This week, Storylines is basking in the sun of a blazing hot summer, and finds similarities between its heat and the form of one particular Minnesota United player. What else can the Loons look forward to in Friday’s matchup with the Vancouver Whitecaps?
HOTTER THAN THE SUN:
If you’ve done no more than check the box scores to Minnesota’s last two games, a couple of things probably stood out to you. First, there have been a lot of goals, ten total across the two games. Second, there has been a whole lot of Emanuel Reynoso on those box scores. Reynoso came into last week’s game against the LA Galaxy with three goals on the season, two of which came from the penalty spot. His only open play goal of the season came in the Loons’ 3-0 win over Chicago in April. After arguably the best week of his career, and inarguably the best scoring week of his career, Reynoso has ascended to a new level. For context, Reynoso’s five goals in the 2021 MLS season were the most he’s scored in any league regular season. In five seasons in the Argentinian top flight, he scored just four total goals. In other words, Rey nearly matched both of those career outputs in two magnificent games. It would be thoroughly surprising if he were to keep this up given the wealth of data from the rest of his career, but here’s the key: Minnesota is 3-0 this season when Reynoso scores from open play. When he plays like this, the Loons are a different beast.
REST AND RECOVERY:
Another key detail is not as positive. The Loons did come away with two great wins over the Galaxy and Salt Lake, but they were not without trepidation, as Minnesota gave up two late goals in both games to turn comfortable leads into exciting finishes. However, it should be noted that with last week being a triple game week, many players had played the better part of 270 minutes across eight days, and Adrian Heath acknowledged as much after Sunday’s match. “But you know, you can't deny that we let the other team back in the game today, and that’s a concern,” he said. “I was more concerned on Wednesday because tonight I think there was a little bit of fatigue.” With an almost-full week of rest and practice at home before traveling to western Canada for a somewhat strangely timed match, one would expect that the Loons will be ready for a road game in a challenging stadium.
UNLOCK THE DEFENSE:
Vancouver’s three-game undefeated streak has been built on their defense. It’s hard to lose matches when you don’t give up goals, and that’s exactly what the Whitecaps haven’t done. Three consecutive clean sheets from Cody Cropper and the Whitecaps defense have set the Canadian squad up for success. It has now been 271 minutes since Vancouver allowed a goal, the final goal of their last loss and a match that Minnesota should be looking to for inspiration, the 4-0 shellacking handed out by the Seattle Sounders. Seattle’s opening goal in particular is something that might have Minnesota’s attention. When Seattle pressed Vancouver, good things happened all game long, and it started with Raul Ruidiaz in the ninth minute. Ruidiaz stole the ball from the Vancouver midfield, and ran right to goal, eventually leading to a penalty that was converted. Ruidiaz had a second-half opportunity that arose from a similar situation. Minnesota has the personnel and the scheme to exert similar pressure on Vancouver and attack in transition, and that might be the key to ending the Whitecaps’ dominant defense.
Minnesota United FC v. Vancouver Whitecaps
BC Place | Vancouver, BC, Canada
Friday, July 8
9:30 pm CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)