Minnesota United returns to TCF Bank Stadium to host Real Salt Lake following a two-match road trip. Both teams have had rocky starts to their 2017 campaigns, and both are looking to get into the win column for the first time. With a lot of players returning to their squads after a busy weekend, both teams should be near full strength for Saturday.
Here are three things to keep your eye on this weekend.
Under New Management
After three seasons in charge, Jeff Cassar was relieved of his head coaching duties following a lackluster opening to the 2017 season. In their first three matches, RSL managed just one goal and one point — not an ideal start after making the playoffs last year. Goalkeeping Coach Daryl Shore has stepped in as the interim manager, jumping into the fire against New York Red Bulls on the road. Despite missing a few veterans, including starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando, Shore rallied his troops to a scoreless draw.
While the scoring didn’t show up in his first match, Shore’s men locked down the defensive side against one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the league. To be fair to RSL, scoring on Luis Robles is no walk in the park.
General manager Craig Waibel has stated that the club intends to find a replacement coach very soon, but until then Shore will have the reins. Strong results could build a case for making the temporary manager the full-time man in charge, meaning these next few matches will be crucial. Shore will certainly be looking to right the ship for RSL first and foremost, but a good showing in his personal audition wouldn’t hurt either.
It was a tough weekend for the Loons with a roster that was looking extremely thin after a handful of injuries, call-ups and a suspension. These factors have forced Minnesota to put out four different starting lineups in four games, making it difficult to develop chemistry. Thanks to bye weeks and breaks, the Loons shouldn’t face this problem again for quite some time.
Going forward, Head Coach Adrian Heath will be able to get some consistency in his squad as the season continues. The absences have allowed Heath to examine his other options in the squad and identify potential starters among his depth players.
Having a mostly full squad will make decisions a little easier for the coaching staff this week. However, we will likely see another new lineup this week and possibly a formation change. With four games in the books, Heath will have a clear vision for what the squad needs to succeed going forward, and the lineup we see on Saturday could very well be the standard for much of the year.
Back on Home Turf
After a snowy home opener and two weeks on the road, the Loons are finally back in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Unlike the first match at TCF Bank Stadium, there will not be any extreme weather when Minnesota and Real Salt Lake kick off on Saturday.
Each time Minnesota has played on an artificial surface, the weather has been less than ideal. It was wet in Portland and New England, and a blizzard at home. The only match the Loons have played in moderate weather was on grass in Colorado, where they managed a 2-2 draw with the Rapids. If the forecast is correct, the club will be able to get a true feel for the home surface during the match.
The atmosphere of a hometown crowd will also have a huge effect on the proceedings this weekend. Playing in front of the home crowd is a huge boost for players after being out on the road, and can intimidate the opposition, especially when both clubs really need a victory.