Storylines returns from the international break with clarity and purpose as Minnesota United returns to the pitch for their final two fixtures of the MLS regular season with playoff dreams intact, but with work still to do. Read on for further updates on what is required, as well as what’s on tap with the Loons heading to California to face the San Jose Earthquakes.
During the aforementioned international break, the games that were once in hand for some Western Conference teams were taken care of, leaving a clear picture of what is necessary for Minnesota (and everyone else) to make it into the playoffs. Minnesota can still rise as high as third with a significant amount of help, but the focus remains on the clinch. The Loons can clinch their playoff spot this weekend, most easily with a win, but they will need at least one other result to go their way however things go. Here are the possibilities:
- If Minnesota wins against San Jose on Saturday night, their eyes turn to Real Salt Lake’s clash against the LA Galaxy. If Real fails to win while Minnesota wins, the Loons will clinch a playoff spot regardless of any other results. If RSL win, MNUFC will need a Timbers draw or loss against LAFC in order to clinch.
- If Minnesota draws against San Jose, things get more complicated. A draw would keep the Loons just barely in range of both Seattle and Vancouver, pending their results. Vancouver plays Austin on Saturday night; Seattle plays in Kansas City on Sunday. Both teams would be on 43 points with wins, just three behind Minnesota’s theoretical 46, and in that scenario, Seattle would match Minnesota’s 13 wins and Vancouver would be just one behind with 12, ensuring progress in that tiebreaker with the necessary results on the season’s final day. Vancouver would need a remarkable swing in goal difference to actually pass the Loons, but if things were to go as listed above, it would be in the Whitecaps’ hands; Vancouver is Minnesota’s final opponent of the season. To sum it all up, for Minnesota to clinch with a draw, they would need both Seattle and Vancouver to fail to win, AND would need Salt Lake to lose outright (this would guarantee that Minnesota wins the first tiebreaker with Salt Lake, even though Real could still catch the Loons on points).
Got all that? Whether they win, lose, or draw with the Quakes, Minnesota United’s fate will likely be determined on Decision Day, but there are realistic scenarios for their playoff spot to be clinched this weekend with a positive result and a little help. As usual, their best bet is to win their match!
Minnesota United’s four returning internationals add strength to those who staycationed during the break. Dayne St. Clair was not featured in either of Canada’s matches but was on the bench for each game. Michael Boxall played in both of New Zealand’s matches against Australia, starting one of the two, while both Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales featured in Honduras’ 3-0 loss to Argentina. Could the experience of covering an all-time great like Lionel Messi give a boost to the Honduran midfielders in their return to the club? Or will the extra rest give Minnesota’s own Argentinian contingent in Franco Fragapane and Emanuel Reynoso a new freshness?
Quake It 'Til You Make It
It has been quite a while since the Loons and Earthquakes shared the pitch. The two clubs’ first meeting this season was in Week 4, all the way back in March, with a 1-0 MNUFC win at Allianz Field courtesy of Luis Amarilla’s second goal of the season. The season has not been nearly as kind to San Jose from the last meeting; the Quakes are bottom of the Western Conference, one of two teams scoring under a point per match and feature the league’s worst scoring defense with 67 goals allowed. That said, underestimate them at your peril. Despite San Jose’s single point from their last three matches, they have generated more xG than their opponent in each of the three games, just the second time all season they have done so. Leading scorer Jeremy Ebobisse has been quiet, with no goals from open play in the Quakes’ last four matches, but some might also say the striker is due with his 16 goals on the season (good enough for sixth in the Golden Boot race) a mark of quality. The Loons may need more than one goal to get the three points they hope to get from this match.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United FC
PayPal Park | San Jose, California
10.01.2022 | MLS Game No. 33
9:00 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)