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Deeper Dive | #MINvVAN


Last Saturday’s showdown with Vancouver wasn’t exactly a conveniently-timed matchup. After an awkwardly-scheduled Week 2 bye, the Loons entered the game with seven of their key contributors unavailable due to international call-ups to play for their respective home countries. While being without those familiar faces wouldn’t do the boys any kind of favors, the international call-up period would be a prime opportunity for some of the squad’s young talent and newer acquisitions to give the home crowd a glimpse into how they might contribute to the larger majority of the MNUFC season schedule to come. And, in spite of the absences, the Loons did give the fanbase some reasons to be optimistic as the team moves into the thick of season play.

The game plan from the Vancouver side was clear from the opening of the first half, as they made an emphasis on maintaining possession and bringing pressure to the Loons defensive back line. The heat applied by the Vancouver attack was nearly successful in their attempts to press the Loons into an early defensive lapse.

While that approach was in play for the majority of the Whitecaps strategy during that first half, Minnesota’s defense stood tall against the onslaught with Micky Tapias, Zarek Valentin, Brent Kallman and DJ Taylor stepping in and holding up, making the right stops at the right times, to thwart the Vancouver attack in their attempts to strike first blood.

MNUFC's offense would take a little more time to get going in the early stages of Saturday night, but they were able to up the ante there as the game went on. After a few off-the-mark attempts in the early going, the Loons were able to follow up on a couple of decent opportunities in the 28th and 32nd minutes of play with a perfectly-placed cross from Valentin to a perfectly placed Ménder García for a textbook header in the 41st minute.


Seeing the development that García has made as a scoring threat up to this point has been encouraging. For an MNUFC squad looking to convert on more of those missed opportunities from last season, there is no doubt that last year’s mid-season transfer is starting to pay dividends on the attack.

Even with the last-second equalizer in stoppage time, Clint Irwin proved his experience and veteran savvy to be a valuable offseason addition for the Loons. Irwin was calm and composed in the face of a bombarding Vancouver side throughout the game. Not to be outdone on the attacking end of things, 20-year old Cameron Dunbar’s debut was one to keep in mind moving forward. The kind of speed he can bring to the counter-press, and his confidence to go one-on-one in small spaces, showed what can be as the season progresses with a full roster in tow.

While there can be much said about the accuracy of a six-minute stoppage period somehow extending to what was closer to eight minutes, the last-second Vancouver goal can’t erase the positives that came from this 1-1 draw. To see a somewhat skeleton version of the starting XI hold their own and remain unbeaten in the process is something that has importance that goes far beyond this matchup. Though still very early, it’s incredibly encouraging to see that a squad thought to be DOA coming into the season is currently ranked fourth in the Western Conference with a game in hand. What that big picture looks like remains to be seen, but it’s trending in the right direction.


St. Louis v. Minnesota United FC

CITYPARK | St. Louis, MO

04.01.2023 | MLS Week No. 6 | MLS Game #5

7:30 pm CT (Exclusively on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)