Kevin Molino celebrates one of his two first-half goals. (Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City never got the license of the truck that hit the team during the first half Thursday night.
It was driven by Kevin Molino and Emanuel Reynoso.
Molino struck for two opening-half goals and Reynoso set up three goals in the first 45 minutes as Minnesota United registered a stunning and emphatic 3-0 win over the hosts at Mercy Park.
The victory propelled United into the Western Conference final against Seattle Sounders in Seattle Monday night.
Minnesota, which recorded its first win after six consecutive losses here, extended its club record unbeaten streak to 10 games.
“I said to Peter [Vermes, KC head coach] before the game, how did he manage to keep a straight face when he said we were the favorites?” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said. “In light of the result, he was maybe right. But, no, it was a big win for us. A big performance. On something that I thought before the game, I did say to the guys that we don’t beat ourselves and give something away. Which, we nearly did, in the beginning. I fancy us strongly.”
Reynoso had an unbelievable first half, setting up three goals.
“Well, he’s elevated everybody else’s play around him because they enjoy playing with him,” Heath said. “I said this the other day, we were never in any doubt about his ability. We never wavered. He was our guy and we were not going to move.”
Added Vermes: “You’ve got to give the guy credit. He’s illusive. Guys find their openings. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair made two saves, including one key early one, en route to his third successive clean sheet.
“We really trusted our front four,” he said. “We knew that we’d get chances. So, going into the game for me, was just try to keep the ball out of the back of the net for as long as possible and I knew our front four would definitely get a chance and score on them.”
A Trinidad & Tobago international, Molino tallied twice within a magical eight minutes in the first half. He found the net from eight yards on the left side against goalkeeper Tim Melia of East Islip, N.Y. in the 27th minute and again in tthe 35th minute as the visitors grabbed a two-goal advantage.
𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝗿𝗲 𝗔 𝗦𝗺𝗼𝗼𝘁𝗵 𝗦𝗺𝗼𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗲, 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗞𝗻𝗼𝘄.
Hot Boy gives the Loons the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/ve8wlRJi7p
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) December 4, 2020
“Both teams were very compact in a very small amount of space,” Vermes said. “Our line was higher up the field. When the ball got played in between our two lines and the player kind of came off the backline, we didn’t step with that guy nor did we drop off at the same time which is what you do. We were kind of caught and then they played the ball through. Molino came running from a deep lying position and we kept him onside.”
Molino’s second goal came off a feed from Reynoso as he volleyed home the ball from the right side of the penalty area.
It was the third consecutive game that Molino scored twice. In fact, he hit multiple goals in five matches this season.
Kevin Molino leads Minnesota United to the Western Conference Final!
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 4, 2020
Bakaye Dibassy headed home Reynoso’s third assist of the half off a corner kick from six yards to boost Minnesota into a surprising 3-0 halftime lead.
“They base their game through the middle channel and they accumulate a lot of players through those two, three channels,” KC midfielder Ilie Sanchez said. “It’s always tough for our defensive line and midfield line to adjust to those movements and that’s what happened. We let the players on Minnesota do their job and we couldn’t figure that out fast enough to stop them.