As Allianz Field comes down from the joy of the MLS All-Stars’ triumph over Liga MX in the All-Star Game, Storylines has its eyes on Tennessee as Minnesota United heads south for an All-Star filled matchup with Nashville SC.
MVP! MVP! MVP!
Between Walker Zimmerman, Hany Mukhtar, Emanuel Reynoso and Dayne St. Clair, both Nashville and Minnesota were well represented in the events of All-Star Week in Minnesota. All four players took at least some part in the Skills Challenge — in addition to playing in the game on Wednesday night — with Mukhtar claiming the winning moment with a clutch crossbar hit. However, only one player among them was named the All-Star Game MVP, and that would be the Loons’ own St. Clair. St. Clair played in the middle third of the game, and made a couple of critical saves with the MLS side nursing a 1-0 lead. Returning to a Minnesota team which has allowed four goals in consecutive games, could a successful All-Star week inspire St. Clair (and his teammates) to carry the Loons to a defensive-focused victory, as he often did early in the season?
Mukhtar’s dramatic crossbar in the Skills Challenge was quite the moment, but his 13 MLS goals on the season will likely be more of a focus for the Loons defense as they prepare for Sunday’s match. Remarkably, one of the league’s leading scorers was held to just one goal in Nashville’s last three games, a penalty kick in the Tennessee side’s 4-3 defeat against Toronto last weekend. Mukhtar actually hasn’t scored from open play in MLS since July 13 against Seattle. That said, he’s still scored seven goals in Nashville’s last eight games, including a run of five straight games with at least one goal. More notably, while Nashville was successful early in the season before Mukhtar started scoring, they have not won a match that Mukhtar has not scored in since May 8 against Salt Lake (0-2-3 in that time). If Minnesota indeed hopes to maintain a more defensive focus than their previous games, stopping Mukhtar is likely to be their top priority.
While Minnesota put up quite the fight in their trip to the Rocky Mountains, the return of several key players from their yellow card accumulation suspensions might be beneficial to their squad depth, at the very least. All three of Michael Boxall, Robin Lod and Emanuel Reynoso are set to be available for selection after serving their suspensions during Minnesota’s match in Colorado. Reynoso (and Boxall and Lod) still have not played in a Minnesota loss since June 25 against Miami, and the availability of additional choices for Adrian Heath to make on Sunday afternoon and evening should be immensely beneficial for the Loons. Lest we forget, it has not been that many games since Reynoso scored his third brace of the season and ascended to being Minnesota’s leading scorer on the season, a title which Luis Amarilla now trails by just one goal. Fans of the Loons might enjoy seeing the two compete with each other to greater heights for the team’s success, now that they are likely to be reunited on the field.
Nashville SC v. Minnesota United FC
GEODIS Park | Nashville, Tennessee
08.14.2022 | MLS Game No. 25
8:00 p.m. CT (FS1, FOX Deportes, and 1500 ESPN)