Minnesota United FC vs. New York Red Bulls
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
3.11.2023 | MLS Week No. 3 | MLS Game 2
7:30 p.m. CT (Exclusively on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)
Oh, Allianz Field, how we have missed you so! Come matchday, it will have been 153 days since Minnesota United last played in front of a home audience. Last time out, they downed Vancouver 2-0 to secure their spot in the MLS Playoffs. This time around, they’ll be opening the regular season rather than ending it, but the objective remains the same. Two wins on the trot would be the perfect way to open 2023, but it won’t be easy.
Run of Form: W
After an opening day win against FC Dallas, the Loons were treated to an early bye week. Though one game is hardly a big enough sample size to draw conclusions from, MNUFC looked defensively sound in week one. New signings Miguel Tapias and Zarek Valentin slotted in perfectly across the backline, allowing just one shot on target from a Dallas team filled with attacking talent. With less than 40% possession on the night, the Loons made the most of their counter-attacks to snatch all three points. This week’s opponent is one of the highest pressing teams in the league; between that and the home atmosphere, this game will probably look much different than week one.
New York Red Bulls -
Run of Form: L-D
Two matches down, just one point picked up between them and another road match already. It’s been a rough few opening weeks for New Jersey’s MLS team. The margins have been fine, though, and the Red Bulls have played two quality opponents in Orlando City and Nashville SC. It would be unwise to underestimate Gerhard Struber’s squad on Saturday, as they have the talent, energy, and tactical discipline to challenge any team in this league. Last year’s matchup between these teams was an exciting 1-0 win for the Loons, thanks largely to a brilliant performance from Dayne St. Clair. No matter how it shakes out, this one should be fun to watch.
Keys to the Match
C’mon, Do Something
Minnesota United’s play in the final third was a bit disjointed against Dallas. Aside from a few effective counter-attacks, they seemed to be lacking ideas and a cutting edge. Obviously, the absence of your star attacking midfielder complicates things, and goes pretty far in explaining the perceived lack of firepower. Regardless, the signs of life were there: good link up play between Bongi and Ménder, a bright second half from Mr. García, and a nigh impregnable backline proved that the Loons have all the pieces to take the next step — as soon as someone steps into that creative attacking role to connect the team.
The Boy From Beringen
From the nation that brought you waffles, Dr. Evil, and insanely good chocolate comes Major League Soccer’s next big thing: Dante Vanzeir. The 24-year-old Belgian striker notched 48 goals in 92 games in the Belgian Pro League with Union SG, an impressive scoring rate in any league. Vanzeir made his MLS debut as a substitute against Nashville last weekend, though he failed to break the deadlock. With some minutes under his belt and another week of training, the Red Bulls’ new ace is the most likely candidate to cause problems for the Loons backline. Everyone loves a debut goal, but Vanzeir is going to have to earn it with Dayne St. Clair in the net.
Oh Great, More Snow.
Check the forecast, Minnesotans. Chance of snow every day from Wednesday to Sunday? That sounds about right! While the Loons are no strangers to dealing with the cold, a wintery mix certainly doesn’t make the game any easier. There’s a chance that it’ll look like boot soccer out there on Saturday, a possibility that will make every aspect of the game more unpredictable. An icy field will make life especially difficult for the goalkeepers, who will likely have to resort to punching the ball clear rather than attempting to catch what is effectively a snowball. If there’s enough snow, tactics have to change for both sides. Don’t worry too much, though, the low temperature this weekend is just 20 degrees. There probably won’t be any freezing beer this time around. Probably.