Hello, fellow waterfowl enthusiasts. How was your Wednesday evening? Yeah, mine sucked too. Oddly enough, even though I didn’t consume a drop of alcohol all evening, I somehow woke up feeling hungover. While I may be starting to feel a bit less nauseous, there is a good chance the Loons are still feeling sick to their stomachs over the brutal midweek 4-3 loss to LA Galaxy. The match epitomized the ol’ sports cliche that it was “a tale of two halves.” Unfortunately, MNUFC picked the wrong half of the tale because it was anything but a happy ending for the club, or the fans. Instead, a tragic ending after a second-half horror show will only thicken the plot for the Loons’ playoff hopes…and it’s not the kind of plot twist any fans were hoping for, as the Loons try to leave this loss in the rearview. Now, we need to focus on the road ahead and find redemption in the games that remain in the Loons' schedule. So, who is the ideal opponent for the boys to face in their attempt to get things back on track as quickly as possible? Whatever foe popped into your head, I’ll assume it wasn’t Western Conference leader St. Louis CITY. But, sometimes, you have to play the hand you’re dealt, so let's deal with it appropriately.
Minnesota United FC
Run of Form: L-L-D-D-W
Obviously, we’re not here to beat a dead horse, but clearly it's the wrong run of form at the wrong time for the Black and Blue. Especially when you head into the half up 3-1 over a team that you should beat. The one thing we all need to keep in mind is that, with five conference matchups remaining, the Loons truly control their own playoff destiny at this point. But, after losing to Sporting Kansas City and LA Galaxy, two teams that had been well below the playoff line before kickoff, positive results need to happen if the Loons hope to stay in the fight.
St. Louis CITY
Run of Form: D-D-D-L-W
The newest club on the MLS scene continues to be one of its best. After Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with LAFC, CITY remains on top of the conference with four games remaining, and in light of the other Western Conference results from Wednesday night’s slate of games, CITY SC became the first club to clinch a postseason berth in the West. This will be the second time this season these squads collide, with the Loons handing St. Louis their first MLS loss in their previous matchup, snapping SLC’s 5-0-0 start to the season. In fact, the Loons and LAFC are the only teams that have held CITY scoreless at CITYPARK.
| Keys to the Game
Smarter, Not Harder
While you could argue that the referees were getting a little trigger happy with the yellow cards in LA, the Loons must play smarter and with more control than we saw Wednesday night if they hope to get a positive result against CITY. For example, while we love players like Boxy that can set a tone for the defense, odds are he would take back the foul on Puig if he could. I’d put those same odds on Bristow wanting to be a bit less handsy, and a bit more aware of the game situation. The Loons can’t get back on track if they show a lack of awareness, both physically and mentally, like they did Wednesday. They still need to be aggressive, but they need to curb the miscues that are well within their own control.
All Gas. No Brake.
Some may point out Reynoso subbing out at the half as the turning point of the match. While that’s part of what plagued the Loons in the second half against the Galaxy, it wasn’t the one reason that a positive result slipped out of their hands. Holding on to a 2-goal lead over a half of a match is something this team is completely capable of doing. That said, sometimes protecting the lead means not taking your foot off the gas pedal. The Loons must exhibit more balance in their desire to drop back and protect a lead when they have it, while continuing to bring the same kind of balanced approach to the attack that got them the lead in the first place. At this late juncture of the season, it’s got to be all about expanding a lead.
More Pepper, Please
As statistics show from both the New England and Sporting Kansas City matches, the Loons know how to pressure opposing goalkeepers. And they will need to keep with that style of attack if they want to find the net when they face a stout St. Louis defense and solid keeper in Roman Bürki. They must bring a “shoot first, apologize later” approach to the attacking third in this one. An extra touch here or intercepted pass there won’t get the job done against St. Louis, and time is of the essence for the Loons’ success, both on the attack and for the remainder of their schedule.
Minnesota United FC vs. St. Louis CITY
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
09.23.2023 | MLS Matchday 34 | MLS Game No. 30
7:30 p.m. CT (AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN)