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MNUFC Look for First Home Win Against LAFC


The Black and Blue return to Allianz Field this weekend in search of their first home win of the season, but Saturday’s opponent is no slouch. LAFC is coming to town, and after handily beating the Loons 5-1 in LA last time they faced off, they’ll be feeling confident that they can get a result to turn around their fortunes. But a lot has changed since that game, in both Loons-Land and La La Land, setting these squads up for what should be a compelling match.

Minnesota United -

Run of Form: W-D-W

The Loons are flying high at the moment: unbeaten after three games, second in the West by just goal difference, and finding the back of the net in each of their matches thus far. It’s been an exciting start to the year, and with MNUFC’s leaders stepping up whenever they’ve been called upon, it’s been an encouraging omen for what’s to come. After bagging a brace against Orlando, striker Teemu Pukki has officially opened his account for 2024, while understudy Tani Oluwaseyi has added a goal and two assists in his substitute appearances. If Dayne St. Clair and Hassani Dotson can keep up their stellar performances on the other side of the pitch, the Loons’ transition to a pressing system may just go off without a hitch. Saturday will be a big test, though, as LAFC has historically been a tough nut for the Black and Blue to crack.

Los Angeles FC -

Run of Form: D-L-W

It’s been a rocky start to the season for the defending Western Conference Champions, but it’s hard to feel sorry for them. A 2-1 win against the Sounders set them off on the right foot, before the blizzard in Utah saw them freeze completely, falling 3-0 and failing to score in their subsequent game as well. Without Carlos Vela’s presence on the pitch, LA’s youngest MLS team has been struggling, but they’ve still got quality to call on. 2023 Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga is among the most dangerous forwards in the league; the midfield trio of Ilie Sánchez, Timothy Tillman, and Eduard Atuesta is top-notch; and Mateusz Bogusz has some serious upside potential. They’re not at their best at the moment, but it’s early in the season. These guys don’t usually stay down for long; the Loons will have to be wary of a resurgence until the final whistle.

Keys to the Match:

Mind the Gap

Last week, Orlando exposed the Loons’ high line with a combination of speed and patience. Teams that opt to play a pressing system tend to put themselves at risk by leaving too much space behind their back line, and Iván Angulo understood that well. Luckily, the Lions couldn’t finish their dinner, scoring just a pair of goals from their total of 23 shots. Considering Denis Bouanga’s mixture of elite athleticism and finishing ability, it’s likely that he’ll generate similar chances, and it’s doubtful he’ll be as wasteful as Orlando was. If the Loons are going to press LAFC effectively, they can’t afford to give them time to play out of the back or pick out an incisive pass. Greater pressure is needed if the Loons want to avoid another poor defensive showing, and it starts with the front three. If Pukki and company don’t close down the passing lanes and force LAFC to make mistakes in their buildup, it could be another long night for the Loons backline.

Pack the Box

Against both Austin and Columbus, Minnesota United demonstrated an impressive ability to create quality chances from wide areas. In game one, they earned 16 corners and put in 28 crosses, and they followed that up with five corners and 25 crosses in the home opener. Unfortunately, they also demonstrated an inability to take advantage of those chances. The closest they’ve come to scoring from a ball across the box was Tani’s late equalizer against the Crew, though I’m not sure I’d consider that finishing a cross. With Sang Bin’s pinpoint crossing accuracy and speed on both wings, this team is tailor-made to create dangerous opportunities from wide positions. The next step is just finishing them off, and that means getting numbers into the penalty area. If the Loons can get their opposite winger, striker, and at least one midfielder into the box, it’s only a matter of time before they cash in on this impressive chance creation. Even if they don’t score from these chances, forcing the opponent to respect your threat out wide can open up space to attack in the middle. One way or another, this can only help.

Rebuilding the Fortress

In 2023, the Loons were known as a great road team. Would it surprise you to hear that they earned just one more road point in 2023 than they did in 2022? The biggest difference in the 2023 table for MNUFC last year was undoubtedly their home form, which saw them earn eight fewer points than they had the year prior. Consequently, they missed the playoffs by a mere three points. Moral of the story? Use the Allianz Field atmosphere to your advantage! This is a difficult league to get road wins in, and no matter how good you are away from home, you can’t get much done without defending your fortress. Nine draws and four losses at Allianz Field last season made for an unwanted lack of Oasis music and ultimately ended the season early. Though they tend to end their games level with LAFC—the sides have drawn five of their 10 meetings—anything less than three points this Saturday should feel like a disappointment for the Loons. You have to take points where you can get them, and for a team with aspirations to achieve something special, home points are essential. 

Match Details

Minnesota United FC vs. Los Angeles FC

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota

03.17.2024 | MLS Matchday No. 5 | MLS Game 4

7:30 p.m. CT (Watch FREE on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)