: MNUFC Twitter

The Open Cup Final was a bad time to experiment with formation and lineup, but doing so in the final weeks of the season? That could be catastrophic. With his defense set (lacking in depth, but serviceable) Heath needs to utilize every attacking tool in his arsenal. Quintero and Toye, despite their flaws, have been clutch in key moments. Ibarra, Molino, Finlay, Rodriguez; they’ve all been difference makers, on the scoresheet or off.

Minnesota United has everything it needs to make a run in the playoffs. Heath just needs to acknowledge that and let it happen. The biggest phase of the Three Year Plan begins now and the league is watching. And the only thing guaranteed for the Loons in September is that there will be more surprises from the gaffer.

COYL

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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MNUFC’s Three-Year Plan Gets More Puzzling with Open Cup Loss

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Imagine spending more than two years searching for and fitting together all the edge and corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Halfway through that third year you still need one or two more pieces, but the frame is coming together. More and more people have been asking you what the final picture is, but you either can’t or won’t tell them, saying only that the little pictures change the game. You’re gathering little clusters here and there, snapshots you can piece together and show off at big gatherings. You’ve given them glimpses, little hints about the final product, especially one particular section. 

Then one night, with everyone watching and waiting anxiously to see a completed section of your puzzle – the part they have been eyeing for the better part of a year – you approach the table, hesitate for a moment with your hands over that beautifully progressing section and… You shove it to the side and start fumbling with loose pieces in the opposite corner while a whole party of of supporters and skeptics looks on.

That is what Adrian Heath did with his United squad on Tuesday.

An Open Cup Final berth was billed as a cornerstone to Heath’s Three Year Plan from the outset in 2017. Open Cup and playoffs, Open Cup and playoffs, Open Cup and playoffs: The buzz words used by Heath & Co as they settled into each MLS season. The third time was the charm for an Open Cup berth and fans – even the most fervent pessimists – could not be faulted for going into the final in Atlanta expecting to see a lineup and formation akin to those laid out for the preceding matches.

Heath has stuck to his favored 4-2-3-1 to start nearly every match in 2019, reverting to a 4-3-3 only when absences dictated it and even then, only for short periods of time. He also held back his favored starters for two important league matches, presumably resting them for the final. So when MNUFC posted a 4-3-3 and a Starting XI that was largely untested in that shape, well – The only thing we know to expect is a surprise and this was no different.

Rookies Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson have performed well for the last couple months, often appearing mature beyond their years, especially when played alongside veterans like Michael Boxall, Ike Opara and Ozzie Alonso. Mason Toye, despite disciplinary issues, has reaped the rewards of having a USL affiliate nearby, finally breaking out of his second-year rookie slump; and newcomer Robin Lod has shown promise in his very short time here, when slotted in for short periods with perennial starters who needed someone to light a fire under their feet. 

Despite all of that, expecting these players to hold off and break down a hot-running Atlanta side, in an unfriendly environment (Say what you will about the NFL, but they got one thing right in setting single-elimination style finals at neutral sites.), was incredibly unfair, especially given the blood, sweat and tears they gave to get there.

Midfield turnovers and final-third panic were, per usual, the Loons’ downfall in Atlanta. Opening the scoring with an own goal didn’t do much to settle the nerves of the defense (In all fairness to Gasper, that ball took an odd bounce and Minnesota veterans have been credited with even uglier own goals off of even poorer decisions.), but completing their own scoring opportunities could have wiped that moment clean from the Loons’ collective conscience. Had Minnesota managed to level the score and bounce back for the win, there is a good chance Man of the Match honors would still have gone to a player on the backline.

While Opara and Boxall (especially Boxall) took flack on Twitter for whiffing on some sitters that could have won the game, the defenders played their roles well in the second half, holding Atlanta goalless on one counter attack after another. Vito Mannone also came up huge, giving up only one goal to Atlanta (and one, of course, to Gasper) despite seeing too much of Josef Martinez.

What a juxtaposition this night was to the two teams’ first meeting back in 2017. On that bitterly cold and snowy afternoon, Minnesota’s defense couldn’t buy a break, losing their home opener 6-1. On Tuesday night, Minnesota lived and died by its defense, holding Atlanta to one goal and then having the best opportunities to score at the other end of the pitch.

While Heath shuffles the midfield and attack – a carousel of MLS rookies and veterans, internationals and hometown favorites – he would do well to leave the back four intact. And not let them beat themselves up for not doing the job on the other end of the pitch, too.

Featured image: MNUFC

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MNUFC Climb Their Way To US Open Cup FInal

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United hosted the Portland Timbers for not one, but two matches this week. The schedule could not have worked out better for the Oregonians who’ve always wanted to be temporary citizens of the Twin Cities. Sunday’s MLS action will be discussed at length in another article. For now the spotlight is on the Loons’ first US Open Cup semifinal appearance as an upper-tier club.

After toppling the Timbers 1-0 on a last minute penalty kick on Sunday, the only thing certain about Wednesday’s bout was that it would be a nail biter. These two clubs are pretty evenly matched in terms of lineup and formation. Sunday’s match was an end-to-end battle start to finish and just minutes into Wednesday’s action, there was a clear repeat ahead, despite a much changed attack.

While Portland held a slight edge on Sunday in terms of possession and forays into the final third, Minnesota took over that role on Wednesday. The Loons had made 4 runs into the Timbers’ 18 inside of 4 minutes and were able to shut down every counterattack before it could get dangerous. Of course, the deadlock was broken by a penalty kick. How else?

Darwin Quintero converted the penalty, called after his own free kick found a hand in Portland’s wall. Captain Ozzie Alonso was seen running 70 yards down the field to say something to Quintero before his attempt. When asked what the instruction was, head coach Adrian Heath quipped, “Probably, ‘score.'”

Fair enough.

Minnesota nearly made it into halftime with the lead, but Portland knocked in a stoppage time goal that left Heath wondering, “Where’s VAR when you need it, eh?” Brian Fernandez was potentially offside when he struck the ball from Jeremy Ebobisse, but it was not reviewed as VAR is not used in USOC play. One viewer captured this still frame which makes it doubtful a review would have been in Minnesota’s favor:

The second half was much the same as the first. The team’s traded shots, blocks, tackles, and fouls; Minnesota’s attacking players continued to struggle with their first touch; and the Wonderwall grew louder. Then, in the 64th minute, Mason Toye finally connected.

Toye and Kevin Molino have displayed great chemistry recently, often combining for great scoring chances. Molino dropped a beautiful ball right in front of Toye who beat Claude Dieina and Steven Clark to knock in the tiebreaker.

“Whenever Kevin gets the ball and has space and time, I’m just going to run and try to get myself into a good spot,” Toye said. He also said they did finishing drills together after practice this week: “That might have helped.”

Toye’s father was in attendance for what the striker called the most important goal of his career, his second match-winner scored in USOC play. Dad was probably biting his nails through the final 30 minutes while the Loons held off the Timbers who worked tirelessly for tying and winning goals. Despite their efforts, which ran well into the 5 minutes of added time, the Loons held on.

They will face fellow expansion side Atlanta United at Mercedes Benz Stadium on August 27. How does Heath feel about playing his club’s measuring stick?

“It’s nice for us, yeah,” he said, before adding another jab at ‘MLS dot com’: “The flags will be at half-mast in that building tonight, with Minnesota in the final.”

Jokes aside, Heath plows ahead. His squad faces two Western Conference foes over the next week (Dallas on Saturday, Colorado on Wednesday), important matches if Minnesota is to stay on top of the table.

By the time Minnesota lands in Atlanta, Lod will be more fit and the club’s first Young Designated Player, Thomas Chacon, should have his visa paperwork squared away. Whether Chacon will factor into the attack in Atlanta remains to be seen. That may depend on how the rest of the squad handles training and the intervening matches and on the Uraguayan’s fitness level.

The one thing fans can be sure of: This is a big year for Minnesota United. Year Three was billed as ‘THE’ Year and is shaping up as hoped. Playoff contention and the club’s first-ever US Open Cup final.

Over the next month, the Loons will definitively answer the question, “Who runs the North?”

COYL

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Team Goals And Cup Goals A Reality For The Loons

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

Minnesota United v New Mexico United: 6-1

The biggest US Open Cup match in Minnesota’s MLS history did not disappoint. Allianz Field hosting a quarterfinal against the last remaining USL side in the tournament, a club whose fanbase quickly bought out at least one charter plane and coach bus – a club that reminds Minnesota’s fans of the way things used to be.  But Minnnesota has a new story now and it might include the Cup.

After conceding yet another early goal, a 7’ corner that made the Loons’ set-piece defense look like pieces in a Football Manager match animation, it appeared it would be an ugly match of slip ups. Adrian Heath was critical of his squad in the post-match presser, saying it was exactly that kind of play he’d prepped his squad for, a known favorite of the USL side:

“We’ve watched probably their last four or five games and they’ve come up with sort of trick plays and that was another one of them, but we’ve been through that. It’s not like we hadn’t seen that corner. That’s the disappointing thing and that’s what happens when you turn off for a split second and that’s what happens at this level of football.”

But the post-goal rally by the home United did not disappoint. Just three minutes later, Angelo Rodriguez notched the first goal of what would be his first MLS hat trick. Rookie sensation Hassani Dotson, making another start at right back, picked out Rodriguez and Kevin Molino right in front of goal and sent in a high cross. Both players went up for it and celebrated immediately, with the PA announcer and the press announcing that Molino had notched the tying goal.

It was in fact Rodriguez who got the most vertical (thus, our confusion) putting his head on the ball to send it off the right hand of New Mexico keeper Cody Mizell and into the net.

That aged well. The Loons scored 4 more goals before the whistle sounded for halftime. You should probably just watch them all.

The second half was a more subdued affair, Minnesota allowing the visitors to complete passes and occasional venture outside of their own half of the field – a stark contrast to the first 45 minutes.

Chances abounded for the Loons and New Mexico made some clean counter attacks after poor turnovers. By the 60th minute, it was still 5-1. Fifteen minutes had gone by without a goal and even the cheers had begun to dry up as fans settled in to enjoy the beautiful summer evening. But then the home crowd witnessed the end to what may have been the most difficult drought to watch at Allianz Field.

Miguel Ibarra – the fan favorite winger who returned to Minnesota after a spell in LigaMX to be one of the handful of NASL Loons to make the jump to MLS – had scored but a single goal all season. Despite numerous possibilities, the final ball just hadn’t materialized for Batman at Allianz Field. In the 62’, he fixed that, right in front of the Wonderwall, the fans who’d dubbed him Batman half a decade ago.

As the Wonderwall celebrated the milestone – sadly without smoke, just the latest example of Minnesota fans under-budgeting goal-related expenses – Heath made his fitness management subs, beginning the preparations for Saturday’s pivotal conference matchup against FC Dallas. Rodriguez made way for Mason Toye, Chase Gasper for Eric Miller, like-for-like changes. Ethan Finlay replaced Quintero 10 minutes later.

The remainder of the match saw plenty of runs from both sides, but the Loons sealed the deal and paid their visitors the respect of playing out the remaining minutes with a competitive edge and clean play despite the lopsided scoreline.

New Mexico played to the whistle, looking for a final goal to reward a couple hundred travelling supporters who sang for the full 90 minutes. With just 1 goal to Minnesota’s 6, New Mexico United – players and fans alike – left the tournament with their heads held high.

While Heath and his staff prep the players to face Dallas, the Front Office and stadium staff have some work to do, as well. As delightful as the last few weeks of goals have been, Allianz Field has experienced a few hiccups that left fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. With only lower-bowl tickets available for Wednesday’s semifinal, fewer security gates were opened for fan entry and screening began just 60 minutes prior to kickoff, rather than 90.

Hundreds of fans, some of them still frustrated over staffing and streaming issues during the USWNT Brew Hall watch party on Sunday, were still lined up around the stadium after kickoff. Tweets abound showing fans spending extra time up close and personal with the ‘UNITED’ statue at the southwest corner and the granite bench-barriers on the north lawn.

CEO Chris Wright – who could be heard in the press box, not long before the opening goal, triaging the logistical issues on his cell phone before meeting up with stadium staff downstairs – issued a statement on Thursday addressing both incidents and urging patience and cooperation as the club, and fans alike, adjust to their new home.

After a few more pivotal weeks of league play, MN United and Allianz Field will face their next big test on Wednesday, August 7, when they host Portland Timbers for the US Open Cup semifinal. But first, league play.

The Loons face Western Conference foes FC Dallas on Saturday, July 13, at 7 PM CST.

Featured image: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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New York Red Bulls Update: Don’t Tell Me

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, June 8th: 3-2 loss

Tuesday, June 11th: 2-3 loss (US Open Cup 4th Round)

Hello, folks. It’s been a while. And while there has been no shortage of soccer on my TV and in my life (U13 Flight Champs!) I’ve had a hard time committing words to screen about the New York Red Bulls.

We used to be Together

First the good stuff: I watched Aaron Long join the US Men’s National Team once again, but this time with feeling. The CONCACAF Gold Cup is taking place around the country, and expectations for the Yanks are guarded but high. The USMNT won it all the last time out, but that was before the overall collapse that kept them out of the World Cup (don’t drink every time someone mentions it– your liver can’t handle it). But the team is scraping their way up again.

Winning their group in decisive fashion, RBNY defender Aaron Long scored two of the team’s eleven group stage goals. They head to Lincoln Financial in Philadelphia (home of the NFL Eagles) to face Curaçao in the Quarterfinals. The hope is continued health and success (but mostly health) for Aaron Long and the rest of the USMNT.

I really feel that I’m losing my best friend

So, as does happen from time to time, my personal life got in the way of me watching the Red Bulls match against the Philadelphia Union. And until someone pays me to not miss this stuff, that’s gonna be how it goes. But I digress.

Relying on Twitter for updates, I was thrilled to see RBNY up by two goals at the half. Union have been at the top of the Eastern Conference for a while, and should never be underestimated. They have often been the team to ‘figure out’ the Red Bulls. But maybe this time would be different.

It wasn’t.

A come-from-behind win for the Union, including a brace and an assist from Ilsinho, cemented Philly’s position atop the East. But hey- at least there was the Open Cup for RBNY to sink their cleats into.

I can’t believe this could be the end

The Red Bulls usually make a deep run in the Open Cup, even making it to the Final in 2017. They’ve only lost the 4th round match once before, in 2014. They met the New England Revolution at their USL stomping grounds, MSU Soccer Park at Montclair State University. Weird flex, but okay.

The atmosphere actually worked out for the most part. But a Revs goal from Juan Agudelo in the first minute did not make for an enjoyable evening. Goals from Tom Barlow and Cristian Casseres Jr. gave fans hope. Until Teal Bunbury bagged a brace, including one in added extra time, to advance the Revs in the Open Cup over RBNY.

Don’t Speak

The next game is June 28th. Seventeen days since their last match. Thanks to Instagram, fans could catch a glimpse of players traveling to see family and friends before making their way back to training. Most notably, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is fully training following a groin injury that sidelined him several weeks. They will welcome former captain, and new dad, Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire for their first Pride Night event taking place in June. It is not a time for words, but a time for action.

New York sports fans can be particularly salty, but one can do several tequila shooters with fan tweets of late. So as much as fans and press colleagues have missed nights at Red Bull Arena, they are wary of this second half of the season. There are still three trophies up for grabs, but it’s up to the team to do what it takes to earn them.

(P.S. No real commentary other than, “Wow I love this song.”)

Featured image:  Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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D.C. United Out of the Running for the U.S. Open Cup

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United XI: Chris Seitz; Leonardo Jara (Jalen Robinson, HT), Frédéric Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Antonio Bustamante (Russell Canouse, 70’), Lucas Rodríguez (Griffin Yow, 87’), Luciano Acosta, Ulises Segura; Wayne Rooney

The Match

D.C. United bowed out of the U.S. Open Cup in today’s match against NYCFC, losing 1-2 at home. The disappointing loss comes on the heels of a dramatic win in extra time against the Philadelphia Union just last week.

The Black-and-Red faithful and a small contingent of NYCFC’s supporter group, The Third Rail, were situated at opposing ends of the stadium, their face off mirroring the battle on the pitch. Both groups of supporters fought to be heard while their respective teams rallied in a quest to advance to the quarterfinals.

D.C.’s faithful. Photo Credit: Sarah Kallassy

Wednesday’s match seemed to be going in D.C. United’s favor at first, after an early NYCFC goal that had slipped past goalkeeper Chris Seitz was canceled in the 7’ due to a handball. After a missed attempt, Captain Wayne Rooney rocketed one into the back of the net in the 32’, opening D.C. United’s account for the match.

Unfortunately, Rooney’s goal would be the last of the Black-and-Red’s good fortune for the match. NYCFC broke through D.C. United’s defense to score in the 38’ and 41’. D.C. was sent into halftime down, 1-2.

After halftime, homegrown defender Jalen Robinson entered the match for Leonardo Jara, who had been feeling ill. However, no further substitutions were made by D.C.’s Head Coach Ben Olsen until much later in the second half, despite the pressure from NYCFC on the pitch.

As NYCFC continued to press D.C., Olsen brought on experienced midfielder Russell Canouse in the 70’. Even with the addition of homegrown striker Griffin Yow in the 87′, the Black-and-Red were still unable to find the equalizer. D.C. fell 1-2 to NYCFC, closing the door on a run toward the U.S. Open Cup this season.

A Fractured Squad

D.C. United entered the match against NYCFC with a fractured squad. Given the availability and health of D.C.’s players, it is no surprise they were not at their best Wednesday night against NYCFC. 

Paul Arriola and Junior Moreno are on international duty, for the USMNT and Venezuelan National Team respectively. Leonardo Jara, D.C.’s creative defender, is suffering from a minor illness that was further exacerbated by the heat and humidity. Russell Canouse, another regular starter, is still making a journey toward full fitness after an ankle injury.

Looking Forward

D.C. United will face off against Orlando City SC next Wednesday, June 26th, as they move into the second half of the MLS season. Out of the running for the Open Cup, D.C. can now shift focus to prioritize League matches, while the return of Arriola and Moreno from international duty and better health throughout the squad will give Ben Olsen greater flexibility as D.C. begins a push toward the playoffs.

Vamos United!

Featured image: @dcunited

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Dylan Wolpers: MNUFC Legend… From Houston

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

On Tuesday, June 18, Minnesota United FC will travel to Texas for a U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 matchup against Houston Dynamo for the second year in a row.

Last year, the lucky few fans who could find watchable livestreams of the same fifth round pairing witnessed a glitch in the second half. Their feeds froze on a shot of Houston’s video board where a special announcement was displayed. As Minnesota fans listened to the broadcasters drone on about a poor match – which presumably continued unchanged whilst the cameras were focused elsewhere – they took to social media to comment on a moment – and a man – which would become part of the fabric of MNUFC’s supporter culture.

As you prepare for Tuesday’s edition of the Dylan Wolpers Derby, just weeks after its debut at Allianz Field, you may be wondering, Who exactly is this Dylan Wolpers guy? And why do we celebrate his birthday every time these two clubs face off? Why was Bridget wearing a party hat all night that one time she watched a match from the Wonderwall this season?

Questions asked, questions answered. Introducing the man himself, Dylan Wolpers (and girlfriend/Twitter intermediary for this Q&A, Veronica Stark):

How long have you been a fan of Dynamo? Are you a casual fan or a hard core supporter?

I have been a Dynamo fan since Day 1! My Dad has purchased season tickets for us since the inaugural year (2006). So you can definitely say I’m a diehard fan and supporter.

What was your reaction to the social media response after your in-stadium birthday announcement? How do you feel about the ongoing attention?

I didn’t know exactly what had happened. We did our usual post-game ritual of getting tacos. When I arrived at the restaurant, my brother and his friend asked me if I had seen Reddit and told me to check it out. When I saw it I just laughed and didn’t think anything would come of it. We just thought it was funny, at that point everyone was basically posting “Who (tf) is Dylan Wolpers and why do I care if it’s his B-day?” I find it hysterical that the fans have really just taken and keep having fun with it. The attention I’m getting has basically become a new form of entertainment. It definitely keeps me laughing.

Is it exciting to have a derby named after you or are you over it?

Are you kidding? I LOVE having a derby named after me! I don’t think I will ever be “over it”, it’s now become something I look forward to. I know that every time we play MNUFC it will be a blast!

Before the last match, when Houston visited Allianz for the first time, Dynamo tweeted a pic of a jersey with your name on it hanging alongside the kits of the Starting XI. Have you had more interactions with the club? Have you discussed naming rights for what is now known as the ‘Dylan Wolpers Derby’?

We have a friend that works with the Dynamo media team. He had shown the director/crew the social media frenzy behind the joke. They thought it was amazing and came up with ideas. I really didn’t know much outside of that. My friend just said look at Twitter and Instagram on gameday. Naming rights have not been discussed, however, my girlfriend’s mom keeps telling me that I should get my name trademarked. Haha! I don’t think it’s really THAT big for me to be concerned. It’s all good fun!

You have a lot of friends in MN who’ve offered their couches and guest rooms if you travelled for a match: Are there any plans in the works, for Dynamo games or otherwise?

Traveling has been something that we have definitely looked into. I just don’t know when. I do appreciate all of the offers, but I do have relatives that live in St Cloud [an 80 minute drive up I-94 from Allianz Field] if I needed to stay. So it is gonna happen, I just don’t know when.

For those fans who may not have seen USOC livestream and are wondering, “Who is this Dylan Wolpers guy?”, what do you want them to know about you?

Um, wow, I don’t even know how to answer that. I am just a huge fan of the game. I eat, sleep, breathe soccer. I just got lucky to get a couple minutes of fame.

[To Stark]: Did he feel bullied into joining Twitter or was his Derby Day debut in the plans?

He said, “I wanted to have more of a direct form of communication instead of my gf’s Twitter being blown up, not that she minds.” I say, he was bullied in the best way possible.


Wolpers joined Twitter shortly before Houston visited Allianz on May 25, just in time to enjoy renewed fame ignited by a banner held by new Wonderwall SG, Glitteratti. The sign was photographer Tim McLaughlin’s idea:

“I asked a few friends if they thought the idea was funny and they said yes, so I went with it,” McLaughlin said. “The day before the game I sent a friend a message making sure they were still willing to display it and they said, ‘Wait, that’s too big. That’s considered a tifo and we need to get it approved through the Wonderwall and someone working for the team.’ At this point I was telling them that it’s a hassle and not to worry about it, but they got party hats and hyped it up and made it way more fun.”

Photo (and banner] by Tim McLaughlin

It was way more fun for the Wonderwall anyway. For Dylan – Well…

Whether Dylan and his Dynamo can get redemption against the Loons early remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: The U.S. Open Cup is helping MLS supporters keep soccer weird.

Happy Birthday, Dylan Wolpers! Again.

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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D.C. United Turns Up in Extra Time to Win Over the Philadelphia Union 2-1

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United XI: Christopher Seitz; Joseph Mora (Chris McCann, 97’), Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Jalen Robinson (Quincy Amarikwa, 90’); Antonio Bustamante (Griffin Yow, 73’), Leonardo Jara, Ulises Segura, Lucas Rodríguez, Luciano Acosta; Wayne Rooney. [Note: Originally Chris Odoi-Atsem was in the XI, however due to a pulled muscle in warmups, he was replaced by Jalen Robinson.]

If you weren’t at Audi Field this Wednesday for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match between D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union, and many weren’t, you missed out on one of the best nights of soccer the District has seen in quite a while.

A nail biter that went into extra time, the fourth-round match saw D.C. and Philadelphia battle it out for 120 minutes before the Black-and-Red were able to claim their victory. In classic Audi Field style, rain began to fall just before the match went into extra time, lending to the drama and testing the Black-and-Red faithful who were posted up in the supporters’ section. 

Notably, Joseph Mora made his return to the pitch, logging over 90 minutes of playing time as he continues the journey to full fitness after being out since the end of March with a broken jaw. Mora’s comeback comes at a wonderful time for D.C. United, as the team is currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Heading into the second half of the season D.C. will look forward to a run toward a playoff berth, making every player critical to the team’s success. 

Joseph Mora is BACK! Photo Credit: D.C. United

Goalkeeper Chris Seitz and homegrown midfielder Antonio Bustamante made their competitive debuts for the Black-and-Red against the Union. Bustamante told MLSFemale, “When I was subbed out, it felt like I just woke up from a dream. My adrenaline was high, it was very exciting.” Bustamante was replaced by 16-year-old Griffin Yow in the 72’, a homegrown favorite and member of the U-17 MNT team.

In the 90’, the match remained scoreless. Coach Ben Olsen brought in veteran striker Quincy Amarikwa, in a smart move that bolstered D.C.’s attacking front. With two 15-minute halves added, the two teams continued to battle in the pouring rain as they each sought just one goal to end the match and avoid dreaded penalty kicks.

Chris McCann sending one home for the Black-and-Red! Photo Credit: D.C. United

When the Union scored in the 113’ it seemed the match might be over with D.C. defeated at home. Black-and-Red supporters cranked up the volume as D.C. United rallied. In the 118’, defender Chris McCann scored the equalizer, slamming a well-placed ball by Captain Wayne Rooney into the back of the net. The crowd in Audi Field roared with approval. Just moments later, in the 119’, our Captain buried a penalty kick to clinch the match for D.C. United.

The dreaded penalty kicks were avoided, and D.C. United emerged victorious, moving on to the next round of the U.S. Open Cup. Will D.C. United claim another Open Cup? A fourth trophy would certainly be a nice addition to the Black-and-Red’s collection.

D.C. United faces off against NYCFC at home on June 19that 7pm in the next round! Vamos United!

Featured image: @dcunited

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LAFC advances to Open Cup Semifinals in a 3-2 victory over Portland Timbers

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

LAFC advances to the U.S. Open Cup Semifinals in a 3-2 victory over Portland Timbers at Banc of California stadium. This game had no shortage of deja vu moments from Sunday’s draw with the Timbers. Nevertheless, LAFC persisted and came out on top.

Similar to Sunday’s matchup, Tyler Miller was called into action again early in the match. This time he would perform an extraordinary double-save on Dairon Asprilla in the 18th minute.

Since returning from World Cup duty, Carlos Vela appears to have picked up where he left off. Playing in his normal position again unlike coming in from the outside on Sunday, Vela sends a cross into the box and it bounces off of David Guzman into Portland’s net giving the black-and-gold the lead in the 33rd minute. Six minutes later, the Mexican international books one of his own with a blast from 10 yards out.

In the 45th minute, Julio Cascante nods in a free kick to pull one back for the Timbers to make it 2-1, the home side pressed for a third goal but couldn’t do so going into the half leading by one.

A weight has finally been lifted off of Marco Ureña’s shoulders after he scored his first career goal for the black-and-gold by lightly tapping in one in the 51st minute. However, Vytas would cut the celebration short when he answered Ureña’s goal with one of his own giving Portland a lifeline just seconds later.

The remainder of the half saw two goals from Andre Diomande and Diego Rossi, though, they were both called offsides leaving Ureña’s goal the winning goal of the match and stamping the black-and-gold’s ticket to the club’s first Open Cup semifinals.

With four teams left in the tournament, the expansion side is closing in on their first trophy as a club.

*Author’s note: LAFC was set to face Houston in the semifinals. But U.S. Soccer has postponed the Draw due to a protest the Timber’s filed “in relation to the number of foreign players fielded last night” by the home side. According to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, the U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel will meet Saturday. 

**UPDATE: The Portland Timbers have withdrawn their protest over U.S. Open Cup loss on Wednesday night. LAFC will play the Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup’s semifinals. Date and Location are still to be determined.

Featured image: Erick Gonzales

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LA Galaxy June 9th Match Recap and Latest News

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

June 9, 2018

Starting XI

David Bingham; Dave Romney, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik, Ashley Cole ©; Perry Kitchen, Servando Carrasco; Chris Pontius, Sebastian Lletget, Ola Kamara; Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Bench

Justin Vom Steeg, Daniel Steres, Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Joao Pedro, Ariel Lassiter, Bradford Jamieson IV, Emmanuel Boateng.

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Leslie and I at the US Open Cup Photo Credit: Michelle Huitink

I met fellow LA Galaxy fan, Leslie Chavez, at the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match on June 6th after I recognized her from her profile on Twitter. Then, the Saturday night match, I thought I saw her again as I walked through the parking lot to the Stubhub Center. At first I wasn’t sure if it was her, then I wasn’t sure to join her friends since I was by myself for this match, but I’m glad I did.

I walked over and her group welcomed me and offered me pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran food that I was very familiar with. I was introduced to several friends and she introduced me as the Official Galaxy Reporter for MLSFemale. We had great conversations about the Galaxy’s talent and shared our frustrations as well. It was my first ever tailgating experience; surprising, I know, considering it’s my 13th season with the Galaxy.

I went into the stadium early to get my wristband for the post-match autograph signing. Leslie and friends told me I could rejoin them at any point. I had my article on the brain, so decided to sit the first half by myself. All I could think about was how fun it was to hang with them and the first half was uneventful.

So, the second half I messaged and found them behind the LA Riot Squad. Ashley Mauriss, another friend from the group and I had matching scarves and hoodies, so we decided, after Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the 61st minute, to run and buy #9’s jersey.

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Me sporting my new Ibrahimovic jersey. Photo Credit: Jamie Bacon

From the TVs inside the Team Store, we saw he scored again, right as we were getting in line. It was a sign!

We rushed back to join our group’s celebrations and in the 76th minute, a goal from Ola Kamara added to the excitement. The Galaxy had won at home, finally, and against  fourth place Real Salt Lake. The final score was 3-0.

The Galaxy had finally played like a team despite not having designated players in the lineup. Romain Alessandrini had to be taken off the list at the last-minute due to a quad injury. Brothers Jonathan and Giovani Dos Santos were away on World Cup duty for Mexico. Bradford Jamieson IV definitely was a game-changer when he had to come on for Sebastian Lletget after he sustained what appeared to be an ankle injury in the 49th minute.

After beloved mascot, Cozmo, ran around the field with the “Win” flag and players descended back into the tunnel, I parted from the group to get a post-match autograph signing. I still didn’t know from which player and frankly, it didn’t matter to me. I followed the directions from my email and waited at the South Team Store.

I got an autograph from Ariel Lassiter. He had come on during extra time as a sub for Chris Pontius. At the U.S. Open, he’d scored a brace. So, I was very happy.

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Ariel Lassiter and I at the post-match autograph session. Photo Credit: LA Galaxy staff

On my way out of the stadium, I saw center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and found out goalkeeper David Bingham were other options for autograph sessions.

The LA Galaxy are now out of the U.S. Open Cup after suffering a 1-0 loss on June 15th to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Ola Kamara had to be helped off the field with a non-contact injury affecting his calf.

The LA Galaxy play on the road next against San Jose Earthquakes June 30th, kickoff scheduled for 7pm PST. They’ve now signed defender Sheanon Williams after letting go of Emrah Klimenta.

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New group of friends and I. Photo Credit: Dave Rendón

Featured image: @LAGalaxy

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