Minnesota United FC vs. New England Revolution
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
9.09.2023 | MLS Matchday No. 31 | MLS Game 27
7:30 p.m. CT (Exclusively on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)
This time, the East is coming to us. Minnesota United will welcome one of Major League Soccer’s original franchises to Allianz Field when the New England Revolution stops by this weekend. This match will finish up the Loons’ cross-conference schedule for 2023, leaving the remainder of the season for MNUFC to jockey for playoff position with their Western Conference rivals. The Revs currently sit in second place in the East with 47 points, while the Loons remain in seventh place in the West with 36 points. These squads will have different motivations in this match, but the objective remains the same: take all three points.
Minnesota United -
Run of Form (League matches only): D-W-D-W-D
There may be an L in Loon, but there definitely hasn’t been one in their last six league matches. You have to go all the way back to early July to find Minnesota United’s last league loss, a 4-1 defeat to Austin FC. Since then, it’s been three wins and three draws, good enough for 12 points in six games. The Black and Blue have been flying over this stretch, holding LAFC and Seattle to close draws and scoring at will. MNUFC fans have enjoyed 11 goals during this run, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. With their final Eastern Conference opponent of the year coming to town, Adrian Heath and the boys will be hoping for a repeat of the result they earned against NYCFC out of the Leagues Cup break.
New England Revolution -
Run of Form (League matches only): D-W-L-W-W
Over the past few years, the Revolution have been one of the best clubs in the Eastern Conference, and this season has been no exception. In just their last five games, the Revs have beaten Thiago Almada’s Atlanta United and taught Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United a lesson in a 4-0 beatdown. While results like that have become almost expected for New England’s team, there are cracks in their armor. A 1-0 loss to Montréal after Leagues Cup saw the squad come back on the wrong foot, followed by a narrow 1-0 win against one of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams this year, the New York Red Bulls. A win is a win, but there were no style points awarded for that one. With a playoff spot all but secured at this point, the Revs will be playing for positioning and to recover a bit of pride following their lackluster return to league action.
Keys to the Match:
Danger! Goals Coming From All Sides!
The Revs have scored 45 goals in just 26 games during the 2023 season. They’ve seen 14 different players bag a goal, with 11 players finding the back of the net more than once. From back to front, it seems like every single player on the pitch is a goal-scoring threat for New England. Cover one hole in your defense; they’ll just punch another in a different spot. With supremely talented players like Carles Gil, Tomas Chancalay, and Giacomo Vrioni to contend with, it would be easy for the Loons to worry about shutting down individual players. However, against a team that has proven its ability to adapt to such tactics, it would be best for the Black and Blue to simply forget about the names and stats they’re facing and just play their game. The more they shift their formation to shut down Gil, the more space they leave for Vrioni, and vice versa. There will be plenty of threats to worry about during the game; MNUFC can’t afford to let one distract them from the rest.
It’s Ménder Time
Teemu Pukki and Emanuel Reynoso really showed up against San Jose. They combined for the opening goal, and without VAR deciding that the shoulder is part of your hand, they would have had the potential winner in the 66th minute as well. The connection that Loons fans were dreaming of seeing when the club signed number 22 is coming to fruition, just in time for the international window to break up their mojo. How wonderful! While Pukki is away with Finland, the only natural replacement up top is Ménder García. The speedy Colombian had an encouraging substitute appearance against the Quakes, making dangerous runs and showcasing some impressive ball control to extend his team's attacking efforts. He brings a much different skill set to the team than Pukki does, but he’s dangerous in his own right. The Loons will have to shift their approach slightly to accommodate him, but it could pay off if they do it right.
Who’s in Net?
There’s movement between the posts. Following their Leagues Cup run, the Revolution sold standout goalkeeper Đorđe Petrović to Chelsea FC in a deal worth up to a whopping $17.5 million. Earl Edwards Jr. has filled the gap since New England returned to MLS play, but the free-agent signing of Tomáš Vaclík will leave the Loons wondering what kind of test they’ll be facing in net this weekend. While Edwards Jr. has been a pro for more than a decade, his experience has come mostly at the lower levels of American soccer. He’s performed well enough in his three starts since Petrović left, but the quality Vaclík brings to the side is unmatched. Loons fans will be hoping to see Edwards continue to start, while the Revs faithful will be hoping to see the man with UEFA Champions League experience get the nod.