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- THAT’S A NAME I’VE NOT HEARD IN A LONG TIME: Due to the regional nature of games last season amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota United have not faced Los Angeles Football Club in nearly two whole years. The two teams last met at Allianz Field in a 1-1 draw on September 29, 2019, but the last time the Loons went to Banc of California Stadium was on September 1 of that same year. It was there they pulled off one of the team’s most impressive victories, handing LAFC their first and ultimately only home loss of that season in a 2-0 win that featured a brace from young Mason Toye. For that match, Head Coach Adrian Heath went with a 5-3-2 formation and set up deep before springing the speedy Toye on the counterattack. With Michael Boxall out, it’s not clear that Heath has the depth currently to play a true three-at-the-back formation, so it’s unlikely we see something similar on Wednesday, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we see something closer to a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 to start the game. While a win is always the outcome to push for, splitting points is far preferable to dropping them entirely for the Loons right now and Heath knows this. Minnesota’s offense has yet to truly start clicking on all cylinders, with their 2-0 win over Austin FC back on June 23 as their only win by more than a single goal. The defense, on the other hand, has looked more the part, putting up three clean sheets in their last six games. Heath is not known for conservative play overall, but with another away game coming just three days after Wednesday’s, something may have to change at least a bit.
- NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS: It’s always been clear that Minnesota United were going to have to step things up considerably to overcome the 0-4 start that saw that sink to the bottom of the Western Conference after being tabbed as nearly a lock for a top seed before the season began. We’re now getting an understanding of exactly how hard the results of those first four games will be to overcome. The Loons’ 1.5 points per game is slightly better than LAFC’s 1.47 — although total points and goal differential both favor LAFC and put them a spot above MNUFC — but it’s well off the 2 points per game pace of Western Conference leaders Seattle and SKC. In the East, New England have managed 2.03 points per game so far. LAFC’s 2019 season, which saw them finish with a +48 goal differential and 72 points, had the Black and Gold scoring 2.12 points per game. But over their last 10 games, Minnesota United have lost only once and collected 21 points — a 2.1 points per game pace that’s just shy of LAFC’s historic 2019. And yet there’s still a lot of work for the Loons to do to climb up into the top seeds of the conference at this point and Head Coach Adrian Heath and his crew know it.
- GREAT, KID. DON’T GET COCKY: Minnesota’s win over Seattle served notice that the Loons were ready to go toe-to-toe with the top teams, while their win over Portland was arguably even more impressive as they adjusted in the second half and came from behind to take all three points. Against LAFC they will once again have to rise to the occasion against a team ahead of them in the standings, but on the horizon lie a very different set of challenges: three of their next four games are against opponents below them in the standings. With a schedule as compressed as MLS’, with double-game weeks aplenty, there are lots of opportunities for trap games where the foot comes off the gas becomes a team starts to feel itself a little too much. It’s not a thing the group decides to do, which can make it even harder to avoid. All it takes is for a few players to not quite bring their best, and then suddenly an average night can turn into a nightmare. MNUFC can ill afford to suffer losses at this point and especially not blowouts, as their goal differential remains in the red.