Minnesota United could wind up hosting MLS Cup final

Minnesota United’s club-record unbeaten streak reached 10 games with Thursday’s 3-0 Western Conference semifinal victory at Sporting Kansas City.

It could hit 12 games by the end of the season, while also bringing the Loons back home from Monday’s Western conference final at Seattle to play the MLS Cup final next Saturday at Allianz Field.

They’ll play for the league title at home if eighth-seeded New England wins Sunday at third-seeded Columbus in the Eastern final and if they beat the defending MLS Cup champion Sounders on Monday, depending upon Minnesota state and local COVID-19 regulations.

Weeks ago, Loons coach Adrian Heath challenged his team.

“We spoke about can we go undefeated until the end of the season,” Heath said. “We said we’ve got five games. If we win five games, we’ll be MLS champs. Now we’ve got two.”

The Loons have won their past three games — a Decision Day finale against FC Dallas and playoff games against Colorado and Sporting KC — all by a 3-0 score.

“You know, the last three games, 3-nil,” Heath said. “Big games. Important games. A lot at stake. And that’s a testimony to the players. I thought we actually were really resolute late on in our defending [Thursday]. We played when we could. We cleared it when we should.”

Outstanding Ozzie

Loons captain/defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso on Thursday started his first game in three months and played 72 minutes to get his team to Seattle, where he played 10 seasons and was an All-Star four times.

“Ozzie was obviously outstanding,” Heath said after the game. “Being in the right spot, showing leadership, composure. When we’re under pressure, he just takes the heat out of the game.”

Yellow for caution

Loons veteran defender Michael Boxall played all of Thursday’s game without incurring a yellow card, which kept him eligible to play Monday at Seattle.

Heath subbed out star attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso in the 80th minute to ensure he wouldn’t get another yellow card and ensuing suspension after he received one in the 42nd minute.

“That’s always the balancing act,” Heath said. “He has had the yellow, and the way Rey plays, he’s an emotional kid. At halftime we said to him you don’t do anything silly. If you have to step aside, then you do so because, obviously, it would have been a huge blow if he picked up another one. But he didn’t.”

Stitch it up

Heath was concerned after Thursday’s game about what he called “a nasty cut” on starting left back Chase Gasper’s knee.

“It’s not too bad now, but it looks like he’s going to need quite a few stitches in it,” Heath said.

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