See more of the story

The youth continues to shine for Minnesota United as it continues its playoff push. The recent contributions started in a 7-1 win against FC Cincinnati that kicked off the second half of the season.

The trio of Hassani Dotson, Chase Gasper and Mason Toye stood out as the Loons beat up on last-place Cincinnati on Saturday.

Dotson and Gasper were rewarded for their efforts on Wednesday, as they were again in the starting lineup against the San Jose Earthquakes.

“We’re really pleased with our younger guys,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “It’s the beginning for them. We think they’re going to contribute in the short term and long term for this program.”

While Toye didn’t start Wednesday, he’s in the middle of a hot streak, scoring goals and catching the coaching staff’s attention. His first MLS goal against FC Cincinnati was just the latest in a string of breakout performances.

Dotson’s goal against Cincinnati drew the most praise. He hit a long shot that sailed just inside the crossbar and just above the Cincinnati goalkeeper’s hand. The midfielder primarily filled in for Romain Metanire, who’s still on international duty.

Gasper has emerged as a key defender for the Loons. After being primarily a depth piece for United, he has started two MLS games in a row, and his slide tackles and defensive positioning saved United multiple times Wednesday.

“Sometimes, the fact that they’re so young and they haven’t been through it, it doesn’t really dawn on them the importance of the occasion,” Heath said. “They just go out and play. That’s what they’ve done.”

All-Star run in Africa

Metanire, United’s lone MLS All-Star, is the only Loons player who isn’t back from international duty. For good reason, though: His Madagascar international team is on an unlikely run in the Africa Cup of Nations.

After a 2-0 victory against Nigeria to win its group, Madagascar is on to the knockout rounds. The Malagasy play the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Sunday.

Metanire’s been away from United since early June. While his teammates cheer for him, they also await his return for the playoff push.

“It is a blast watching Romain play in the Africa Cup of Nations,” Gasper said. “We actually watched the game against Nigeria, and he was fantastic. We hope Madagascar goes on to win it all.”

Depth watch

Forward Abu Danladi was again unavailable for the Loons on Wednesday because of a right leg injury.

Midfielder Collin Martin (ankle), who was upgraded to questionable, was not listed as a substitute pregame.