Storylines 10-09

The crisp October air blows past Allianz Field as Storylines pulls its seasonal hoodie tight. The season’s end has arrived, and the Vancouver Whitecaps are Minnesota United’s opponent for Decision Day. With both clubs fighting to keep their seasons alive into the playoffs, there’s plenty of drama to go around.

All the Marbles

This game has the air of a mini-playoff game of its own, due to its impact on the standings. For Minnesota, it’s simple enough. Win or draw, and they are in the playoffs. A win would put them on 48 points and guarantee that they finished above at least Vancouver and Real Salt Lake. A draw would give them 46 and ensure that they finish above Vancouver and either the loser of Portland-Salt Lake, or above Salt Lake in case of a draw in that match. A Vancouver win would eliminate Minnesota regardless of what happens elsewhere, as the Whitecaps would replace the Loons in the playoffs. That said, if Minnesota does secure a victory, there could be even more optimism. A win paired with losses or draws by Portland, Nashville (@ LAFC) and LA Galaxy (@ Houston) would see the Loons rise all the way up to fourth and ensure that Allianz Field hosts a playoff game. There are many possibilities for Minnesota still, but each and every positive possibility requires a point or more.

Peaks and Valleys

To say that these two clubs are moving in opposite directions entering this game is almost understating it. Minnesota has secured just one point in their last six matches, managing just two goals across those games. Vancouver, meanwhile, bounced back from a season-worst three-match losing streak in early September and has won three straight matches — all over playoff teams or (at the time) playoff contenders — to bring their still-living playoff hopes to Minnesota for Decision Day. Ryan Gauld has been their leader for these wins, with two goals and two assists across the three games. Additionally, leading goalscorer Lucas Cavallini returned from suspension with a goal in the Whitecaps 2-0 win over Austin FC last weekend. Gauld and Cavallini between them have 17 of Vancouver’s 40 goals on the season (42.5%), and both in form constitute quite a threat for Minnesota to deal with. All of that said, there’s one boon for the Loons; Vancouver’s winning streak came exclusively at BC Place, and the ‘Caps have just two road wins all season, with the most recent coming in June.

The Hero

Every big moment needs a hero. With so much on the line this weekend, there will undoubtedly be several big moments in this match. The question we are left with is this: who will step up in those moments to be the hero? Based on current form, Vancouver’s pair of Gauld and Cavallini are the likely candidates for the Canadian side. Their outstanding play of late has been the key to pushing their team into playoff contention on the final day. Additionally, deadline acquisition Julian Gressel has notched a goal and an assist during the Whitecaps’ winning streak, making him another candidate for hero status. For the Loons, there is no obvious pick based on form. Emanuel Reynoso and Luis Amarilla remain the Loons leading goalscorers, with Amarilla just one goal shy of his first double-digit scoring season in MLS, and both are due for a goal. Neither scored in the month of September as Minnesota’s form worsened. MNUFC will need someone to reverse their lack of attacking output, whether it’s one of the usual suspects or perhaps a newer face. Mender García scored one of the two goals scored by the Loons in September, his first for the Loons. Perhaps the hero will be between the posts rather than shooting from the eighteen-yard box. The heroics of Dayne St. Clair have saved Minnesota throughout the season; one last clean sheet would get them across the line. The regular season’s final storyline will be written on Sunday afternoon; who will be its hero?

MATCH INFO

Minnesota United FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota

10.09.2022 | MLS Game No. 34

4:00 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)