The hint of fall weather is finally in the air as Minnesota United prepares to welcome Los Angeles FC to Allianz Field for another critical MLS clash. Storylines is prepared for anything, comfortably dressed and hoping to see the end of a Loon losing skid.
Out of Shape
Minnesota continued their poor run of form with their 1-0 loss in Portland on Saturday afternoon, their third consecutive loss. However, they are not the only team in Tuesday’s game searching for a hint of confidence. LAFC, the West’s first-place team, are in the midst of one of their worst runs of form since they entered MLS. They still maintain a significant lead in the West, but have outright lost the lead for the Supporters’ Shield after four losses in their previous five matches. This directly followed a season-best seven-game winning streak, during which they clinched a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Their spot is in no danger (there’s a chance that they clinch the West’s first seed even with a loss this weekend), but one suspects they would like to both find form before the playoffs and also attempt to get their fingertips back on the Supporters’ Shield once again.
A cautionary tale when looking at LAFC’s form is to look at their goal-scoring habits. They have been held to just two clean sheets all season, and the most recent of those was over two months ago despite their wobble in form. However, their talisman and captain in Carlos Vela has been notably quiet during that very wobble. Vela has gone six games without scoring, his second-longest such stretch of the season, and has recorded just two assists in his last 11 games. They have obviously received plenty of support from elsewhere on the roster (more on that later), but one suspects that Vela individually will be looking to find a spark. The same could be said for notable summer signing Gareth Bale, who has just two goals since his move from Real Madrid to the MLS across nine appearances and none in LAFC’s last five games.
Man on Fire
As noted, LAFC haven’t entirely stopped scoring even during their dip in form, and that can be laid almost entirely at the feet of the club’s leading scorer this year, Cristian Arango. Arango has abruptly made his way into the league’s top five goalscorers on the season with 16 total, thanks to a recent run of form that has belied LAFC’s lack of results. Arango has scored in four straight games, and has 13 of his 16 goals on the season since the June international break. Arango surpassed his 2021 career best of 14 recently, and has scored 15 of his 16 goals this season from open play, by far a career best. Arango has been doing his best to keep the ship afloat without perhaps the level of support he has become accustomed to in Los Angeles (though, to be fair, LAFC still has the league’s second-best offense with a whopping 60 goals this season), making him yet another remarkable threat for Minnesota’s backline to track.
Minnesota United FC vs. LAFC
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
09.13.2022 | MLS Game No. 31
7:00 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)