Storylines is back and preparing to do battle with a formidable beast from the east. That beast, of course, would be the New England Revolution, who sit somewhat comfortably near the top of the table in the Eastern Conference #2 spot. At times, facing a cross-conference foe in the regular season doesn’t quite hold the weight of a late-season, in-conference match-up between teams jockeying for playoff position. But in this case, Saturday’s matchup against the Revs may carry a bit more importance than the usual cross-conference get-together. More specifically, this showdown may serve as a “measuring stick” for a Loons squad that has intentions of riding their recent hot streak straight into a deep run in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
First and foremost, this isn’t said to diminish the Loons recent run of form, because they have been great. Obviously, bringing in key acquisitions plays a role in their resurgence, but the Loons progressed through Leagues Cup and built the confidence they needed to restart the season and keep things trending upward. And, when you consider the injuries and off-field distractions that the Loons have dealt with throughout the first half of the season, seeing them overcome the early-season adversity has been impressive.
Speaking of adversity in the form of injuries and off-field distractions, New England has seen its fair share of those things this season, some of which remain unresolved. But, despite dealing with a rash of injuries to key players and the unknown status of their head man, the Revs have persevered in getting positive results, much like the Black and Blue. It makes their standing near the top of the Eastern Conference even more impressive. And, while the Loons have not faced any slouches post-Leagues Cup, they have faced mostly Western Conference teams that are fighting for their playoff lives. To me, New England presents the Loons with a high-caliber litmus test to see how they stack up to a clear-cut playoff club like the Revs.
Will a poor result against New England keep us out of the playoffs? Nope…but, MNUFC needs to prove they are capable of beating teams on the level of New England to prove they are equipped to exercise their first-round playoff demons and contend for the Cup. For the Loons, this is an opportunity to show that they can hang with those MLS heavy-hitters that have sat on top of the conference standings for much of the season. This is a match that can prove that MNUFC have the tools and the talent to compete at the highest levels, and take the next step.
Minnesota United FC vs. New England
09.09.2023 | MLS Matchday No. 31 | MLS Game 27
Allianz Field | St. Paul, MN | Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CT
Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN