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Minnesota United FC vs. LAFC

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota

09.13.2022 | MLS Week No. 31 | MLS Game 31

7:00 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)

Just a few weeks ago, both Minnesota United and LAFC were flying high, boasting impressive streaks of scintillating form. In typical Major League Soccer fashion, though, the closing stretch of the season has proven chaotic and surprising, leaving these two previously dominant teams in sore need of a rebound performance before the playoffs come. Tuesday’s match between these Western Conference foes will carry huge implications in the playoff race, as well as LA’s search for another Supporters’ Shield. 

Minnesota United - 

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

The last few games have been tough for the Loons. While they haven’t put their best foot forward recently, they will feel that they deserved more than 6 out of their last 15 available points. A sudden inability to finish the ball has manifested in the last three matches, seeing MNUFC fail to score in their last 276 minutes of play. Over the last three games, they’ve been outscored 7-0, including two consecutive 3-0 defeats. Despite how that may look, things aren’t as bad as they seem. A promising team performance against Portland this weekend showed that the Loons still have what it takes to dominate a game, they simply need to find that finishing touch once more. The potential return of Emanuel Reynoso in this match may be exactly what Minnesota United need to reawaken their latent attacking prowess.

LAFC - 

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

Prior to this run of form, the possibility of LAFC setting a new MLS points record was real and almost likely. However, banana peel after banana peel has seen the Supporters’ Shield favorites slip too many times, allowing the rest of the league to catch up. Their spot in the playoffs is secure, but making a postseason run is about form, not point accumulation. Losses to the Western Conference’s bottom two teams, San Jose and Houston, are not encouraging signs for a team with the ambition of winning a trophy this season. Though a win against Real Salt Lake seemed to promise that things were on the up, a late collapse against FC Dallas this weekend showed that LA’s struggles are anything but over.

Keys to the Match

Too Many Cooks?:

LAFC have an embarrassment of riches in attack. But since signing Gareth Bale, Dennis Bouanga, and Cristian Tello, they have seemingly lost their scoring touch. While two of those signings have yet to make any meaningful appearances, their presence in the squad appears to have caused some disruption. Carlos Vela hit a dry spell, none of their new signings have found a groove yet, and only Cristian Arango seems to have kept his wits about him. This team has invested heavily, yes, but they have thrown team chemistry and form out the window as a sacrifice for “star power.” There is plenty of talent going forward, but they don’t seem to know how to put it all together. The Loons should look to replicate the 3-5-2 system they employed against Portland to take away LA’s space in the attack, utilizing the trio of Boxall, Kallman, and Lawrence to keep the Black and Gold from finding their form. 

Now Let Me Add a Little Bit of “Spice,” to That:

The performance against Portland this weekend had almost everything from MNUFC; chance creation, solid defensive shape, and a commendable workrate across the pitch. The one thing the Loons were missing was someone to put the ball in the net, somebody to add a little spice. If they can take that same game plan and add El Rey to the mix, the goals should start flowing. A midfield three of Wil Trapp, Robin Lod, and Reynoso might be just what the doctor ordered to end Minnesota United’s scoring woes, especially against an LAFC defense that has been looking vulnerable as of late.

Showing Your Age:

LAFC have allowed 34 goals in 30 games this season, tied for the best in the Western Conference. However, they have allowed 12 of those goals in their last five games, by far their worst defensive stretch of the season. While he has had a notable career and a wealth of experience, center back Giorgio Chiellini’s game isn’t necessarily suited to MLS — a physical, fast league that has exposed the Italian legend’s lack of pace. Something isn’t clicking in the back for LA right now, leaving room for Ménder García and Luis Amarilla to wreak havoc with some clever interplay and well-timed through balls to unleash García’s speed.