MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. REAL SALT LAKE
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
04.24.2021 | MLS Week No. 2 | MLS Game No. 2
7:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North, The CW Twin Cities, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
2021 Regular Season Records:
RSL: 0-0-0 (0-0-0 on the road)
MIN: 0-1-0 (0-0-0 at home)
At long last, Minnesota United will get the home opener they were denied in 2020 when the season was suspended after two wins on the road. The Loons are set to face Real Salt Lake in front of about 4,000 fans for the first time in 552 days and the team is no doubt chomping at the bit to wash the taste of their season-opening 4-0 loss to Seattle from their mouths. Look for them to try to combine the defensive pressure that had them dominating possession in the first half with a dose of improved coordination and finishing in the final third to spoil the Claret-and-Cobalt’s first game of 2021.
Real Salt Lake come into 2021 having missed the playoffs last year after two straight seasons of advancing to the Western Conference Quarterfinals. A year after goalkeeper and club legend Nick Rimando retired, midfielder and club legend Kyle Beckerman hung up his spurs. The organization itself is going through an upheaval as Dell Loy Hansen exits as owner following allegations of racist and misogynist behavior. In short, it’s hardly the position Head Coach Freddy Juarez would like to be in in his second season. But crisis breeds opportunity and without the weight of expectations, Juarez now has the chance to put his stamp on a team that still features talented players like Albert Rusnak, Damir Kreilach and the recently-signed Bobby Wood. The Claret-and-Cobalt might not be hosting a home game in the playoffs’ first round this year, but they shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated in any game.
ETHAN FINLAY ON PLAYING IN FRONT OF FANS IN SEATTLE
“It was really exciting. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t super excited even though it wasn’t our fans. It was great to see people in the stands, to hear what real cheers and real jeers sound like again. It’s one of the reasons we play this sport. Not that last year wasn’t a good experience, or even a fair and balanced experience, but there’s something about competing in front of your home fans or going to an away stadium and having the team boo you and having that feeling of ‘Hey, it’s just us. It’s just the guys in blue tonight. Just the guys in grey tonight.’ Whatever we’re wearing that night. I personally like that: that mentality and I rally behind that. When we come right out on this field, 45 minutes before the game, and the place is filled with 17,000 people already, an hour before the game, that’s fun. That’s exciting. That’s what makes most of these guys in this locker room go. It really does. The opportunity to compete in front of your friends and your family and the people that support you, that’s the real privilege that we have. I’m excited, I know it will only be a couple thousand here right off the bat, but I think based off how loud they’ve been in the past, they’ll be cheering extra hard for everyone who can’t be there.”
ADRIAN HEATH ON PREPARING FOR AN RSL TEAM THAT HASN'T PLAYED A GAME YET
“We got what we’ve been able to get from preseason. But it’s never the same. I think it would have been nice to have watched them play a meaningful game and seen their shape and see the way that they’re performing. And see their patterns with and without the ball. So we’ll have to wait and see. But, hey, at the end of the day, it’s what we do. We always respect the opposition. We don’t fear them. We give them the respect that they deserve. They’re always competitive. They always have a really good go, I always feel, Salt Lake. The games against them are traditionally tight, and I don’t expect any different. But I’m more concerned with the way we play.”MORE
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A FORMER REVOLUTION NO. 9: Down the stretch and in the playoffs last year, Heath seemed to hit on a simple but effective answer for Minnesota’s lack of scoring punch up front: Robin Lod as a false 9. Empowering the winger to lead the attack but also drop back to facilitate wreaked havoc on opposing teams as Emanuel Reynoso, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay and Lod combined to form a four-headed monster of dribbling, passing and finishing. The returns with Lod up top against Seattle were not so crisp, plus Hassani Dotson playing on the left wing was more workmanlike than wondrous, so does Heath go with a different look in the attacking four? If Ábila is not yet ready to go a full 90, it’s possible we see another offseason acquisition, Juan Agudelo, at forward. The former New England Revolution and Inter Miami player has a bit of everything in his kitbag so he could provide some welcome flexibility in and around the box.
• Minnesota has not lost to Real Salt Lake since June 17, 2017, a 1-0 defeat in the final minutes at Rio Tinto Stadium
SOUND OF THE LOONS: LOONS SUPERLEAGUE
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