MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. MONTREAL IMPACT
TCF Bank Stadium | Minneapolis, Minnesota
5.26.18 | MLS Week No. 12 | MLS Game No. 13
7:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North Plus, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)
MIN: 4-7-1; 3-2-1 at home
MTL: 3-9-0; 1-6-0 on the road
Boosted by snatching a point from the Western Conference frontrunners in its last outing, Minnesota United seeks to build on that result as it wraps up a stretch of four of five at home with a match against Montreal Impact on Saturday night. Montreal comes in as losers of three straight and seven of its last eight, but as the Loons learned recently against San Jose, they can’t afford to overlook any MLS opponent.
MNUFC will kick off against the Impact on Saturday, May 26 at 7:00 p.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium. Pre-match coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North Plus, streaming on FOX Sports Go and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
“It is a big game for us,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “A point against the Western Conference leaders at home and another decent performance gives us something to build on going into this weekend.”
Heath has repeatedly said he believes he would have a clearer picture of where his team is at by the end of this current home stand. Heading into this weekend’s match-up against Montreal, MNUFC is 2-2-1 over that stretch with a 2-1-1 mark at home. With three points against the Impact, the Loons will be at 16 points and in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference, which would be a significant improvement on where the team was at this point last season.
To do that, though, Minnesota will have to exorcise some recent demons. Two weeks ago, San Jose Earthquakes came to Minneapolis mired in a similar run of form as the Impact and left TCF Bank Stadium with a 3-1 win and three points. To avoid a repeat disappointment, Heath stressed the importance of not conceding a goal early on like MNUFC did against San Jose, which gave the visitors the shot of belief they needed to go on and win.
“We did not perform very well on that day and we ended up getting beat,” said Heath. “We can’t play at 60 or 70 percent. We have to play full on and very committed and get into the game early, get the crowd going, play the way we want to play and play aggressively on the front foot. If we do that we are more than a match for anybody at home.”
Montreal is coming off a disheartening setback of its own, having lost, 1-0, to a 10-man Los Angeles Galaxy side last Monday. To right their ship, the Impact will lean on their talisman, midfielder Ignacio Piatti. The Argentinian designated player is one of the most dangerous attacking threats in MLS and is enjoying another standout campaign in 2018 with a team-leading five goals and six assists in 11 matches and has had a hand in 78.6 percent (11-of-14) of his team’s goals this season. If you give him time and space, Piatti will invariably punish you, so it will be imperative for the Loons to lock him down when he gets the ball in certain spots and especially get bodies around him in the penalty area.
“We know he is a good player,” said midfielder Miguel Ibarra. “He can make anything happen. We have to stay close to him, not let him turn and make sure we are pressuring him. That is going to be big.”
Ibarra and MNUFC will counter Piatti and Montreal with an attack that has looked increasingly cohesive in recent weeks. With a match-winning goal and three match-winning assists — in addition to the setup for midfielder Darwin Quintero’s match-tying strike last week — Ibarra has been at the center of the Loons’ biggest moments this season. He feels his form is returning to the place it was before he left Minnesota’s NASL side in June 2015, where he was a two-time NASL Best XI selection and the league’s 2014 Golden Ball winner. He credits his offseason training and an increased focus on his fitness, diet and overall health for his return for form and the increased belief that has accompanied it.
“I think my confidence right now is really high,” said Ibarra. “I think I am getting back to what I used to be before I left for Mexico. That confidence is really big for me. Coming into preseason I felt the best I have in a really long time.”
After its home stand concludes, Minnesota United will face two-straight road tests beginning with a nationally televised match at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Pre-match coverage for that contest begins at 7:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC
M - Ibson (left thigh)
M - Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction)
M - Kevin Molino (torn left ACL)
M - Ethan Finlay (torn right ACL)
D - Marc Burch (left knee)
GK - Matt Lampson (right knee)
D - Zakaria Diallo (ruptured Achilles tendon)
D - Kyle Fisher (tibia injury)
M - David Choinere (ankle surgery)
D - Victor Cabrera (calf injury)
- Chris Duvall was Minnesota’s first selection in the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft. He was briefly teammates with Collin Martin at Wake Forest during the 2012 season.
- Collen Warner was on Montreal’s roster from 2012 through 2014.
- Daniel Lovitz and Warner both played for Toronto FC during the 2014 and 2015 campaigns. Dominic Oduro also played with the duo in 2014.
- Oduro was teammates with Ethan Finlay on Columbus Crew SC in 2013 and 2014.
- Jukka Raitala and Finlay played together on Crew SC for the first half of the 2017 season, before Finlay was traded to MNUFC.
- Minnesota’s 1-1 result against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, May 20 was its first draw of the season.
- Darwin Quintero scored his third goal for MNUFC against Sporting KC. He shot with 100% accuracy on the day, with all three shots ending up on target.
- Quintero’s goal ended Sporting KC’s shutout streak. Tim Melia had not conceded in 246 minutes of play.
- Ibson has been fouled 100 times in his MLS career.
- Bobby Shuttleworth set a new club record with nine saves in the 1-1 draw with Sporting KC. It beat his previous record of eight set back on June 17, 2017 in the 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake.
- Abu Danladi made his first appearance for Minnesota since being subbed off due to injury in the 2-1 win over Chicago Fire on March 17 as a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Sporting KC.
- Montreal and Minnesota were league opponents when they were second-division teams, last meeting in the 2011 NASL season. Minnesota beat out Montreal for the final spot in the playoffs and went on to win the Soccer Bowl championship.
- Miguel Ibarra and Ignacio Piatti lead the league with three match-winning assists a piece.
- Ibarra is three assists away from tying the club record for most career assists in the MLS era. Kevin Molino currently holds the record with 10.
- Piatti is one of four players who has scored a hat trick in MLS this year.
- Evan Bush leads the league with 63 saves. He and Samuel Piette are the only Montreal players who have played every minute this season.
- Christian Ramirez made his 40th MLS appearance last weekend. He has 16 goals and four assists so far in the league. He has played in 135 matches over the course of his MNUFC career in MLS and NASL, scoring 69 goals and adding 21 assists in all competitions dating back to 2013.
- Ramirez, Danladi and Molino scored in the Loons’ first match against Montreal in MLS. MNUFC came from behind to win 3-2 at Stade Saputo.
- Shuttleworth made one of his two penalty kick saves last year against Montreal. He made his second the following week at home vs. FC Dallas.
- Minnesota has committed 161 fouls this season, the second-most in the league. NYCFC has the most with 175. The Loons are also the fourth-most-fouled team in the league, tied at 145 with New York City FC.
- Montreal and Minnesota lead MLS in saves with 63 and 54 respectively.