Storylines is back and, fortunately, undergoing a short bout of amnesia…specifically, the last thing I can remember is anything from Tuesday evening around 7 p.m. until, well, now. Fortunately, there are other matchups on the horizon this weekend. So, rather than dwell on the past and dig into lost memories from Tuesday night, we’ll refocus on Saturday night’s game at Allianz Field, where the Loons will face the pride of Utah, Real Salt Lake.
Utah’s finest have typically been known to stick to a 4-4-2 lineup. With two strikers manning the front end of the RSL attack, there’s no doubt that the Loons defensive back line will need to have their heads on a swivel from start to finish against RSL. Not only that, but more than usual, the Loons midfield will have to take up part of the responsibility that comes with dropping to the back third to add some protection to keeper Dayne St Clair. The biggest question regarding the whole idea of dropping back to play help? Who will be available to help the concerted effort to keep RSL off their game and off-kilter on the attack?
For the Loons, the versatile Robin Lod will not be available, and not just for this game, but unfortunately for a longer duration of time than anyone associated with MNUFC would ever want to see. With a torn meniscus sidelining Robin for the remainder of the season, Adrian Heath is suddenly down one of his most consistent and versatile contributors — a player he could reliably pencil into the starting XI in any number of positions. Now, that consistency will give way to more questions about who amongst the midfielders on the roster can step up fully, or at least partially, to fill some very important boots moving forward. Not any easy task, for sure.
Apparently, Kervin Arriaga may have gotten himself a couple of yellow cards that would end up earning him a red card and an early exit from the…well…unfortunately, that happened to come at a time when the amnesia was in full swing. That said, according to some online reading, those red cards don’t count towards league play. And, when you consider the fact Arriaga is a defensive-minded midfielder, his presence on Saturday night would be a welcome addition to the lineup and help keep Real Salt Lake’s offensive-minded lineup at bay.
But, beyond Arriaga, who else on this Loons roster do we expect to bring some versatility to the starting XI for Saturday night? If offensive firepower is something the boys need to make more of a priority, the equally versatile Sang Bin Jeong would also be able to provide the combination of offensive prowess and defensive troublemaking the Loons need to break up the attacking push of Real Salt Lake.
Not to be outdone in the versatility department is Hassani Dotson, whose return from a torn ACL that kept him out the majority of the 2022 season now takes on an even more important stature in the lineup. His play this year has shown really no signs of post-injury rust, and he has proven just how much he means to the club’s ability to adapt in the face of uncertainty amongst the starting XI. Obviously, Cap Trapp will be in the mix when defense is the priority in terms of strategy. On the flip side, if the Loons are to add pressure to the attacking third, one would expect to see Joseph Rosales and his speed gain more minutes within the midfield.
The hope, it would seem, would be to bring a great deal of versatility to a midfield that’s able to cover enough ground to keep the defensive line clean. Thankfully, the Loons have the kind of depth that makes it possible to at least try to recreate the impact Robin Lod has had at both ends of the field. It’s good to know this roster has the players to support the club in Lod’s absence, but now comes the tough part: figuring out the right formula for the starting XI to make that absence have less of an impact.
Minnesota United FC vs. Real Salt Lake
Allianz Field | St. Paul, MN
05.27.2023 | MLS Game #14
7:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN)