HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
BBVA Compass Stadium | Houston, Texas
09.30.17 | MLS Week #30 | MLS Game #30
7:30 p.m. CT (FOX 9+, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)
MIN: 9-15-5; 2-9-2 on the road
HOU: 10-10-9; 9-1-3 at home
A commanding 4-1 win over visiting FC Dallas last week gave MNUFC its first back-to-back wins of the team’s inaugural MLS season, following closely on their first road win of the season. The return of key starters including forward Christian Ramirez and defender Marc Burch has added a measure of consistency to a starting XI that received a needed jolt from the arrival of recent additions Ethan Finlay and Michael Boxall. In all, the squad is rounding into form and still on the hunt for a spot above the red line as they head to Houston this weekend. The match against the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 30, with pre-match coverage beginning on FOX 9+ and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN at 7:00 p.m.
As with any expansion team, Minnesota United’s inaugural campaign through the MLS season has had its share of firsts: first goal (Ramirez against Portland), first home win (against Real Salt Lake on April 1), first road win (against the Chicago Fire on October 26). But Head Coach Adrian Heath isn’t satisfied with the team’s first back-to-back wins when it comes to historic firsts this year.
“We’ve won two in a row, let’s make it three,” he said. “That has to be the next one. Next game up. We need to try and make this season continue as long as possible. Until it’s mathematically impossible for us to be out of the playoffs, we have to believe we can. And if we go and get a result away in Houston, then we’ll keep it going for another week. And that’s what we worked so hard for this weekend against another good team in Dallas.”
The Loons will have a mountain to climb, though, against a Houston team that’s struggled recently with two losses and three draws in their last five, but still presents a mighty threat at home, where they’re 9-1-3.
“They’ve got Cubo Torres, [Romell] Quioto, they’ve got Alberth Elis. They’ve got [Mauro] Manotas. They’ve got an abundance of attacking pieces they paid a lot of money for, and that’s why they’ve had the results they’ve had with them. Scored a lot of goals, especially at home. Whichever combination they come up with, we know we’re going to have our hands full. But, you know, we played them recently. So we’ll be prepared for them.”
The team overall is the healthiest it’s been in some time with the return of the aforementioned players, although still missing is midfielder Sam Cronin, who suffered a concussion against Chicago. Along with midfielder Ibson, Cronin has provided both effective defense in the middle third of the pitch and a bit of grit and fight for a Loons side that was sorely in need of veteran leadership early in the season. For the last two matches, 22-year-old Collin Martin — a four-year MLS vet who came over from D.C. United in January — has ably filled the holding midfielder position.
“He’s worked for his opportunity,” said Heath. “He’s got really good feet. He’s got a really good appreciation of the game. Really good continuity player. The ball goes to him, you don’t worry on the sideline that he’s going to turn it over. And I just think that he needs a bit more belief in his own game. Obviously now we’re hoping that the third start for him will give him that belief, because I’m not playing him out of sentiment. Trust me. I’m playing him because I think he can do the job and do the job well. Now he has to take it to the next level. One or two games is not enough. You have to build on that, and start to show that you can be a consistent performer at this level.”
For his part, Martin has tried to keep it simple. “Mostly, I just listen to what the coaches want from that position,” he said. “They want me getting in and out of certain spots, and I know where they want me. And so far, that’s been good with the ball. And then without the ball, just making sure I’m covering spaces and moving well with the team, and protecting the back four.”
This will be Minnesota’s third time facing Houston this season — Sporting Kansas City is the other team they’ll face three times total. After a scoreless draw and a 2-2 draw, it’s evident that MNUFC is capable of playing the Dynamo tough, but Heath is loath to draw too much on what happened in their last couple matchups as he plans for this weekend’s tilt.
“There’s a lot of water under the bridge since then for both teams — there’s a lot changed since then,” he said. “We’re a lot better team than then. And they’ve also, the last few weeks, they’ve had a little blip, and it’s getting a little bit tight in and around that red line. So it’s a massive game for them also. We know it’s not going to be easy, but if we approach the game in the manner that we have the last four or five, then we’re capable going there and winning.”
M - Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury)
M/D - Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury)
M - Sam Cronin (head injury)
D - George Malki (torn ACL 3/15, out for season)
M - Charlie Ward (dislocated right patella)
D - Philippe Senderos (right adductor strain)
M - Boniek Garcia (right knee injury)
- Tyler Deric played under Adrian Heath with the Austin Aztex in 2009.
- Adolfo Machado and Francisco Calvo played together in 2016 for Saprissa.
- Eric Alexander and Johan Venegas played part of the 2015 and 2016 seasons together on the Montreal Impact roster.
- Vicente Sanchez played for the Colorado Rapids from 2013 to 2015, where he was teammates with Sam Cronin and Marc Burch.
- Cronin and Ricardo Clark are both natives of Atlanta, Georgia.
- Burch and Dylan Remick were teammates in 2013 while playing for Seattle Sounders FC.
- Joe Willis and Collin Martin were teammates on D.C. United in 2013 and 2014. Both players were also loaned to Richmond Kickers in 2014.
- Last Saturday, Minnesota earned back-to-back wins for the first time since joining MLS. The Loons defeated Montreal Impact 3-2 on September 16 and then FC Dallas by a 4-1 margin on September 23.
- Christian Ramirez (2G/2A), Abu Danladi (2G), Ethan Finlay (1G/1A), Kevin Molino (1G/1A) and Ibson (2A) are all on two-match point streaks.
- Finlay is averaging one point per match with MNUFC, having scored three goals and assisted three more in his six matches with the club.
- Bobby Shuttleworth has saved penalty kicks in two consecutive matches. He is the first goalkeeper in MLS to save consecutive penalties since LA Galaxy’s Jon Kempin on August 23.
- Shuttleworth made six saves against FC Dallas, his highest single-match total since June 17 against Real Salt Lake, when he stopped eight shots.
- Minnesota tied its single-match record of four goals in a match for the third time this season against FC Dallas. It set a new club single-match record with five total assists.
- Miguel Ibarra scored his second match-winning goal of the season against FC Dallas. His goal was nominated for MLS Goal of the Week.
- Christian Ramirez and Bobby Shuttleworth were named to the MLS Team of the Week for Week 29.
- The Loons had their first man advantage of the season last week when FC Dallas’ Tesho Akindele was shown a red card in the 81st minute.
- Prior to their recent skid, the Dynamo had gone six matches without losing, stretching from July 5 to August 12.
- Four of Minnesota United’s five remaining regular season matches are on the road.
- Last match was just the third time that Minnesota kept the same lineup in consecutive matches this season.
- Minnesota has taken 10 points from its past five matches.