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Preview | Loons Hope To Crack Winning Code With Houston


Hello, fellow waterfowl enthusiasts. Like most emails you receive after a period of not communicating with the sender, I genuinely hope this match preview finds you well. Last Saturday may have helped in that regard, as Tani Oluwaseyi’s 87th minute equalizer gave the Allianz Field faithful a chance to erupt with excitement. Unfortunately, the Loons weren’t able to break the stalemate before the final whistle blew, despite having some golden opportunities to grab the lead in the final minutes. By no means should we consider the 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake a step back since the result still gets the Loons a point. But, for a squad looking to stay in the upper tiers of the Western Conference standings, earning three points at home instead of one is a crucial habit to get into. Real Salt Lake presented a formidable test last week, and Matchday no. 9 will likely be no different, as the Loons square off with another Western Conference contender in the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at Allianz Field. So, what’s it going to take to get the supporters singing “Wonderwall” in a more victorious tone? Scroll down, and all pre-match prognostications will be revealed.

| Run of Form

Minnesota United FC (3-1-2)

Run of Form: D-L-W-W-D

Grabbing a point in the standings certainly isn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday night, especially as a follow-up to the Loons’ first loss of the season to Philly. But, even with the excitement of a last-minute score to at least gain the point against RSL, the match’s final stat line tells a slightly different story. With MNUFC holding the advantage in nearly every statistical category across the board, it was a slight bummer that such an advantage did not translate into three points. This Saturday, the team hopes to show the kind of killer instinct it takes to control and close out matches and prove their hot start wasn’t simply an early-season fad.

Houston Dynamo (3-2-1)

Run of Form: L-W-W-W-D

They may have finished near the bottom of the conference in the 2021 and 2022, but 2023 was a step in the right direction for Houston’s long-term plans. Now, it's 2024, and the Dynamo continues to trend in the right direction. However, the Loons may be running into the Dynamo at just the right time after having their three-game winning streak snapped by Chicago last Saturday. Plus, Houston has been without the services of their star midfielder Héctor Herrera this season, which is a definite plus for a Loons’ squad that has fallen prey to Herrera’s heroics before. That doesn’t mean Ben Olsen’s squad will be any less of a challenge for the boys, as Houston will be looking to gain ground on the Loons in the standings, where they currently hold the 6th spot in the West and only trail MNUFC (currently in 4th) by a single point.

| Keys to the Game

Stay Reserved

First, there were “Pukki Parties.” Now, it appears as though we can add “Tani Time” into the club’s cultural lexicon. But, Tani Oluwaseyi’s last-minute heroics are proof of the bigger sea change for the club’s approach to substitutions under Coach Ramsay and Coach Knowles’ leadership. While former Coach Adrian Heath mostly stayed somewhat conservative with substitution selections, often looking to players he had established trust with over his time in Minnesota, Ramsay and his staff have shown a bit more willingness to regularly put his trust in lesser proven talent. That approach is paying obvious dividends, with Tani Oluwaseyi being a prime example of a young talent that was able to make the most of his chance to hone his craft, as he did last season when on-loan with USL side, San Antonio FC. Ramsay has a good sense for not only the talent, but also the right timing for when fresh legs can be at their most effective for this squad, and should serve as a benefit against a Houston squad that has lacked a bit of the depth they have in previous years.

Placement Test?

For a player that’s proven himself as a valuable asset to the club, it was tough to see Joseph Rosales be shown the red card in the 89th minute of the Real Salt Lake match. His agility, speed, and ball control won’t be available against Houston while he serves his 1-game suspension. So, who steps up to hold down the fort, aka wing back, on the defensive backline? Well, that may depend on Micky Tapias’ availability for this Saturday, as Devin Padelford has performed well in the center in his absence. Ideally, Tapias is back in center and Padelford would likely move back to the wing, as he’s proven he can defend just as effectively from there. Reverting back to this lineup would hopefully make Rosales’ absence less noticeable, as the combination of Boxy, Tapias, Padelford, and Taylor had worked well earlier in the season. No Tapias? Well, that may mean the boys will have to turn to less-tested personnel like Victor Eriksson or Hugo Bacharach to figure into the defensive equation. “Less-tested” doesn’t exactly mean trouble with a defensive QB like Boxy to keep everyone in line, but it’s something that could be pivotal if miscues lead to more pressure on Dayne St. Clair.

Unleash The First-Half Fury

While there's no indictment on the attacking efforts and output this squad has shown since the season started, it shouldn’t be surprising that other clubs are learning the ways of the new-look Loons. It’s professional soccer, and no approach is immune to the opposition’s ability to study up and strategize a more effective way to defend against a more aggressive attack. But, much of the early-season success we saw from the Loons came from that “all gas, no brake” energy we saw from them in those first few matches of the season. While tougher clubs have been able to better challenge the Black and Blue attack in more recent weeks, this team has proven that when they pounce on the opposition early, the overall confidence of the squad increases as the game goes on. Of course, it’s all easier said than done, but getting Houston on its heels from the first whistle could be the catalyst to getting three points in the standings.


Minnesota United FC vs. Houston Dynamo

04.13.24 | Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CT | MLS Matchday No. 9

Allianz Field | St Paul, MN

Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN