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Storylines would be more ready for a trip to the hot South Florida sun had it not broken 100° in the Twin Cities this week. Are Loons snowbirds? Minnesota United makes their first trip to DRV PNK Stadium to play their first ever game against Inter Miami CF, and here are your keys to the game.

Dos O Cero?

In each of Miami’s last eight MLS fixtures, they have scored either two goals or have been shut out. They have achieved each outcome four times, and (as you might expect) have been significantly more successful in the games in which they’ve scored twice (10 of a possible 12 points, as opposed to one of 12 in the games where they’ve been held scoreless). It is reductive to say that Minnesota would have better odds of success in this match if they were to keep a clean sheet, but it’s also a simple fact. But wait, there’s more! Minnesota will also have to break the other critical piece of this pattern in order to achieve success. Each of Miami’s previous four scoreless games came on the road, and you guessed it, each of the two-goal games came at DRV PNK Stadium. In fact, Miami hasn’t been shut out at home since March. The Loons have their work cut out for them, but one objective is clear.

Great Expectations

To dig into some advanced stats, the front four that started Minnesota’s loss to New England is due for some goals, but it might not be who you expect that seems the most due by the numbers. Luis Amarilla returned to join Franco Fragapane, Emanuel Reynoso and Robin Lod in the attack on Sunday. Lod, Amarilla and Reynoso are United’s only multiple-goal scorers in MLS on the season, and all four attackers are Minnesota’s four leaders in expected goals on the season. Lod has scored six goals to go with 5.3 xG, Reynoso has three to go with exactly 3.0 xG, and Amarilla has two to go with 2.4 xG. What’s missing? Fragapane’s goals. Fragapane has almost matched Amarilla’s xG output with 2.3 xG of his own (in 77 fewer minutes), but doesn’t yet have a goal to his name in MLS this season. If there’s an expectation for someone’s luck or opportunities to pay off, consider Franco Fragapane.

Legendary

Between First Touches and our first two paragraphs here, we have written many words about Inter Miami, and are yet to note their most well-known and experienced player on the global scale in Gonzalo Higuain. Higuain, the third-highest paid player in MLS and one of Miami’s foundational players since 2020, started his career as an 18-year-old playing for little old Real Madrid in Spain, where he spent seven seasons, winning three La Liga titles and scoring 117 goals across all competitions. He also played for Napoli, Juventus and AC Milan in Italy and Chelsea in England before coming to the States in 2020. In 2021, he scored 12 goals and recorded nine assists; he led Miami in both stats, and only Hany Mukhtar, Damir Kreilach and Gustavo Bou matched or beat both those numbers in MLS last season. He has been hampered by multiple injuries thus far this season, but appeared off the bench in Miami’s final four games before the international break, and was available but unused as a substitute in their 2-0 loss to Atlanta on Sunday. Higuain has just two goals and an assist this year so far in the league, but it would be hard to bet against someone of his caliber taking advantage of an opportunity, even in limited minutes.

MATCH INFO

Inter Miami CF vs. Minnesota United FC

DRV PNK Stadium | Miami, FL

06.26.22 | MLS League Game #16

7:00 pm CST (MLS Live on ESPN+, Bally Sports North, The CW-Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)