Hello, fellow waterfowl enthusiasts! We hope your international break was a time for rest and reflection. Now, the pressure cooker is about to get turned back up, as the last week of the MLS regular season comes into view with Saturday rapidly approaching. The day is coined as “Decision Day,” and at least for the back half of the Western Conference, including your Loons, it truly will live up to the name. With five teams still in the mix for a postseason berth, but only three spots left, jubilation and heartbreak are more than mere possibilities. For MNUFC, a team that has seen far more success on the road than it has at home this season, maybe a trip to Kansas will be just what the doctor ordered in terms of getting the W and, possibly, clinching a spot in the postseason. And, it’s somehow fitting that a rivalry deemed the “most friendly in sports” will have everything on the line for both clubs, and it may not be all that friendly when it’s a do-or-die scenario. So, let’s get down to it and talk about how the Loons can get into the playoffs…
| Run of Form
Minnesota United FC
Run of Form: W-L-D-L-L
While the run of form leading up to Decision Day may not look all that promising, there’s a lot that can be said about how the 5-2 victory over LA Galaxy can buoy this team’s mentality going into Kansas City. After all, it’s not every day you let go of the one and only gaffer your club has had since its MLS inception, and some clubs may not have responded with such a resounding result. But, these Loons did. Pukki too. And now, that 1-4-3 record in their final stretch of the season may not have the same angst that held prior to the Galaxy result. However, MNUFC won’t be completely devoid of doubt, as they hold an all-time record of 1-9-0 when playing Sporting at Children’s Mercy Park. Let’s hope that trend is the only thing that ends on Saturday.
Sporting Kansas City
Run of Form: W-L-W-L-W
Quite honestly, Sporting Kansas City has had its share of showdowns in which everything is on the line. Not only will the Loons’ historically poor record in Kansas City be working in SKC’s favor, but over the past 27 years of Decision Day’s for which they’ve been in playoff contention, SKC holds a winning record of 7-5-1 at home. Maybe that doesn’t strike many as a stunningly successful record, but considering the Loons run of form prior to the Galaxy match, it’s something that should only make Loons fans more than a little unnerved going into this weekend.
| Keys to the Game
That might sound pretty simplistic when you consider his four-goal rampage against the LA Galaxy. But, I’m thinking beyond the notion that finding Pukki with the ball equals scoring success. In fact, I think it’s important we point out that Bongi also received MLS Team of the Week honors for his performance against LA, and it wasn’t because of his scoring. On his two assists during the match, he was able to find Pukki in the right places at the right times, and the results speak for themselves in that regard. We know that Emanuel Reynoso does quite well for himself in terms of connecting with Pukki on the pitch, and come Saturday, let’s hope those connections in the attacking third will lead to net gains.
After seeing some of the younger fellas struggle on the defensive end down this last stretch of the season, I would think that the approach to personnel will once again feature experience over youth. It’s the right move, and it’s the right approach for the Loons if they hope to hold the line and keep Dayne St. Clair’s night from becoming a nightmare. Boxy, Bakaye, Tapias and Valentin appeared to work well together against LA, and for the sake of keeping that “bend don’t break” style of defense from breaking, the Loons must stick with the fellas that helped buy them one more week in the playoff picture.
Rey, All Day
Yes, I realize that the game will be played at 8 p.m., but “night” doesn't quite rhyme as well as “day” and “Rey” do, so let’s just go with it. Obviously, Emanuel Reynoso is a true talent that the Loons look to in those big moments. During the final stretch run, he has dealt with some lingering muscle soreness, which maybe has affected his play more than most realize. But, an international window could be just what Rey needed to reach full strength once again, and hopefully that’s the case for Saturday. If this was basketball, he’s the equivalent of a point guard that can get points, something that can be a rare combination to find. With the stakes so high, I’d hope Rey is the one taking the reins and running an attack that can keep SKC on its heels at all times.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United FC
10.21.2023 | Kickoff: 8:00 p.m. CT | MLS Matchday No. 39
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, KS
Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN