Angelo Rodriguez of Minnesota United FC attempts a shot against New Mexico United in the Quarterfinals of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Minnesota United FC
With a hat trick from Colombian forward Angelo Rodriguez, a team from the state of Minnesota will return to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Semifinals for the first time in almost 15 years.
Rodriguez’s three-goal game erased an early deficit to help Minnesota United into the last four as part of a 6-1 rout of USL side New Mexico United Wednesday night in St. Paul, Minn.
“It was a strange evening, I felt, because it was a bit of everything in the game,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said. “I thought at times we were really sloppy. I thought at times we were outstanding. I thought at times, some of the combination play was as good as you’ll see, and then we’d have a five-minute spell where we stop doing what we’re good at.”
United becomes just the second Minnesota team in the history of the tournament to reach the Semifinals. The only other team to do it was the Minnesota Thunder of the USL First Division (Div. 2 pro) in 2005.
Santiago Moar’s opening goal in the seventh minute gave the visitors and the 180-plus traveling New Mexico supporters early hope. That is until Rodriguez leveled the game three minutes later, nodding a Hassani Dotson cross past NMU goalkeeper Cody Mizell.
After Darwin Quintero put the hosts ahead with his tournament-leading fifth goal by cleaning up a rebound on a Rodriguez shot, the forward took a scoring chance into his own hands in the 19th minute. Receiving a pass from Jan Gregus near the top of the penalty area, Rodriguez spun into space and slotted home his second of the game.
He later added his third shortly before the break, cleaning up a shot from Quintero to put the Loons up by four with Gergus’ free kick curler finding the net between the Colombian’s strikes.
“Obviously as a forward, the objective is to score goals, and even more so a hat trick,” Rodriguez said. “But what’s most exciting for me is to be able to know that our team is gotten through to the next round and one step closer to our objective of winning the cup.”
Osvaldo Alonso of Minnesota United FC dribbles the ball against New Mexico United in the Quarterfinals of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Minnesota United FC
Rodriguez’s performance is just the fourth hat trick scored in the US Open Cup during the Quarterfinals or beyond in the Modern Era (1995-present). The last to achieve the feat was Blas Perez when he put three in the net for FC Dallas against the Carolina RailHawks in 2014.
Miguel Ibarra notched his first goal at Allianz Field to round out the scoring for the Loons. He put away Mizell’s save from a Kevin Molino shot, adding the Loon’s third goal from a rebound on the evening.
The win cements Minnesota’s spot in the semifinals – the first time since 2005 that the northern state was represented in the last four. The USL side Minnesota Thunder fell at the hands of eventual champion LA Galaxy. The last run into at least the final eight came in the NASL days of Minnesota. The then-league owned NSC Stars made it to the quarterfinals before bowing out to San Jose in 2012.
“I’ve said to them, some of my greatest memories in football have been winning cup competitions, and now you’re a couple games away,” said Heath. “Trust me, when you get to 50-odd years of age, you look back and you’ll remember them games.”
United’s next cup-tie comes August 7, against the Portland Timbers. The host of that game will be determined in a live draw at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, July 11.