Storylines is back once again for the 2023 home opener! Get ready to lift those scarves up because Saturday’s game is sure to be a good one. Minnesota United got a little taste of revenge last game with their 1-0 win over FC Dallas, and are now gearing up to face an opponent looking for some revenge of their own: the New York Red Bulls – actually from Jersey – who will want to redeem themselves for last season’s 1-0 loss to the Loons.
The last time these two teams met in regular season play, Dayne St. Clair’s career-high eight saves secured him a clean sheet, three points, and the starting goalkeeper spot. Dayne was a brick wall that allowed no red-donning bull through – in Red Bull Arena no less. MNUFC went on to win the match 1-0, and St. Clair won MLS Player of the Week – the only goalkeeper to be awarded this honor in 2022.
In 2022, both teams showcased strong defensive lines, and early indications point to that being the case this season as well. Both squads are coming off clean-sheet showings, as MNUFC held the offense-heavy FC Dallas scoreless in Week One, while NYRB also produced a shut-out in their home opener vs Nashville SC. The big difference, however, is the Red Bulls walked away with one point, while the Loons walked away with three.
Last week’s underwhelming result is especially disappointing for a New York squad that also failed to score in their season opener in Orlando, despite outshooting their opponents 14-6. A handball in the box awarded Orlando a penalty kick, and the Red Bulls walked away with zero points with a final score of 1-0 – a difficult start to the season.
In this matchup, it would generally be expected that MNUFC would be the aggressor early on, especially coming off a bye week and in their home opener. However, with two disappointing performances to start the season, New York will be hungry to find their first three points of the year on Saturday — and may be trying to enact a little revenge for what occurred last March.
NYRB is known for their aggressive pressing style of play – a very in-your-face tactic that they use to try to win the ball in their opponent's half. To combat this, MNUFC will need to be wary of passing mistakes in the back, be smart about possession, and look to find quick counterattacks. It’s a difficult style to break down; however, if the FC Dallas match proved anything for the Loons, it’s that if there’s a will there’s a way, and Minnesota is going to have a lot of will this weekend.
The Loons were successful in their Red Bull repellant tactics last season, and the team we will see on Saturday is very similar to that of 2022. Dayne is in as good of shape as ever, and his presence alone might send some shivers down the ol’ Bull’s spine. The MNUFC defense is just as solid, too, with great showings from new defenders Miguel Tapias and Zarek Valentin in the season opener. Luis Amarilla, the forward who scored against NYRB last year, will also be back for this game after missing the season opener due to visa issues. However, with the early second-half goal from Ménder García last match, it will be interesting to see what head coach Adrian Heath does with the lineup.
The New York Red Bulls haven’t had many significant roster changes since 2022, though they did acquire a new Designated Player in Dante Vanzeir. The Belgian center-forward joins New York from Royal Union Saint-Gilloise, where he made 92 appearances with the club, scoring 48 goals and tallying 21 assists. He has yet to notch a goal for the Red and White, but his scoring ability makes him one to look out for. Perhaps finally a challenge for St. Clair?
Pride is a big factor in this week's matchup. NYRB is looking to do unto MNUFC what was done unto them last season, and they are struggling to find traction early on, making them a bit frenzied to prove themselves. On the flip side, Minnesota United would no doubt rather lay on hot coals than come out of their home opener with anything other than three points. What happens when a bull meets a loon? Well, historically, the loon shuts them out, but this clash of stubborn willpower will shake the Midway and certainly be one to watch.
Minnesota United FC vs. New York Red Bulls
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
03.11.2023 | MLS Week No. 3 | MLS Game #2
7:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN)