Loons scoring in bunches, racking up wins

Scoring goals is fun. Winning games is fun. Combine the two, and Minnesota United is having an absolute blast the last three weeks.

The Loons, if you include a recent friendly, have won their last four matches. They've out-scored opponents by a combined 17-5 during that stretch. They're also in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup, which is unfamiliar territory for Minnesota United. It's the farthest they've ever gone in the tournament.

A team that once struggled to score goals earlier this season is now taking advantage of their opportunities when they get them.

"It's a lot of fun. Wins and goals definitely translate to happiness within a club and I think everyone has been on cloud nine these past few weeks with getting the results that we wanted," said Loons defender Chase Gasper.

Gasper is seeing more playing time with MLS All-Star Romain Metanire away from the team to play in the African Cup with Madagascar.

Minnesota United's sudden scoring surge started June 12, a 4-1 win over Sporting Kansas City at Allianz Field. Trailing 2-0 at Houston Dynamo June 18, the Loons scored three unanswered goals to steal a road victory.

The Loons can score, but Saturday's result in a win over FC Cincinnati was something nobody could predict. A 4-0 lead after 45 minutes, and six different players scored in a 7-1 victory.

"At this moment in time, everybody's confident. I know what it's like being a striker when you get in that roll where you think you're going to score every time you go out onto the field, and that's how they're feeling at this moment in time," United coach Adrian Heath said.

Heath has been preaching it all season: When you get scoring chances, take them. It's coming to fruition now as the Loons have 30 goals in 17 games, and a goal differential of plus-4. It could be a factor later in the season as Minnesota United battles for playoff positioning.

For now, the Loons are second in the Western Conference with those 30 goals. They're in the No. 6 spot in the West standings with 24 points, just one point behind the San Jose Earthquakes and two points behind FC Dallas in the No. 4 spot. But they've also got Real Salt Lake creeping up in the rear-view mirror at 23 points.

It helps the Loons that they've gotten scoring from up and coming players. Mason Toye has four goals in his last three matches, and scored his first MLS goal in Saturday's win. He scored both goals in the friendly win at Forward Madison.

Minnesota United hopes it's just the start of a promising career.

"There's nobody who wants to be a star more than Mason Toye, I can tell you that now. He will put all the necessary work in that it takes to do it," Heath said.

Wednesday night's opponent at Allianz Field happens to be San Jose. It's a coveted opportunity to move up in the standings. They also beat the Earthquakes 3-0 earlier this season in San Jose, and five of Minnesota's next seven matches are in the friendly confines of Allianz Field.

San Jose is on a bit of a roll itself. The Earthquakes have won three of their last four matches and are unbeaten in seven of their past eight.

It's being viewed as one of the most important games on the schedule.

"We're definitely viewing it as such. They've been incredible the past few weeks so that home stretch of games that we're getting, we've got to maximize our points. We need three big points against San Jose, so Wednesday is definitely a huge game," Gasper said.

The importance of having three of the next four matches at home is not lost on the Loons. They're 4-1-3 in the first season at Allianz Field. Wednesday night also starts a stretch of seven matches in a 25-day span.

It includes a July 10 match with New Mexico United in the Open Cup quarterfinals.

"We know we've got a really important spell coming up. Even in the league games, really important games for us. We've got a lot of Western Conference teams coming in, and we know how important that's going to be during the next three or four weeks," Heath said.