Storylines Presented by BMW | #MINvHOU
- EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS: With two early strikes from a fresh and healthy Emanuel Reynoso, MNUFC managed to do something they haven’t often done this season, and that’s wildly outperform their expected goals total. It’s no secret that the Loons have often left goals on the table and not just in losses and draws, but also in many of their one-goal wins. The result has been that the team has underperformed their expected goals total of 35.79 by 8.79 goals. But in their 3-0 win over the Galaxy on Saturday, Minnesota actually only managed 0.7 xG to LA’s 0.6. Most of that total came from Ethan Finlay, whose two shots had an xG of 0.45. Both of Reynoso’s goals came from beyond the box and his four total shots only added up to 0.13 xG. This was, in short, what Head Coach Adrian Heath likes to refer to as “a bit of reward for their hard work.” Over the course of a season, playing above your head — scoring goals on shots that have no business going in — tends to end up with coming back down to Earth. For the Loons to get into the top end of the Western Conference come the postseason, they’ll need to play a bit more above their heads down the stretch.
- REVIVAL OF THE FITTEST: Following a rugged winless stretch going all the way back to May 22 and a 2-1 win over Vancouver, the Dynamo have now rung up two wins at home and a draw on the road in the last three games. At least some of that surge could be attributed to erstwhile Loon Darwin Quintero, who made his first three starts of the season and provided an assist and a penalty kick goal. At 34, Quintero may not be the one-man wrecking crew he was for MNUFC when he came into the league in 2018, but combined with speed demon and scoring machine Fafà Picault — who has 10 goals on the season — the Dynamo have provided whiffs of the scoring nous they used to flash on a regular basis when the frontline was spearheaded by Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas. Houston may have never wrangled three points from the Loons at either TCF Bank Stadium or Allianz Field, but that doesn’t mean MNUFC can take a win for granted at this point in the season. Every home game is a must win.
- WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN: Houston have the dubious distinction of being the last team in MLS without a road win on the season. The Chicago Fire got off this particular struggle bus on August 28 with a 1-0 win against the Red Bulls and the Vancouver Whitecaps managed a 2-1 win at Q2 Arena against Austin FC back on August 18. This is hardly new territory for the Dynamo, who have won a grand total of six regular season games on the road since 2017. Away games are notoriously difficult for most teams in MLS, but even MNUFC have managed 14 regular season wins in their history in the league, which — you may remember — was hardly covered in glory at the start. The home-away disparity is there in most leagues, but the reason it’s so pronounced in MLS is hard to pin down. Part of it is likely down to the difficulties of travel. Although charter travel has come to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, most teams flew commercial up until 2020, with all of the inherent disruptions and aggravations that all of us endure in air travel. Teams in MLS are also simply traveling farther than teams in leagues like the EPL. That means it not only takes longer to get to games, players experience a wider variety of climates. It could be hot and humid in Houston, then rainy and gray in Portland, then snowing in Minnesota, all within a few weeks. On top of that, those different climates can mean different kinds of surfaces from artificial to various grasses to hybrid surfaces. All of these things might be working together in various ways to give homefield advantage a boost, but in Minnesota, we like to chalk it up to the Wonderwall.