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- 1V1 ME, BRO: Things haven’t changed very much in the Western Conference playoff picture since Minnesota last took the pitch against the Houston Dynamo. SKC slid below Colorado, but for the Loons, the most important thing is the five points separating them in fifth from the LA Galaxy in fourth. Five points also separate MNUFC from 10th place San Jose and in between them are LAFC, Vancouver, RSL and Portland. The good/bad news for Minnesota United is that their next three opponents beginning with Seattle this week are above them in the standings. How is it good to face the Sounders and then SKC and then the Galaxy, you ask? Simply put, beating those teams doesn’t just give the Loons three points, it also takes three points away from a team above them in the standings. Taking three off Houston is nice and all, but while the Black and Blue are doing that, a team in the top four can be beating the pants off someone else. While neither Head Coach Adrian Heath nor the players seemed eager to buy into it, the preseason hype on MNUFC was clearly that they would contend for a top one or two seed in the West. A calamitous first four games put the postseason in doubt but now that they’ve climbed back up into playoff position, the challenge is back to fighting their way into a first round home game. Like they say, to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.
- ROLLING IN THE DP: Against Houston, Head Coach Adrian Heath was forced by a combination of injuries, suspensions and simple wear and tear to do without regular starters like Emanuel Reynoso, Bakaye Dibassy and Robin Lod. Then there’s the extended absence of left winger Franco Fragapane, who looked electric in the six games he’s gotten to play. Whoever from that group can go is likely to see the pitch, but were there any major takeaways from the win against the Dynamo that could shape Heath’s approach? Forward Adrien Hunou broke a scoring drought with a brace and in particular looked inspired playing off new acquisition and big forward Fanendo Adi. While history would say the likelihood of seeing a true two-striker lineup from Heath from the start is low, it’s not impossible we see Hunou doing more interchanging with Reynoso or possibly Lod, adding an element of unpredictability to the attack that Minnesota could really use. Down the stretch in 2020, we saw Reynoso, Lod and Kevin Molino all functioning to some extent as playmakers and goal scorers in a fluid way. A bit more of that might better suit the team, and if the Loons need a goal late, there’s always Adi to come in and provide a big target.
- LOOKING PNW AND FEELING MINNESOTA: Seattle may have held the upper hand overall when it comes to soccer, but when it comes to music, things gets considerably more complicated. The Emerald City is known overwhelmingly for its contribution to alternative music in the early ‘90s thanks to an arm’s length list of bands headlined by Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. A little past them in the mid ‘90s lies seminal emo band Sunny Day Real Estate, but Seattle also boasts ‘70s and ‘80s women-in-rock icons Heart and a pair of killer singer-songwriters in Neko Case (from nearby Tacoma) and Brandi Carlile. Of course, it’s also the hometown of Jimi Hendrix — although Hendrix never looked back once he left in 1961 to join the US Army. That makes him more than a little like one of Minnesota’s favorite musical sons, Bob Dylan, whom the Land of 10,000 Lakes loves to claim even though he as well left young. Dylan, at least, came back to finish making his landmark 1975 chronicle of heartbreak, Blood on the Tracks, with a band of Minnesota musicians. Minnesota’s alternative moment began just ahead of grunge in the mid to late ‘80s and was spearheaded by the Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum and the alt-country of the Jayhawks and the slowcore of Low. There’s also been a perhaps surprisingly robust hip-hop, funk and R&B scene on a low simmer ever since Prince first put the Twin Cities on that map in the early ‘80s. Besides Morris Day and The Time and wonder-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the Twin Cities have been a breeding ground for indie rap like Atmosphere and Dessa, Saint Paul’s own Mint Condition and — most recently — mega-crossover star Lizzo. Seattle’s biggest hip-hop success is … Macklemore. Ultimately, Seattle circa ’91 put up a championship run worthy of any top-heavy, star-laden team that racks up the hardware before breaking up. Minnesota’s musical pedigree might never have been so singular or newsworthy, but it’s arguably been longer, more consistent and more diverse. Oh and Kenny G is from Seattle, so a negative million points for that.