MNUFC2 v. Earthquakes II
National Sports Center Stadium | Blaine, Minnesota
09.18.2022 | MLS NEXT Pro Game No. 24
6:00 p.m. CT | Streaming on www.mlsnextpro.com
All good things must come to an end, even soccer season. MNUFC2 will be closing out its inaugural season this weekend with a matchup against Earthquakes II at the National Sports Center. While the playoffs are out of reach for both teams, the winner of Sunday's game will take hold of 5th place in the Western Conference and go into the offseason on the front foot.
Despite their elimination from playoff contention, the Loons are still playing to win. Head Coach Cameron Knowles spoke about his team’s mentality as they tackle the end of the season.
“We set out with these last two games to get six points and two wins and to finish as high as we can and do the best we can to finish out the season properly,” Knowles said. “I think you saw that in the attitude with the guys. It would’ve been very easy with the disappointment of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it would’ve been easy for our guys to just sort of chuck it in and get through the 90 minutes and say ‘oh well’. But, they played against a good, really strong Portland [Timbers2] team that had a number of players on loan from the first team and showed the fortitude to come back when they [Timbers2] equalized. The guys who’d come into the game did really well – Loic [Mesanvi], Veljko [Petkovic], Tommy [Williamson] – to get those three points for us. And it will be the same this weekend. We just need to finish on a high note and give a good account of who we are as individuals and what we are as a team.”
The Loons are prepared to play hard until the final whistle of the season, regardless of the stakes. In the win against Timbers 2, MNUFC2 midfielder Aziel Jackson scored his tenth goal of the season, which was consequently the 800th goal in MLS NEXT Pro this season as well. Until the very end, this team will be trying to write headlines.
This weekend’s match will be the second competition between these squads, following a 2-1 Earthquakes II victory back in June. They currently sit next to one another in the Western Conference standings, with San Jose just two points ahead of the Loons. Anything less than a win for MNUFC2 will leave them in sixth place, while a win would see them leapfrog their opponents.
As part of the preparation for Sunday’s game, Coach Knowles reflected on his last encounter with Earthquakes II.
“We did a tremendous job last time, going down a man, to get ourselves back into that game,” he said. “We were probably a little too aggressive closing out the game and I take a lot of responsibility for that. We should have just maybe weathered the storm, battened down the hatches and taken it to penalties to see where it ended up. But, they’re a good team and they play well. They like to build the ball out of the back, they like a lot of player rotations and we need to be organized and disciplined just like we were in the last game and take our opportunities when they fall.”
With a healthy respect for their opposition in tow, MNUFC2 will take to the stadium pitch at the NSC one last time this year. Regardless of the outcome, this has certainly been a season filled with positives and growth, laying the groundwork for a successful future.
Sunday’s game will start at approximately 6:00 p.m. CT. For anyone who is unable to attend the game in person, it will be available for streaming at www.mlsnextpro.com.