MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY
TCF Bank Stadium | Minneapolis, Minnesota
05.07.17 | MLS Week #10 | MLS Game #10
12:30 p.m. CT (FS1, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)
MIN: 2-5-2; 2-2-0 at home
SKC: 5-1-3; 1-1-2 on the road
With an eye toward renewing a geographic rivalry that stretches back to the team’s time in NASL, Minnesota United will welcome Sporting Kansas City to TCF Bank Stadium this Sunday, May 7. The Loons will look to build on the strong midfield play and improve on the finishing that saw them come up just short against the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 last week. Sporting KC will prevent a formidable defensive challenge, having allowed only three goals so far this season as they’ve climbed to first in the Western Conference standings. Coverage on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN beings at noon and the match will be broadcast there and on FS1 beginning at 12:30 p.m.
The story of Minnesota United’s inaugural MLS season so far has been one of a porous defense patched after a rough start and now gradual improvement on both sides of the ball, although Head Coach Adrian Heath has noted that it’s been difficult to get those improvements to work at the same time.
“It seems at the moment that we're either defending really well or attacking really well,” he said. “We've got to marry the two and get them both working in the same game. That's got to be the focus for this week and we've got a really difficult game against, for me, the nearest cub that we should try and aim to be. Similar type of market, similar sort of size. It's not New York or LA, but I think Peter Vermes runs a great football club. If we can emulate what they've become in this league over the next few years, we'll be making good strides.”
The soccer history between the two states stretches back to matches between the Minnesota Thunder and the Kansas City Wizards, but Minnesota United’s rivalry with Sporting KC began in 2014 in a U.S Open Cup match that saw SKC win 2-0. Last year, SKC came away victorious again in U.S. Open Cup play in a chippy 2-1 match that went to overtime and saw 11 yellow cards handed out.
The MNUFC side that will face SKC this week is, of course, a much different team with a different head coach and a new crop of promising players like Kevin Molino and Johan Venegas. Don’t look for Heath to be satisfied, though, even if he started the same lineup for the second match in a row for the first time this season against San Jose. Even as the team begins to find its feet in MLS, Heath is looking for young players like midfielder Ish Jome and rookie forward Abu Danladi to push the starters for minutes.
Danladi got his second-longest shift of the season (he played 45 minutes against New England when MNUFC was missing several players to call-ups and injury) against San Jose last week, coming on in the 64th minute and immediately injecting some much-needed energy. As soon as he got his feet on the ball, he pushed it deep down the left wing and centered it, only narrowly missing forward Christian Ramirez in the box.
“It's a job now,” said the first-year player out of UCLA. “I come in and I have to give 100%. That's why every day I come to practice and put the team ahead of me. Just doing what's best for the team. Any minutes I get — five minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes — it's all about coming in and seeing the situation and trying to figure out what I as a player can do to help the team get to the place we want to be.”
“The younger guys have been working really, really hard Monday to Friday,” said Heath. “As I say all the time, that's the only opportunity to show the coaches what they can do. I thought that Ish and Abu gave us a lift when they came on. That's pleasing because they're young guys and it's good for competition. It keeps the guys who have been playing regular on their toes, so we'll see what happens at the weekend. They're making it more and more difficult to leave them out.”
It remains to be seen if Heath starts the same eleven this Sunday, but if he doesn’t, it will be because he understands the magnitude of the task they face. “If we can have good combination play in the middle third and get the final ball done, I think we can cause them trouble,” he said.
This match against Sporting KC will mark the end of Minnesota United’s homestand as they head abroad next week to face Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday, May 13. Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. and the match will be broadcast on My29 and 1500 ESPN, with pre-match coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m.
OUT: M - Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury)
QUESTIONABLE: M - Rasmus Schuller (hip injury)
OUT: F - Diego Rubio (torn ACL)
- Minnesota and Sporting KC have met in two of the past three U.S. Open Cups. In 2014, Sporting defeated the 10-man Loons 2-0 at Children’s Mercy Park. Last year Minnesota forced extra time thanks to a Christian Ramirez penalty. Sporting would emerge victorious once again 2-1.
- Kansas City played the Minnesota Thunder in the Open Cup as well. Minnesota thumped the Wizards 3-1 in 2005, en route to a semifinal appearance. Kansas City got revenge in 2009 by pulling off a win in penalties after an action-packed extra time.
- Sporting has conceded the fewest goals in MLS, with just three getting past goalkeeper Tim Melia.
- Melia leads MLS with five clean sheets in 2017.
- Bobby Shuttleworth set a club record for single-match saves with five stops against San Jose last week. He had set the previous record of three saves on three separate occasions.
- Shuttleworth has a 4-1-0 lifetime record against Sporting, including two clean sheets and 10 saves.
- This match will be the earliest kickoff time on Minnesota’s 2017 schedule.
- Ike Opara and Sam Cronin were teammates at Wake Forest in 2007 and 2008.
- Kevin Ellis and Dom Dwyer were loaned from Sporting KC to Orlando City in 2013, where they played with Kevin Molino and were coached by Adrian Heath. Orlando won the USL Championship that season.
- Tim Melia and McLain tended goal for Chivas USA in 2012 and 2013.
- Cameron Porter and Johan Venegas spent 2015 and 2016 as teammates on Montreal Impact.