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Loons Preseason Report: Week 5


And just like that, preseason turns into the regular season. Following a week of training and testing their mettle against high-level opposition at the Coachella Valley Invitational, Minnesota United is back in the North Star State ahead of their season opener against Austin FC. 

Training Insight

While the warm weather and palm trees of Coachella Valley are the perfect setting for a vacation, the last week and a half were anything but that for your Loons. On Saturday, February 10, the Black and Blue took on Phoenix Rising in their first matchup of the invitational. They pulled out a 2-1 win against the reigning USL Championship champions, courtesy of goals from Hassani Dotson and Patrick Weah. 

Interim Head Coach Cameron Knowles noted his squad’s intensity and workrate as the keys to success against Phoenix. Knowles played two groups throughout the match, giving the starters about 70 minutes to make their mark. The second group included the likes of Patrick Weah and Devin Padelford, along with a number of the club’s newest signings. Both groups were able to find the back of the net once, putting together some promising patterns of play in their only non-streamed match at Coachella. 

Prior to the second match, striker Teemu Pukki rejoined the team following the birth of his third child in Finland and got right back to work. While in his home nation, Pukki was able to train with his national team staff to keep his fitness up, demonstrating the kind of professionalism that has made his career so successful.

Likewise, Kervin Arriaga and Emanuel Reynoso have continued their journeys back to match fitness. Several of the late and new arrivals have caught up to the rest of the squad just in time for the season, giving the Loons a full locker room to choose from come February 24. 

A heavily rotated squad started the Loons’ match against the Chicago Fire on Valentine’s Day, almost identical to the group that ended the previous match. Though they acquitted themselves well at times, Chicago was too sharp on the day for the Loons to handle, especially after going down to 10 men. The final score of 4-0 probably flattered the winners a bit, but there was room for improvement on Minnesota United’s end. 

The match wasn’t a total loss, however, as some positive play from Carlos Harvey, Jordan Adebayo-Smith, and MNUFC2’s Loïc Mesanvi kept the Fire’s defense on their toes. While the squad is clearly still getting used to playing with one another, the early signs are promising, despite the final score. The starting lineup on Matchday 1 will almost certainly be a mixture of the two lineups we saw in action in this match, as the coaching staff continues to feel out the best way to set the team up. 

MNUFC closed out the week with a 0-0 draw with Charlotte FC, utilizing a similar game plan to what they used against Phoenix. Though they couldn’t find the breakthrough, it served as a valuable chance to get most of the team some valuable minutes before the season gets going. A marked improvement in defensive cohesion saw the Loons keep their first clean sheet of the tournament, and while they’d have liked to notch a goal of their own, sharpness in the back is equally valuable. Once number 10 is plugged back in, it seems only a matter of time before the goals start flowing. And how good did those Starry Night kits look, huh? 

With the time for preparations firmly behind them, the Loons have now turned their attention towards preparing for their season opener at Austin this Saturday, February 24. Be sure to tune in on MLS Season Pass, or better yet, join your fellow Loons faithful at Brit’s Pub for an official watch party!