Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath doesn’t pencil in which players might participate in possible penalty kick shootouts.
“Not a big believer in ‘you five (players) are talking the penalties’ because so much can happen in 90 minutes,” Heath shared Monday. He mentioned how a player’s mental and physical state over the course of a match can change any well-laid plans.
Heath, however, suggests his best shooters to go in the first, fourth and fifth slots. That’s why Emanuel Reynoso led off and Bongi Hlongwane went fourth in the penalty-kick shootout against the Columbus Crew on Friday.
It was three other PK takers who led the way. Fill-in fullback Joseph Rosales and center backs Michael Boxall and Micky Tapias took the best shots in the Leagues Cup round of 32 match, and each scored in the 4-3 victory.
With a spot in the round of 16 on the line, Tapias went sixth and he cooly slotted his left-footed shot in the bottom left corner. He said via club translator Marleine Calderon that he had no nerves.
“No, I was sure,” Tapias said. “I went with all the certainty in the world. I had the confidence to make that penalty. In fact, I had another number order to shoot a penalty and I wanted to take that one.”
Tapias’ role will be vital again when MNUFC plays high-scoring Toluca at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Allianz Field. Toluca enters with a tournament-high 12 goals through three matches, with eight different scorers. The Mexican squad beat Nashville 4-3, Colorado 4-1 and Sporting Kansas City 4-1 to get to the Loons.
“They have currently shown in the tournament that they are one of the best offenses, but we are completely confident that we can win the game,” Tapias said.
Toluca, which finished fourth in Liga MX last season, has had success in Leagues Cup on the counter attack and driving multiple players into the box while in possession. Toluca had over 60 percent possession against Nashville and Colorado.
Meanwhile, the Loons defense has conceded three goals in each of its past two tournament games.
Tapias knows the Red Devils well after playing against them with Pachuca in Liga MX. Pachuca beat Toluca in the Apertura 2022 Liguilla final. Tapias was on the bench for both matches in that series.
“It’s very nice because my family from Mexico can watch my (current) games and the people from Mexico are watching the tournament,” Tapias said. “It’s what motivates me a bit to play in this tournament and against a league that I played (in) for almost my entire career.”
Who’s got next?
The MNUFC vs. Toluca winner will face either Club America or Nashville SC on Saturday. If the Loons and America both win, MNUFC will host the quarterfinal in St. Paul. If the Loons and Nashville win, Nashville will host, given their higher-place finish in the 2022 Supporters Shield standings.
Thanks for memento
After St. Clair saved Crew midfielder Kevin Molino’s penalty-kick shot in the shootout on Friday, the former teammates exchanged jerseys.
“Told him I felt bad it was his (shot) that I saved,” St. Clair said. “I’m happy for us that we went through. … I kind of have that one-up in our friendship now. It’s kind of funny. … I can look at that jersey and think of that penalty moment.”
Jokes in flight
While Hlongwane scored two goals during the match against Columbus, the Loons winger skied his penalty-kick attempt high over the crossbar.
Roughly a half hour later, Heath embellished the shot’s trajectory.
“I think they just found Bongi’s penalty,” he joked.
Fullback D.J. Taylor trained Monday and he’s available to play against Toluca; the starter missed the Columbus win after receiving stitches for a kick to the face in the Chicago loss. … Returning midfielder Jan Gregus is expected to arrive in Minnesota on Tuesday. The Slovakian can’t play for the Loons in Leagues Cup matches because he has previously played in the tournament for Nashville SC. … Younger players Devin Padelford, Mikael Marques and Cam Dunbar are expected to play for MNUFC2 against LAFC2 on Wednesday and likely won’t be on the MNUFC roster Tuesday. … Ishmael Tajouri-Shradi (hamstring) returned to training Monday, but likely won’t be available Tuesday. … Heath said he was pleased with the MNUFC debut of Ethan Bristow. The Englishman subbed on in the 66th minute of Friday’s game. … MNUFC2 has extended loans for Colombian defender Juan Mosquera, 21, and Honduran defender Geremy Rodas, 19, through the rest of 2023. The two loans were set to expire in July, and the Loons want more time with the two prospects.