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Preview | Loons Prepare for Midweek Clash Against ‘Caps


Oh, Canada? The Land of Maple Syrup? America’s Hat? So many golden nicknames for our neighbor’s to the north, and yes, this list is relevant. We’re hosting one of our neighboring country’s finest soccer clubs this Wednesday, as Vanni Sartini and the Vancouver Whitecaps are leaving the mountains behind for a midweek matchup. This match finds both teams in a bit of an in-between position, as a string of positive results could see either team jump up the table quickly.

Minnesota United (8-7-5)

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

There’s no point in sugar coating or rehashing it; MNUFC is struggling right now. They’re experiencing their worst run of form of the season, and we all know why at this point. A squad thinned for various reasons, a busy period of games, and some unfortunate matchups against in-form teams have left the Loons reeling as of late, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are promising signs to be found, including the uptick in production from Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Sang Bin Jeong. So long as the effort, belief, and intention don’t drop on Wednesday, the Loons will have a chance to compete and continue to grow. Goals are the best way to get forwards into fine form, and with new confidence comes hope and positive results.

Vancouver Whitecaps (8-7-4)

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

So what’s the story in Vancouver this year? Well, from the outside looking in, it seems to be an enigmatic year. The ‘Caps will win big one week, only to lose equally as emphatically the next. The quality of the squad is undeniable, as is the inconsistency. All of the pieces are there, and Vanni Sartini is quite a coach, but something isn’t quite clicking enough to keep Vancouver at the top of the standings. Their last five matches sum that sentiment up perfectly, with 10 goals scored in that span and good wins against St. Louis and Colorado. Their loss to the red-hot Timbers is understandable, but their 3-2 loss to the slightly resurgent New England Revolution likely didn’t sit well with the locker room. Long story short, Wednesday’s visitors could come in and rock Allianz Field, or they could head home with their tails tucked between their legs. It’s hard to tell which Whitecaps side we’re going to get, but it’ll be entertaining either way.

Keys to the Match:

Stretch it Out

In the last two matches, the Loons put together solid first-half displays. Unfortunately, tired legs and a limited bench led to drop offs in their second-half performances in both games, and while the players on the field are plenty fit, they’ve not been able to benefit from the squad rotation that Coach Ramsay utilized earlier this season. With that in mind, the squad needs to be judicious in how they approach each and every run on Wednesday. None of the players can afford to expend more energy than they need to, else they’ll face the same problem that has kept them from earning results in the last few matches. If the Loons can emphasize a counter-attacking approach with a low block, they might be able to stymie the creative efforts of Ryan Gauld and Brian White just enough to allow Bongi and Sang Bin to punish the visitors on the break without wasting their efforts by pressing high.

Valuable Experience

Obviously, the goal of every professional club is to win every game. However, beyond the points at stake, every game presents an opportunity for players to earn valuable experience. In the absence of regular starters and impact players, the Black and Blue have turned to the bench, reserves, and second team for players. This has given the club a chance to do what it was always intended to do: develop soccer players capable of playing at the highest level of the sport so that MNUFC can compete. Local lads, foreign talents, and youngsters at the start of their careers have all earned the chance to wear the badge in the last few weeks, and though the results haven’t been what the club has hoped, the progress we have seen in many of these players has been substantial and will prove to be a huge asset to the club moving forward. Players like Carlos Harvey, Devin Padelford, and Tani Oluwaseyi are prime examples of how impactful breakout players can be when you give them a chance. Experience is not a consolation prize; it is an essential building block in the pursuit of excellence. The players stepping up on Wednesday could be the stars of tomorrow’s Loons squad; they just need a chance to shine.

A Balanced Squad

Vancouver has, in my opinion, one of the league’s most complete squads. Ryan Gauld and Brian White have been showing off their goal-scoring prowess as of late, Ranko Veselinovic has been a rock at the back, and Pedro Vite continues to be a steady presence in the midfield. From back to front, they’ve got top-quality players in nearly every position, meaning that if everyone has a good night, they’re capable of being one of the best teams in the league. However, that doesn’t always happen. While the Loons don’t like to tailor their game plan toward their opponent, they might want to take the first quarter-hour of this match to feel out the ‘Caps, patiently find the weakest point in their lineup, and attack it for the rest of the night. This approach can still work within the principles that Coach Ramsay likes to play within; it’s just a more targeted, perhaps cautious approach that might help a tired squad.