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Loons Look To Set The Tone For 2024 In Austin


Greetings, fellow bird-watching enthusiasts! In a day and age where the right meme can better define a human’s emotional state than the actual human themself, please allow me to express my current state of mind…

That’s right, it’s that special time of the year again. Where match results start to count in the standings, and we come together to cheer on our boys in Black and Blue in their much-anticipated return to the pitch for the start of the 2024 MLS regular season. And, specifically for the Loons, the pitch will also serve as a proving ground, not only for this more immediate journey, but for the greater future of the club, as they usher in a new chapter with new Chief Soccer Officer / Sporting Director, Khaled El-Ahmad and new Loons coach…to be named later…but hopefully, sooner rather than later? Ok, ok…at the risk of being objective, it’s fair to say that the club’s last two offseason periods have felt more unorthodox than most when it comes to the type of circumstances this squad has encountered. Now, even with some fairly important questions left to answer, the squad has maintained a solid core of veteran leadership, while also adding several talented youngsters into the mix during the offseason transfer window. But, will all of the obstacles and additions translate into consistent success on the pitch this season? Ideally, yeah, that would be all kinds of great…but, for the moment, let’s keep the focus on how they can earn a positive result this Saturday night against the fightin’ McConaughey’s of Austin FC.

| Run of Form

Minnesota United FC

Run of Form: TBD

Yes, as one might have assumed, there is no regular season run of form to speak of at this early juncture, but we can use their time at the Coachella Valley Invitational in Indio, CA to at least get some idea how things are coming together as a unit. Interim Head Coach Cameron Knowles made note of the squad’s aggressiveness during their time out west. But, an important thing to keep in mind about the club’s time at Coachella is that Knowles used this time to experiment with the lineups to truly get a sense for the versatility of the roster and to tinker with various formations. So, I’ll spare you some of the misleading score lines from the tournament; it’s the work the team put into those minutes that mattered most. From a first-impressions standpoint, Jordan Adebayo-Smith and Carlos Harvey flashed their immense potential at Coachella. With Adebayo-Smith showing what an additional speedster can bring to the attack, and Harvey’s toughness and durability reflecting the club’s goal of a bringing a more aggressive approach on the defensive end of things, it does generate some optimism for what things could look like once boys get rolling in the regular season.

Austin FC

Run of Form: TBD

Austin’s improbable run through the 2022 season came back down to Earth in 2023, and it doesn’t exactly appear as though 2024 will be a bounce back season either. While the roster still boasts a talented #10 in Sebastián Driussi and the underrated Brad Stuver minding the net, the transfer window proved to be a somewhat stagnant time period for Austin, adding little to improve this season’s outlook. And, while we haven’t even kicked off the season yet, it looks like 2024 may be a very long and trying time for the Verde and Black.

| Keys to the Game

Patience Is A Virtue (2024 edition)

Regardless of the positives that have come out of the preseason training period, there will almost certainly be a learning curve as the Loons push to get younger and play more aggressively upfront. Does that mean they won’t be able to find early success in 2024? Not at all. Sure, there are likely to be some growing pains in that regard, but what this team does have going for it is veteran leadership. With stalwarts like Robin Lod, Boxy and Cap Trapp back in the fold, they still have high-character individuals who can take charge if things aren’t in sync right out of the gates.

Less Passive. More Aggressive.

It’s no secret the Loons are looking to play with a more aggressive style this season, and not just on the attack. Expect to see our defenders pushing further upfield to meet opposing attackers at midfield, a huge change from the club under Adrian Heath. Throughout the preseason, the team has played at times with four defenders and at times with three to fill out that last line of defense. In all likelihood, the expectation would be to see a 4-man defensive line consisting of Boxy and Tapias in the middle, with D.J. Taylor and Zarek Valentin flanking. However, it should also be noted that Valentin isn’t a lock for the spot, as both Devin Padelford and Joseph Rosales have played well enough to earn the start over the savvy vet. Regardless of who gets the nod, there will be plenty of experience on the pitch. So, let’s hope that any of the cracks in the armor that began to show in the late stages of last season have been reinforced.

In The Stars For Saturday?

As many Minnesota sports fans already know, the plot can thicken in a hurry for any team around here, and the Loons may have to flip their script on Saturday’s starting XI. Tuesday’s training would provide the first potential twist to the story after interim coach Cameron Knowles revealed Emanuel Reynoso had tweaked his ankle during the session—an injury that could leave his status in doubt for Saturday. The other twist is more logistical than medical, but no less frustrating, as our South African sweetheart Bongokhule Hlongwane awaits final approval of his green card before he’s able to rejoin the club. So, yeah, not exactly ideal, but we can adapt competently to the hand that’s been dealt. Perhaps we see a shift of the formation to account for the absences, but this squad boasts enough talent amongst the ranks to step in and play well. After an impressive preseason, Sang Bin Jeong looks to be raising his game to the point that he could play a big role in the club’s desire to bring a more exciting and aggressive attacking third moving forward. And, while it all depends on how everything shakes out over the rest of the week, the kid has the skills to stun and speed to kill. The Loons just may have to rely more heavily on those intangibles far earlier than they had anticipated. But, I’m here for it, and excited to watch Sang Bin cook out there.

And, Lastly…

  • FreeBongi

  • The Starry Night kit is the absolute best kit in ALL of Major League Soccer. That isn’t an opinion, it's a scientific fact.
  • 3 more sleeps until Saturday
  • Let’s Gooooo!


Austin FC vs. Minnesota United FC

02.24.2024 | Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CT | MLS Matchday No. 1

Q2 Stadium | Austin, TX

Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN