Storylines is back and, similarly to Lizzo, is 🎵 feeling good as hell 🎵 about what we all got to see on the pitch at Allianz Field this past Sunday night. With their opening game of the Leagues Cup, and only ten men on the field for the majority of it, the Loons certainly rose to the occasion to register a resounding 4-0 win over Puebla. The obvious standouts of the evening would be el Rey and Bongi, with each getting a brace and an assist, and leaving Puebla defenders with nightmares for the foreseeable future. But, even with that gruesome two-some, the Loons had others that would play very big roles in holding down the fort once defender Michael Boxell got the dreaded red 30 minutes into the match. Midfielders Kervin Arriaga and Hassani Dotson proved up to the task of holding Puebla from getting close to the net, dropping back to fill the void left by Boxall’s exit and coming up with some critical plays on both ends of the pitch and, along with another stellar showing in net from Dayne St. Clair, helping to keep the clean sheet in tact for the duration. Now, before becoming too enamored by the onslaught that was, MNUFC need to turn their focus to game 2 of the group stage and a date with MLS club and NBC drama series, Chicago Fire.
We saw this show earlier in the regular season, April 8 down at Soldier Field, which would end up being a 2-1 loss to the Fire that would extinguish the Loons unbeaten streak to start the season and send them stumbling a bit through the rest of that month. But, that April matchup seems like a distant memory compared to the present, in which el Rey and Pukki are present as well, and the Loons of late look quite different from the squad Chicago met earlier in the season. Minnesota will be entering Thursday night’s matchup with a big absence from their lineup, however, that being one, Michael Boxall. Whether it be too harsh of a call or not, the boys will be without his services on Thursday. Now, at a point in the season where the Black and Blue attack is becoming more solidified, it’s the club’s usually steady defense that’s in a state of flux, as fellow defensive wall Micky Tapias’ availability for Thursday isn’t guaranteed either.
Just as the Loons have seen an upturn in their recent run of form, Chicago happens to find themselves in a similar spot coming into Thursday night. The Fire have found a bit more success since Frank Klopas took over as the head man in May, stringing together a couple 1-0 victories prior to the pause for Leagues Cup play. The ageless wonder that is Kei Kamara continues to put goalkeepers on notice, and can certainly be the type of player to exploit a defense without its Boxy anchoring the middle. Another contributor that could factor into the matter is Xherdan Shaqiri, as he has the intangibles to come up big in a big spot.
Regardless of how the Loons intend to gameplan for the absence of Boxy and, possibly, Tapias on Thursday, let’s hope the boys can match the kind of defensive performance they put in on Sunday while missing a man in the back. With a full eleven on the field and a burgeoning connection amongst the Loons attacking third, not to mention having Bakaye Dibassy back there to at least mind part of the store, MNUFC has a great opportunity to punch their ticket out of the group stage and on to the Round of 32.
Minnesota United vs. Chicago Fire
07.27.2023 | Allianz Field | St Paul, MN
Leagues Cup - Group Stage | Game #2
7:30 p.m. CT | MLS Season Pass - Free