Minnesota United FC vs. Houston Dynamo FC
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
05.17.23 | MLS Week No. 13 | MLS Game 12
Minnesota United has had quite the busy schedule as of late. With Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup midweek matches slotting in alongside the regular MLS schedule, ample time has been spent with the studs on the grass. The boots have been laced up, and the lads have gone to battle time and again, but the results have been lacking. The good news is, a few missed battles doesn’t mean the war is over. There is plenty of time left in the season to right this ship and sail on to victory. All it takes is that one big spark, that one confidence-boosting win, and the Loons will be back to their early-season selves. Perhaps that one big momentum-shifting win can come in this Wednesday’s game against Houston Dynamo FC.
Run of Form L-L-D-L-L
Last match was a tough one. MNUFC took on Sporting Kansas City for rivalry week, and the end results were less than desirable for the lads from the north. The team struggled to find the attacking form that had them scoring three against Philadelphia Union, and the inspired-at-home play by Kansas City was difficult to keep out of the backfield. Despite their poor run of form and lackluster performance on Saturday, the squad has shown glimpses of promise over the past few weeks that point to the possibility of a bounceback. The match against FC Dallas testified to the skill of the defense, having kept the USMNT trio of Paul Arriola, Sebastien Lletget, and Jesús Ferreira scoreless. The Philly match speaks to the prowess of the offense, having notched three against the 2022 Supporters’ Shield runner-ups – Bongokuhle Hlongwane scoring on two and assisting on one. Bongi has been great for the Black and Blue recently; his energy has always been a major addition to the club, and his growing goal-scoring ability adds a huge offensive weapon to the arsenal. If Minnesota can find a way to string together those flashes of brilliance into a consistent, end-to-end, 90-minute showing, they can quickly propel themselves right back into the fray of a tightly-contested Western Conference table.
Houston Dynamo FC
Run of Form W-D-W-D-L
Houston Dynamo has had a good run of form this season. The team currently sits in 7th place in the Western Conference with 14 points, coming off a recent six-game unbeaten streak in all competitions that was just snapped on Saturday in their match against the Seattle Sounders. The Dynamo showed a lot of fortitude against the Sounders, losing 1-0 on a late-game goal from midfielder Paul Rothrock after going down to only nine men. The ability to hold off Seattle with that big of a disadvantage speaks volumes to their defensive skill. On top of that, the Dynamo have given up one goal or fewer in 11 of their 15 games this season – their defense is putting in work. On the other side of the pitch, Amine Bassi and Héctor Herrera have been great players to move the ball forward. Bassi leads the team in goals and is tied for sixth place in the Golden Boot race with five. Herrera is second on the team in goal creation with two goals and two assists. Interestingly enough, these are the same two players who received red cards on Saturday and will not be eligible to play in this upcoming match. An unlucky break for Houston but music to the ears of Minnesota supporters.
Keys to the Match
All I See is Red
As previously mentioned, two of Houston’s best players will be ineligible for the game this Wednesday. In the 21st minute of play against the Seattle Sounders, Amine Bassi received a red card from a dangerous challenge that had him stepping on a Seattle player’s lower leg. In the 78th minute, Héctor Herrera doubled up on yellows when he dragged a player back by his shoulders. As per MLS rules, any player who receives a red card (either outright or by two yellows) will be suspended for their next match. This leaves Houston in a bit of a predicament with their two leading goal creators unavailable for Wednesday night’s showdown. This is a nice advantage for Minnesota United, but nothing to get too cocky over. Goals can come from anywhere in this league, and the Dynamo proved they could win without their star players in their recent 1-0 U.S. Open Cup victory over Sporting KC, in which they started a rotated squad. The MNUFC defense will need to stay as sharp as ever to maintain their edge over a depleted Houston attack.
Not the Finnish HIM – Robin Lod – though he is great. Finish him, as in the sound from Mortal Kombat. Finishing chances is one area of opportunity for the Loons, and finishing games is another. MNUFC has struggled to close out games at home in 2023, which is made especially puzzling by the fact that the defense has been so solid throughout the bulk of the season. In the March match against Vancouver, the Loons held a 1-0 lead until the 98th minute when the Whitecaps forced a draw. In the game against Orlando City, MNUFC scored first, Orlando equalized, and it sat at 1-1 until the 88th minute when the Floridians snagged a winning goal. The Loons found their desired results against Philadelphia Union, but not before taking everyone’s blood pressure on a ride by gaining, then losing the lead in extra time of both regulation and overtime. These back-and-forth affairs sure make for exciting matches, but I trust all Loons fans will agree when I say that we could sure use a routine, boring 2-nil win for a change.
Okay Lads, Now Let’s Get in Formation
In some recent matches, MNUFC has tried a 3-5-2 formation. The idea is great. It allows the speedy wingbacks Kemar Lawrence and DJ Taylor to get into the attacking fray and also drop back to add more padding on defense if necessary. For a team looking to score more goals, the added help on offense is surely a good thing. The execution, however, had the defense see its first real stumble of the season – giving up three goals to both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Sporting KC. When MNUFC employed a 4-3-2-1 against Philadelphia Union, they guys were able to notch three goals, and they looked inspired. Again, though, the team dropped three goals to the opposition before finally winning in the shootout. It will be interesting to see which tactics Adrian Heath decides to use on Wednesday. Perhaps the difficulty of the 3-5-2 was simply due to some growing pains, and it will be better in the long run. Whether the team tries to see it through or go back to what they're more comfortable with remains to be seen. Whatever formation they roll with, Loons fans will be hoping it leads to a performance from the best Oasis cover band on this side of the Mississippi.