Ibarra Calvo Dab vs SKC
Jordan Johnson

Minnesota United FC vs. Sporting Kansas City | 2018 MLS Match Preview

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY
TCF Bank Stadium | Minneapolis, Minnesota
5.20.18 | MLS Week No. 11 | MLS Game No. 12
1:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North Plus, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)

2018 Records:
MIN: 4-7-0; 3-2-0 at home
SKC: 7-2-2; 3-1-1 on the road

Looking to get itself back on track at its home ground, Minnesota United FC plays host to Western Conference frontrunner Sporting Kansas City this weekend at TCF Bank Stadium. SKC, which was off last week, is coming off a 2-0 away win at Atlanta United FC in its most recent outing and have won two-straight and three of its last four overall while MNUFC is seeking to regroup after last weekend’s disappointing setback against San Jose Earthquakes.

The Loons will meet Sporting KC on Sunday, May 20 at 1:00 p.m. CT. at TCF Bank Stadium. Pre-match coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North Plus, streaming on FOX Sports Go and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.

TICKETS

“We know it is going to be difficult,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “We’re going to have to be good. We can’t give starts like we’ve done too many times this year because if we do we will always be susceptible to getting caught on the counterattack.”

Minnesota is hoping to replicate its 2017 success at home against Kansas City. The Loons grabbed a pair of results — a 2-0 win and a 1-1 draw — at home against SKC last season. Forwards Abu Danladi and Christian Ramirez doubled up SKC in the first match up before defender Brent Kallman headed home a late equalizer in the second clash to save a point for the home side.

“We did well against them at home last year. Let’s see if we can go and do the same,” Heath said. “I thought the game plan was very good. We will tweak it in one or two little places that we think we can improve on.”

For MNUFC to find repeat success at TCF Bank Stadium against its regional rival, it will have to eliminate defensive mistakes and stand tall against the second-highest scoring attack in MLS. Sporting KC is tied with New York Red Bulls with 23 goals scored in 11 matches. Forward Johnny Russell and midfielder Felipe Gutierrez share the lead in team goals with five apiece, while midfielder Roger Espinoza has provided a team-best five assists. But it’s defensive midfielder Ilie Sanchez that holds the keys to his side’s success.

Sanchez thrives in the No. 6 role. He drops in between the two centerbacks to make it three against two, knows when to go deep, when to stay in the midfield area and how to clear space. The product of FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy has contributed two goals and three assists in 11 matches this season and has helped keep five clean sheets. For MNUFC to get a result on Sunday, it will have to get bodies around Sanchez.

“We have to keep Sanchez off the ball,” Ramirez said. “If we can limit his touches, limit his spacing and make him a bit uncomfortable I think it will disrupt them offensively. They have proven they can score tons of goals. We just have to maintain our shape, defensively, pick our moments and do what we do offensively.”

Offensively, the movement, interchange and combination play of Minnesota United’s front six against San Jose shined through the discouraging 3-1 loss. Ramirez said he thought the combination between himself and midfielders Darwin Quintero, Miguel Ibarra and Alexi Gomez last Saturday was the best it has ever been — especially in the first half. It not only led to Ramirez’s MLS Goal of the Week-nominated strike, but also a number of other chances through build-up play that came up frustratingly short.

Both Heath and Ramirez credited that cohesiveness in attack, in part, to Quintero’s continued acclimation to his new MNUFC teammates and vice versa.

“I think he understands my game pretty well and I am starting to pick up his game and his tendencies,” Ramirez said. “The more time we get on the field together, the more dangerous we will be. He is pretty easy to play with. He makes my job easier.”

As long as they continue to pick those spots up, the attack will continue to be in good shape going forward.

After Sunday’s match, Minnesota United FC continues its homestand on Saturday, May 26 against Montreal Impact. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium with pre-match coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North Plus, streaming on FOX Sports Go and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United FC
QUESTIONABLE:
D - Tyone Mears (lower legs) 

OUT:
M – Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction)
M – Kevin Molino (left ACL tear)
M – Ethan Finlay (right ACL tear)
D – Marc Burch (left knee surgery)
F – Abu Danladi (right ankle)

Sporting Kansas City
OUT
M – Felipe Guttierez (sports hernia surgery)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • MNUFC and Sporting Kansas City have met on six occasions since 2014: three times in the U.S. Open Cup and three times in MLS. Sporting leads the series 4-1-1.
  • Sporting played against the Minnesota Thunder in the Open Cup during the Wizards era. The Thunder claimed a shocking 3-1 victory en route to a semifinal appearance in the 2005 tournament. The Wizards got revenge in 2009, winning on penalties after an eventful extra time.
  • The two clubs played each other four times across competitions last year, three times in MLS and once in Open Cup action.
  • Sporting is the only team the Loons will play three times in MLS this year.
  • MNUFC captain Francisco Calvo was named to the Costa Rica national team’s 23-man roster for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia this week. The tournament kicks off on June 16, with the Ticos set to face Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in the group stage.
  • Christian Ramirez scored his second goal of the season in the 3-1 defeat to San Jose Earthquakes. He now has 16 career goals in MLS.
  • Tim Melia has kept five clean sheets this season, tying him with Columbus Crew SC’s Zack Steffen for the highest total in the league.
  • Rasmus Schuller and Roger Espinoza are among the top five players with the most fouls committed in MLS this year, with 23 and 22 respectively.
  • Ibson has been fouled 25 times this season, making him the seventh-most-fouled player in MLS.
  • Felipe Gutierrez and Daniel Salloi have each scored three match-winning goals this season.
  • Salloi also has two match-winning assists in 2018.
  • Johnny Russell is one of four players who have scored a hat trick this year.
  • Four Sporting players (Matt Besler, Melia, Ilie Sanchez and Graham Zusi) have played every minute for the club this season.
  • MNUFC has been fouled 132 times this season and is the third-most-fouled team in the league.
  • Both teams have had 11% of their total shots end up in the back of the net.
  • MNUFC goalkeepers have made 45 saves, the second-highest total in MLS. They are followed by SKC in third, with 38.
  • Abu Danladi scored his first career goal against Sporting KC in a 2-0 win at TCF Bank Stadium on May 7, 2017.
  • Ike Opara and Sam Cronin were teammates at Wake Forest in 2007 and 2008.
  • Seth Sinovic, Ethan Finlay and Brent Kallman were teammates at Creighton University in 2009. Sinovic later played with Shuttleworth from 2010 to 2011 with the Revolution.\
  • Peter Vermes and Manny Lagos were teammates on the New York/New Jersey MetroStars for the inaugural MLS season in 1996. Lagos played the 1997 season on the MetroStars with current Sporting KC Assistant Coach Kerry Zavagnin.
  • Tim Melia and Collen Warner were teammates on Real Salt Lake in 2010 and 2011.
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