Minnesota United FC vs. Real Salt Lake
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
5.27.2023 | MLS Matchday No. 15 | MLS Game 14
7:30 p.m. CT (Exclusively on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass)
The Loons are back after a two-stop road trip that saw them earn a late win in Portland and exit the U.S. Open Cup in Houston. Allianz Field will welcome Real Salt Lake to the Twin Cities on Saturday, a side looking for a spark to really ignite their season. With just three points separating these sides, this weekend’s matchup promises to be tightly contested, much like the last time RSL came to town. The Loons came out of that match with a 3-2 win, but a late surge from the visitors made it anything but comfortable.
Minnesota United -
Run of Form: W-L-W-W-L
Despite their midweek USOC hiccup, Minnesota United’s form has been trending positively as of late. Big performances from Bongi have given the Loons the threat they desperately needed up top, making for solid showings against Portland and Houston in league play. The back line appears to have found their way once more, stringing together consecutive clean sheets for the first time in 2023. Another home match will likely help them forget about the Cup disappointment and get back to business as usual against an often uninspiring Real Salt Lake. If fullbacks Kemar Lawrence and DJ Taylor can keep their level as high as it has been recently, there’s little reason to worry about whatever wide-threat RSL will present.
Real Salt Lake -
Run of Form: D-W-L-D-W
It seems that every season, RSL is right in the middle of the pack, flirting with the playoffs and pulling off a few surprises each year. As far as MLS franchises go, they’re the definition of steady Eddie; good enough to get by but nothing to write home about. 2023 has been no exception to that rule, with the Claret and Cobalt currently sitting 11th in the Western Conference on 15 points. Recent draws against Portland and Houston were lackluster, but a high-scoring affair against Colorado reminded fans that this team can indeed score on their night. Come Saturday, we’ll have to see which version of RSL shows up: boring and efficient or reckless and exciting.
Keys to the Match:
The less said about the U.S. Open Cup match, the better. Some nights aren’t your night, and some nights are worse than that. That’s part of the game; you have to ride the highs and lows while you push onward and aim upward. While there are lessons to be learned from any failure, sometimes it’s best to simply move on. The mistakes and challenges the Loons faced in that game are clear, but no amount of analysis is going to change what happened. The players need to forget about what went wrong and resist the urge to play with their tails tucked between their legs. Like Ted Lasso would say, it’s best to be a goldfish.
Real Salt Lake typically plays a 4-4-2, which means two strikers will be bothering Boxy and Micky all game long. Whoever slots in at holding midfield will have to be prepared to sit a bit deeper than usual to deal with the additional threat in the middle; otherwise, the fullbacks could be pulled too central and leave space for RSL’s wide midfielders. This is a subtle shift that won’t surprise the MNUFC back line, but it’s important to be prepared for every necessary tactical adjustment. Should the visitors opt for a 4-2-3-1 instead of their usual, the Black and Blue should feel comfortable playing their usual game without need for modification.
Shouldering the Lod
After his injury last week, Robin Lod left big shoes for Adrian Heath to try and fill. To deal with the absence of the Finn, Heath can either swap like-for-like personnel into his spot or rethink the team’s formation altogether. Could Joseph Rosales fill the role? Franco Fragapane? With such a versatile piece of the lineup missing, it may be difficult for the Loons to adapt right away. Regardless, there are new questions that need answers in MNUFC’s lineup at the moment, and it’s best for everyone if those answers come sooner rather than later.