LA Galaxy vs. Minnesota United FC
Dignity Health Sports Park | Carson, California
9.20.2023 | MLS Matchday No. 33 | MLS Game 29
9:30 p.m. CT (Exclusively on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)
The Loons are on the road once again following their narrow loss to Sporting Kansas City, this time heading to the Golden State to take on Carson’s finest. Wednesday’s matchup will be huge in the playoff race, with both the Loons and the Galaxy in need of a win to stay afloat in an increasingly chaotic and tight Western Conference. It’s been a disappointing season for Greg Vanney’s men, but with a shred of light at the end of the tunnel, they’ll be coming into this one with a chance to flip the script. For MNUFC, this game offers a chance to bounce back quickly and rediscover the form that led the visitors to a seven-game unbeaten run. With so much on the line, this one is bound to be exciting.
Minnesota United -
Run of Form: L-D-D-W-D
It was all going so well for the Loons: seven games unbeaten, scoring in every match, and generally looking like a playoff-caliber side. Unfortunately, even the most in-form teams stumble from time to time. In their frustrating 1-0 loss to SKC, MNUFC looked the better side for much of the match, outshooting their opponents 14-6 and creating chance after chance. Scoreline aside, Adrian Heath’s boys continued a lot of the trends that fueled their unbeaten run, leaving plenty of reason to believe that the Loons will pick up right where they left off, especially given the impressive defensive record they’re currently riding. Since returning to MLS action, the Black and Blue haven’t given up more than a single goal in any game. If anyone wants to beat this version of Minnesota United, they’re going to have to be extremely disciplined at both ends of the pitch.
LA Galaxy -
Run of Form: L-D-D-W-W
While they’re certainly not the most consistent team in the league, the Galaxy are always a fun watch. They couldn’t find enough derby-day magic to get the better of LAFC in their last match, but the efforts and skill sets of their star players showed through in big wins against San Jose and Chicago. A crazy 2-2 draw with St. Louis put their strengths and weaknesses on display in equal measure: a clear ability to create quality opportunities and a propensity to switch off in important moments. This team is good enough to compete with almost any squad in the league, but they don’t seem to be able to do it every night. If their best version shows up, it’ll be a great game. If not, a Loons side that has demonstrated an ability to win on the road may take advantage of LA’s disorganized approach. With time running out in the playoff race and plenty of ground to make up, it’s now or never for one of Major League Soccer’s most iconic franchises.
Keys to the Match:
Close Only Counts in Horseshoes
Minnesota United doesn’t have a problem creating chances. In fact, they’ve outshot their last two opponents by a combined 41-13. Of those 41 shots, though, just 13 have been on target, and only one has resulted in a goal. The problem isn’t in the quantity; it's the quality. Finishing is one of the hardest things to do in soccer, but when you’re taking that many shots, you need to be scoring more often. If Teemu Pukki can wait up top a bit more without coming back or wide to get on the ball, his years of finishing experience could be the key to ending the Loons’ recent scoring troubles. If you’ve got the right profiles, playing with a target man in lieu of a mobile striker will not only put your best finisher in the perfect spot, it’ll also give the rest of the team more room to play with, which could even lead to an uptick in their already impressive chance creation rate.
Midfield Matador From Matadepera
Riqui Puig is simply a great soccer player. The 24-year-old Spanish midfielder has been a revelation for the Galaxy since he arrived from Barcelona, demonstrating what it means to be a complete midfielder. He never seems to get tired, running at full tilt for the entire 90 while making an impact on both sides of the pitch. He scores goals, disrupts his opponents, and picks a pass better than most players in the league. When LA plays well, it’s because of Puig’s efforts more often than not. Likewise, if he’s shut down, his side can be hamstrung quickly and effectively. Sounds simple, right? Not really. Even if the Loons keep him quiet for 89 minutes, he’s going to have enough left in the tank to make a difference in the 90th minute. Whoever lines up in the MNUFC midfield is bound to get sick of this guy, and it’s hard to blame them.
Both squads are coming into this match licking the wounds of a tough loss. After falling flat in El Tráfico, Vanney and his team are likely feeling pretty low. But the Galaxy have proven that they’re not a mentally weak side; they’ll be champing at the bit to get back on the field to prove themselves once again. Likewise, the resilience of the Loons has been great to watch throughout the entire 2023 season. After some frustrating draws that could have easily been wins and a loss that felt incredibly unlucky, Adrian Heath and company may come into this one with an even bigger chip on their shoulders. There’s plenty of motivation to draw from in this one, but the question remains: who can keep a cool head as the pressure begins to mount?