Loons enjoy 6-match win stretch in busy stretch

Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath made an interesting decision Saturday night before his team's match at Montreal.

The Loons were about to play their third match in seven days. They're also keeping in mind a pivotal match against New Mexico United on Wednesday in the Open Cup quarterfinals. Heath put seven regular starters on his bench, and relied on depth.

After allowing a goal less than a minute into the game, the Loons rallied for a 3-2 win at Montreal. Minnesota United vaulted to fourth in the MLS Western Conference standings, and is just four points out of second place. That's after a nine-point week that featured a comeback win at Houston Dynamo, a home win over FC Cincinnati that tied a franchise record with seven goals and Saturday's win at Montreal.

Heath rested regular starters Ike Opara, Jan Gregus, Darwin Quintero and Ozzie Alonso. Miguel Ibarra, Angelo Rodriguez and Hassani Dotson didn't start, but entered the game in the second half. Dotson and Ibarra entered in the 70th minute, and Rodriguez entered in the 82nd minute.

"I did say before the game to the players whatever happens today, I want to be talking about the players who were on the field, not the ones who have been left behind and all the changes I've made," Heath said. "I think we did that, and I was really pleased."

Mason Toye continued his hot stretch at Montreal, and was up for MLS Player of the Week honors as a result. He scored in the ninth minute off a pass from Molino to tie the game 1-1, then netted the game-winner, again from Molino, just as the second half was starting in the 47th minute.

Toye now has six points in his last four games, including a win in a recent friendly at Forward Madison in Wisconsin. He had an assist in a 3-1 win over San Jose, and added a goal and an assist in the 7-1 win over FC Cincinnati.

He also had a goal in the Open Cup win over the Houston Dynamo. It's safe to say Toye isn't lacking confidence the last few weeks.

"Being able to put it on in a game is one thing, but consistency in training has really given me a lot of confidence as well. I've been able to put in for the past couple of months really good performances in training day in and day out, so that's been able to build my confidence a lot," Toye said. "Being able to put the ball in the goal always builds confidence. I feel like when I get chances, I'm going to score so I'm feeling good."

It's fun to win, and it's fun to come to practice when you're playing well. The Loons had nearly a full roster available at Monday's training, and Heath said he'll put the best lineup on the field possible Wednesday night for the Loons' Open Cup quarterfinal against New Mexico United.

Minnesota United now has 36 goals on the season, good for second in the Western Conference, and has the second-best goal differential in the West at plus-7. In their last three victories, the Loons are out-scoring opponents by a combined 13-4.

"Atmosphere is good, the mood in the camp is terrific but we've put a lot of hard work in to get the results," Heath said. "Don't mask the fact that futbol is easy when you're on a winning streak because it just happens. It's because of the players' ethics. They've stuck together, they've worked really, really hard."

Minnesota United isn't hiding how important Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal is. It's the farthest they've ever been in the tournament, and a win on their home turf sets up a match-up in August against the L.A. FC/Portland Timbers winner.

"I will pick the best team I can for Wednesday, we need to win the game," Heath said. "It's not going to be easy, we have to treat them with the respect that they deserve because if we don't, I know what's going to happen. I've been on the other side of that. If you don't approach it properly, you'll get beat."

After Wednesday's match, the Loons host FC Dallas Saturday. They follow that with a July 17 friendly against Aston Villa, and travel to Real Salt Lake just three days after that. It completes a stretch of seven matches over 22 days.

It's why resting players last Saturday and still getting the three full points was that much more important.

"We just have some really good professionals on this team that we all feel that we can contribute to the team and we can help this team win so it felt good," Toye said. "It was a really big win for us."