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Loons to face upset-hungry Union Omaha in U.S. Open Cup

third-division side knocked off Chicago Fire two rounds ago on April 19 and will look to remove the Loons in a Round of 16 match at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Allianz Field

MLS: US Open Cup-Union Omaha at Chicago Fire FC
Union Omaha midfielder Dion Acoff (26) celebrates his U.S. Open Cup game winning penalty kick against the Chicago Fire FC with defender Alex Touche (4) and forward Noe Meza (7) on April 19, 2022, at Soldier Field in Chicago. Union Omaha defeated Chicago Fire FC on penalty kicks.
Jamie Sabau / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota United must be on upset watch.

Union Omaha is looking to pull off its second takedown of an MLS club in the U.S. Open Cup this year. The third-division side knocked off Chicago Fire two rounds ago on April 19 and will look to remove the Loons in a Round of 16 match at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Allianz Field.

In its first season in 2020, Omaha advanced to the USL League One final, but that match was canceled due to COVID-19. Union then won the league championship in 2021. The team is led by captain Conor Doyle, who won the U.S. Open Cup with D.C. United in 2013.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Doyle was quoted by U.S. Soccer. “We’ve made it this far and if we win, that’s incredible. If the result doesn’t go our way, we can be proud of what we did.”

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The Loons are 3-0 in Open Cup games against lower-level competition since 2017, with 2-1 win over Forward Madison in the third round on April 20 and victories over FC Cincinnati in 2018 and New Mexico United in 2019.

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Minnesota manager Adrian Heath said there will be a “mixed bag” of starters against Omaha, meaning a combination of first-team players and backups. He made 11 changes to the starting XI against Madison and five lineup changes and a formation shift to a three-man back line before the 2-1 win over Colorado Rapids in the Round of 32 two weeks ago.

Heath reminded his players Tuesday about MLS teams already bounced out: Real Salt Lake, Columbus, Austin and Chicago. “It doesn’t matter who we put out, the message will still be the same: We treat the opposition with the respect they deserve,” Heath said. “… (Omaha) are a well-organized, highly motivated team; it doesn’t surprise me they have done well.”

The Loons are juggling the importance of climbing the MLS standings, which was aided by Sunday’s 2-1 road win at FC Dallas, with the possibility of going on a run in the national tournament. MNUFC will have one eye toward a stiff test against MLS Cup champions, New York City FC, in league play Saturday in St. Paul. New York also has a Cup game on Wednesday, versus New England Revolution.

Loons leading scorer Robin Lod is dealing with minor injuries and could sit out against Omaha; the Finn was not spotted at the start of Tuesday’s training session. “We won’t risk anybody because we have a really big game at the weekend against a really difficult team,” Heath said.

Regular starters Michael Boxall and Kevin Arriaga will play against Omaha, considering they reached yellow-card accumulations in league play and will be suspended for NYCFC this weekend.

Third-stringer Eric Dick, 27, will step in net for his first appearance with the first team on Wednesday. He posted two clean sheets for MNUFC2 in the developmental league earlier this season.

Backup Tyler Miller won’t start his third straight Cup game after injuring his midsection in pregame warmups Sunday. He rehabbed on the side during Tuesday’s training session. No. 1 keeper Dayne St. Clair has yet to play in Cup games this season.

Center back Brent Kallman is suspended for Wednesday’s game due to two yellow cards he received in the 2-1 win over Colorado Rapids in the Round of 32 match two weeks ago.

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If the Loons advance, they will go on the road to the winner of Houston Dynamo/Sporting Kansas City in the quarterfinals on June 21-22. That game will come between MLS road games against New England (June 19) and Inter Miami (June 25).

Briefly

Minnesota Aurora — the new pre-professional women’s soccer team — said Tuesday their inaugural game will sell out the 5,600-seat TCO Stadium in Eagan on Thursday. This attendance figure will be on par or better than more than half the matches in pro-level NWSL last weekend. … Michael Vang — a trailblazing Hmong soccer player from St. Paul — is now with Columbus Crew 2 of the MLS NEXT Pro league, which includes MNUFC2. Vang, 22, has played in six games, with three starts, this season. He was with Forward Madison before joining the MLS developmental team. … Devin Padelford and Aziel Jackson are in contention to play Wednesday, but fellow youngsters Tani Oluwaseyi (undisclosed) and Justin McMaster (shoulder) are out. … Abu Danladi is also dealing with minor injuries and wasn’t participating in open portions of Tuesday’s session.

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