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Loons Host Defending Champs in Home Opener


It’s about that time: the greatest stadium in all of Major League Soccer is ready to host the beautiful game once again. Minnesota United are set to welcome the Columbus Crew to Allianz Field this weekend for their 2024 home opener, and it’s going to be massive. Both clubs come into the match with three points, high hopes, and plenty of positive momentum.

Minnesota United -

Run of Form: W

A great season-opening win gave the Loons a lift ahead of the home opener and saw them prove some preseason doubters wrong with a dominant performance. But the work is only just getting started, and this Saturday’s test will be a much more difficult hurdle to clear. The 4-3-3 formation MNUFC used against Austin worked like a charm, with the collective workrates of Robin Lod, Wil Trapp, and Hassani Dotson keeping the team connected and pinning El Tree in whenever they attempted to spring forward. Sang Bin Jeong put in an impressive shift, offering more of a tangible threat than he did for most of last season. Emanuel Reynoso and Bongokuhle Hlongwane are both back in training, though their participation in Saturday’s game is still in question. Regardless of whether or not they’re in the lineup, this team should feel they have all they need to go out and earn a heartwarming rendition of Wonderwall to start the year.

Columbus Crew -

Run of Form: W

The champs picked up right where they left off last weekend, taking down Atlanta yet again. It ended 1-0, but the Crew could have easily grabbed a few goals to pad the stats. A missed penalty from Cucho Hernandez was a bit of a surprise, but at the end of the day, Columbus did what Columbus does: win. The vibes are high in Nancy’s locker room, and with the talent at his disposal, this team is a serious threat to any club they come up against. This will be the Crew’s first visit to Allianz Field, and this is by no means an easy place to play as a visiting team. It will also be Minnesota United legend Christian Ramirez’s first time back at Allianz Field since leaving the club in 2018, making Saturday’s match an all-around awesome way to open the new season.

Keys to the Match:

Waste Management

Last season, the Loons generated a lot of chances but struggled to keep their shots on target more often than not. Matchday one saw the Black and Blue put 10 of their 22 shots on frame, and while that’s not bad, they can’t afford to be wasteful against the most dangerous attacking outfit in the league. Columbus’ 67 goals were the most in the league last season, and they kept the band together. They’re well-known for their ability to create chances out of seemingly nothing, due in large part to how well their playstyle lends itself to dangerous transitions. Unfortunately for Wilfried Nancy’s men, this also leaves them exposed, creating opportunities for clinical opponents to give them a taste of their own medicine. This game is the perfect test for this MNUFC team: they’ll be able to create chances, and they will definitely be punished if they don’t make the most of them. Bring your shooting boots, boys; you’re going to need ‘em.

Pressin’ Down on You

Just as Mr. Mercury told us back in the ‘80s, these guys are going to be Under Pressure. Between Columbus’ high-press system and the Loons’ new energetic high-line, this game is going to be end-to-end, and that’s great news for everyone watching. If they stay true to form, both teams are going to be absolutely flying around the pitch, plugging holes and exposing new ones to be exploited at breakneck speed. If either side breaks from their pressing model mid-game, they’ll likely lose this match. Sitting in against an effective pressing team can be a death sentence, metaphorically speaking, of course. Even when defending a lead, it’s best to stay on course and stick to the game plan. Basically, to win on Saturday, the boys have to put their foot on the gas and refuse to let up until the final whistle.

Fresh Legs are Fast Legs

We saw the Loons turn to the bench late against Austin, with Tani Oluwaseyi and Alejandro Bran both waiting until the 68th minute to join the fray. The two reinforcements combined for what was ultimately the game-winner in the 90th minute, finishing off a wonderful passage of play and cashing in on a killer hockey assist from fellow substitute Caden Clark. Between the quality and intensity that Columbus brings to every game, it’s going to be crucial for MNUFC to be able to turn to the bench for meaningful input once again this weekend. Look for subs in the midfield three in particular, as that’s the easiest place to change the game with a new face. Barring that, changes across the front bring a boost of energy to a tired squad, easing the burden on the players behind them. Whether it’s to bolster the defensive effort or add a last-gasp goal, fresh legs will almost certainly be required around the hour mark, and whoever is called upon needs to step up big time.

Match Details

Minnesota United FC vs. Columbus Crew SC

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota

03.02.2023 | MLS Matchday No. 3 | MLS Game 2

1:00 p.m. CT (Exclusively on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)