Welcome to 2 United 2 Storylines, featuring a United battle of D.C. United and Minnesota United in both teams’ second game of the week. Allianz Field opens once again, and Minnesota looks to take all three points after securing one against Kansas City on Wednesday. Here are some things to watch for.
Walk The Line
Minnesota’s goal in Wednesday evening’s game was created by a beautiful Kemar Lawrence cross and a little bit of fortune, as Andreu Fontàs’ attempted clearance hit the back of his own goalkeeper and rolled into the Kansas City net. In the game’s second half, they had what appeared to be a beautiful team goal finished by Luis Amarilla, but the goal was called back due to an offside call on Franco Fragapane in the buildup. In fact, this was a recurring issue for the Minnesota attack on Wednesday night. The Loons had their lowest attacking output by xG in their last eight matches, and this was at least partially due to offside calls. Minnesota was called for offside no fewer than eight times on Wednesday, twice as many as their previous season high of four against the LA Galaxy. This was more offside calls than the Loons had been whistled for in any previous two MLS games this season combined. It was an unusual issue for the Loons, and one that they will surely look to adjust on Saturday.
New Manager Bounce
While he is unable to officially walk the touchline for D.C yet, the capital’s team made a seismic announcement on Tuesday when they announced that their former designated player and legend of the game, Wayne Rooney, would be the club’s new manager upon the reception of his work visa from the United States. Rooney, most notably of Manchester United and Everton, spent 2018 and 2019 playing for D.C., and most recently served as the manager of Derby County in the Championship in England. Rooney was present at D.C.’s draw against Columbus on Wednesday, and one would assume he’ll make the trip to Minnesota to support the team this weekend. Rooney himself was 1-1 against Minnesota in his MLS career, captaining D.C. in both meetings between the teams, a 2-1 win in Washington in 2018 and a 1-0 loss at Allianz Field in 2019; he did not score against the Loons. While D.C. only drew in their first game after the announcement on Wednesday, there was some new spring in the squad’s steps; their xG of 2.8 against Columbus was their best mark of the entire season, and their allowed xG of 0.5 was also their best effort of the year.
Hailing The Taxi
It is impossible to acknowledge the D.C. United attack without looking first at Taxiarchis Fountas, their designated player, leading goalscorer, and newly named All-Star for 2022. Coincidentally, Fountas was a coach’s pick for the All-Star team, chosen by Adrian Heath himself. Fountas is one of three players in MLS to score 40% or more of his team’s goals (Leonardo Campana of Miami and Hany Mukhtar of Nashville), and is a tremendous threat to a Minnesota defense that continues to search for a clean sheet. Fountas can take care of business in and out of the box, with three of his last goals converting his teammates’ crosses, but the fourth a perfect strike from 20 yards set up by a set-piece to finish his hat-trick against Orlando on July 4. His right foot is D.C.’s biggest threat, and it will be quite the challenge for the Loons to keep him away from Dayne St. Clair’s goal.
Minnesota United FC v. D.C. United
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
Saturday, July 16 | MLS Regular Season - Game #21
7:00 pm CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)