Hello, fellow waterfowl enthusiasts. I’d ask how you're doing today, but I've got a sneaking suspicion I already know, at least in terms of our collective fandom for the boys in Black and Blue. In fact, for the sake of my mental health, I’m starting to think that right now is probably an ideal time to recommit to daily meditation and yoga. The meditation should help clear the mind of negative thoughts and focus on things like answers to the true meaning of life…as well as the answers to how the Loons can get off the schneid as quickly as possible. The yoga is really just a chance to extract the anxiety-induced perspiration from the body prior to matchday in hopes of experiencing far less stress-sweat post kick-off, as the last couple Loons’ matches have given fans plenty of reason to perspire when it comes to the club’s playoff chances in 2023.
It wasn’t always this way, but this is Major League Soccer we’re talking about here, and if you don’t like the standings you may just want to check back in a week or two to see if things look more encouraging. While this losing streak may feel like the script has been flipped on the entire season, if you consider the log jam that is the Western Conference standings and the level of competition remaining on the schedule, there is still plenty of time for that script to flip once more. But, that doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating for a team, or fanbase, that had been hoping for a comfortable jaunt into the playoffs. If there is to be any sort of silver linings or big sighs of relief to be found over the next few weeks, the Loons must figure out how to combat the home match blues before they face San Jose at Allianz Field this upcoming Saturday. So, let’s get into that, shall we?
Minnesota United FC
Run of Form: L-L-L-D-D
While it’s true that Loons are still able to control their own destiny in terms of clinching a playoff berth, finding less than positive results the rest of the way may change that. There’s no shame in dropping a game to a St. Louis side that has been perched at the top of the conference since the season began. But, when you head into the half with a lead, and pride yourself on having a stout defense, a 2-1 loss being the end result isn’t going to drum up much in the way of optimism. Now, as they head into the weekend sitting in the 11th spot in the Western Conference, currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs, the Loons need to show the same kind of resiliency they’ve shown at times throughout the 2023 season if they hope to extend it.
San Jose Earthquakes
Run of Form: D-L-W-D-D
Since their 1-1 draw with MNUFC at the beginning of September, the Quakes have found enough in the way of positive results throughout the month to hold the 8th spot in the Western Conference. While they only have a single win in September (a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on September 16), their draws with the Loons, DC United, and Nashville have kept them gaining points and just enough ground to stay above the line. They continue to boast strong scoring threats in the attacking duo of Christian Espinoza (12 goals) and Jeremy Ebobisse (9 goals), and for the Loons to come away with a bounce back result on Saturday, they should plan on keeping those fellas in their defensive sights for the duration.
| Keys to the Game
Beware! Scoring Threat Emerging!
It may not have been on the Loons radar in their earlier matchup with the Quakes, but if Minnesota hopes to keep the San Jose attack at bay, they may have to give more focus to Matthew Hoppe. The 22-year old forward is currently on loan to the Quakes until the end of the 2023 season by way of English side Middlesbrough, and he’s made his presence felt over the last two matches by registering a goal in each. For a Loons’ defensive third that has seen its share of miscues over the course of their recent three-game skid, this will require even more awareness in keeping the likes of Espinoza, Ebobisse, and now, Hoppe from finding openings around the net.
Although the results have ended up going under the loss column, the Loons have had chances…oh so many chances to convert on their opponent’s net. Even against a top-tier opponent like St. Louis, who just so happens to have a top-tier defensive third, the Loons were able to regularly get behind CITY’s back line. While the Loons attack may have lacked that finishing touch in their most recent matches, they still have shown they are quite capable of assaulting the opposing keeper. And, if they can continue to apply that kind of pressure on San Jose’s defense, it’s only a matter of time before they find their finishing groove once again.
A Defensive-Minded Middle
Defensive lapses happen, but having a defensively-savvy midfield lineup can help take some of the load off the MNUFC backline. The unexpected and very welcome return of Kervin Arriaga helps in those efforts, and having the likes of Hassani Dotson, Wil Trapp and Jan Gregus can only solidify that approach. All four of these gents have shown that they can play end-to-end, and be just as impactful both offensively and defensively. Facing a squad with the scoring capabilities of San Jose in what very much feels like a must-win match means the Loons would be wise to make versatility in the middle a top priority.
Minnesota United FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes
09.30.2023 | Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CT | MLS Matchday No. 35
Allianz Field | St. Paul, MN
Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN