MNUFC2 v Timbers2
National Sports Center Stadium | Blaine, Minnesota
07.31.2022 | MLS NEXT Pro Game No. 17
5:00 p.m. CT | Streaming on www.mlsnextpro.com
MNUFC2 will be playing at home for the first time in two weeks, facing Timbers2 in their first meeting of the season. The Loons are coming off of a well-fought battle against Houston Dynamo 2, but a difficult 1-0 loss left the boys with a strong desire to come out swinging this week. With how motivated the Loons are, there is no doubt that they will leave everything on the pitch, and their training this week has reflected that energy.
Head coach Cameron Knowles confirmed the Loons motivation for a win. “The guys are hungry,” said Knowles. “They’re hungry for success in terms of results … and you see it today in the way that they battled and were competing and running and fighting, and are hungry to get back to their winning ways.”
MNUFC2 is more than capable of running away with the win, and being at home will certainly help fuel their fire – not like they need it. Midfielder Emmanuel Iwe said, “I think it has mainly been the way guys are pushing each other in training. You can see that hunger because we’ve been in this struggle the past three games … and [we’re] fighting for that playoff spot. In training, it’s been good, it’s been intense and everyone’s on the ball. So, it’s looking good for Sunday.”
Timbers2 has struggled to find their footing this season; currently ranked 11th in the Western Conference, they are looking to gain some winning traction. The Loons Head Coach Cameron Knowles said Timbers2 is better than they’ve shown. “It’s a club that I don’t think their position in the league reflects some of the quality of the players they have and the way that they’ve been playing,” said Knowles. “They’ve had, like us, some games that turn in a couple of quick moments where perhaps they had the better of the game and they find themselves down two goals. It’ll be a difficult game.”
This match is going to showcase two teams hungry to add a win to their season, and in order to be successful, the Twos are focusing on finishing their chances. “For me, it’s the hunger because it’s about producing those goals and assists, etc,” said Iwe. “The play is great but it’s the finishing product that we need. You can do everything right, but if you don’t score the goal, it’s almost kind of in vain in a way. Obviously, it’s still good that you get in those situations. For me personally, it’s that hunger to score more and assist more.”
The Loons have had a lot of player growth over the past two weeks, with many of them reaching a high level of performance. Knowles mentioned a few players that he’s impressed with, and gave a big nod to Aziel Jackson who is currently the league leader in chance creation with 41 key passes. The Loons have the weapons, now all they need to do is connect them for the full 90 minutes and capitalize on their opportunities. Winning the upcoming match would be a great way to jumpstart a successful run, and MNUFC2 needs some wins to snag a playoff spot.
The Loons are currently ranked 7th in the Western Conference – just three teams and seven points away from playoff position. Success is in their grasp, all they have to do is find the drive to take it, and chopping down the Timbers would be a swing in the right direction. There are eight games left in the season. That is eight chances to climb the rankings, and 24 possible points they could accumulate. Assuming the Loons find their wings, they could be well on their way to the postseason.