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Minnesota United FC vs. Toronto FC | 2018 MLS Match Preview

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. FC DALLAS
TCF Bank Stadium | Minneapolis, Minnesota
07.04.18 | MLS Week No. 19 | MLS Game No. 17
6:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North Plus, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)

After a string of disappointing and frustrating setbacks, Minnesota United is seeking to turn things around on its home ground as it hosts reigning Supporters Shield and MLS Cup winners Toronto FC for a Fourth of July clash between two sides looking to reverse their recent fortunes. Toronto comes north having lost its last two matches and is winless in its last three contests.

TICKETS

The Wednesday, July 4 “Salute to Freedom” match will kick off at 6 p.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium. Pre-match coverage will begin at 5:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.

“It is a big game for us on Wednesday,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “There’s pressure for both of us. We’re both desperate for points for different reasons, but I know we’re going to have to play well. They’re a well-drilled team and they’re well coached. They’ve got a lot of tools and a lot of really good players.”

For his money, Heath believes Toronto FC has been “the best team in the league” over the last two years and it would tough to argue against it. The Reds are coming off a domestic treble-winning campaign in 2017 and finished as the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League runners-up. That success, both domestically and in North America, has not yet carried over to 2018, though. Toronto has struggled to regain its title-winning form this season and sits second from the bottom in the Eastern Conference with 15 points.

But with TFC’s depth of quality talent — including forward and former MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco and midfielders Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio and Victor Vazquez — it would be unwise to write them off just yet. The Loons aim to ensure that the sleeping giant does not use Minneapolis as its alarm clock.

“At any point in time they could turn things around and we have to make absolutely sure that it doesn’t happen on Wednesday night,” defender Michael Boxall said. ““At home, we know that when we get numbers behind the ball we’re tough to break down. But more importantly for us, it’s about making the most of our chances and putting the pressure on their back three.”

Creating pressure has not been the problem for MNUFC during its three-match skid in MLS play and U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 loss in Houston. The all too familiar story, though, has been having the chances at its feet but not taking advantage. Minnesota launched 15 shots against FC Dallas on Friday, including five on target, more than enough to have won the match, but was instead shut out for the third time in its last four matches in both MLS and the USOC.

The Loons have generated a total of 57 shots and put 24 chances on frame in their last five matches across all competitions, but have only three goals to show for it.

“I think we dominated that Dallas game and should’ve, could’ve had three or four,” Boxall said. “But there’s no such thing as a shoulda coulda woulda table. We need to make sure we put the chances away."

MNUFC comes into Wednesday’s match sitting seven points back of playoff position and pressure is beginning to mount as the need for three points grows increasingly paramount. But with five of their next six and six of their next eight matches at home, and bolstered by the returns of midfielder Miguel Ibarra from a red card suspension and defender Francisco Calvo from the World Cup, the Loons have a great opportunity in front of them to make up ground.

“We’ve got a big few weeks coming up,” Heath said. “A lot of home games and if we’re going to keep this season alive well into the end of the year then we need to start picking up points.”

After matching up with Toronto, Minnesota United will immediately head south for its second road match against Houston Dynamo in the last 19 days. Start time for that match is 8:00 p.m. CT on Saturday, July 7 at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium. Pre-match coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United FC
QUESTIONABLE:
D – Eric Miller (left hamstring injury)
D – Marc Burch (left knee surgery)

OUT:
D – Jerome Thiesson (right lower lag injury)
M – Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction)
M – Kevin Molino (left ACL tear)
M – Ethan Finlay (right ACL tear)
F – Abu Danladi (left leg injury)

Toronto FC
OUT:
GK – Caleb Patterson-Sewell (elbow)
D – Jason Hernandez (hamstring strain)
D – Chris Mavinga (hamstring strain)
D – Drew Moor (quadriceps strain)
F – Jozy Altidore (foot surgery)
F – Auro Jr. (hamstring strain)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • Collen Warner played for Toronto FC during the 2014 and 2015 MLS seasons.
  • Toronto Assistant Coach Robin Fraser and MNUFC Sporting Director Manny Lagos played together on Columbus Crew SC in 2004–05. Both retired from playing soccer after 2005.
  • Miguel Ibarra has played with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore on the U.S. men’s national team. He has shared the field twice with each player. All three played together once on February 8, 2015 against Panama (a 2-0 victory).
  • Toronto Assistant Coach Nick Theslof is a native of Minnesota and competed against Lagos during the 1998 MLS season.
  • Toronto Head Coach Greg Vanney had an extensive MLS playing career and was an opponent of Minnesota technical staff members Lagos, Amos Magee and Mark Watson.
  • Clint Irwin backstopped Drew Moor, Sam Cronin and Marc Burch on Colorado Rapids in 2015 (and everyone but Cronin in 2014).
  • Justin Morrow and Jason Hernandez played with Cronin for four seasons on San Jose Earthquakes, spanning from 2010 to 2013. Hernandez and Cronin stayed with the club in 2014.
  • Nick Hagglund and Burch are natives of Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Miguel Ibarra returns to the MNUFC squad after serving a one-match suspension on June 29.
  • Ibarra is the most accurate shooter in MLS, with 72.2% of his attempts ending up on frame.
  • Bobby Shuttleworth’s 72.7 save percentage is tied for the seventh best in the league.
  • MNUFC is 2-4-0 in competitive matches played on July 4 since 2010.
  • MNUFC has a 3-2-1 record against Canadian MLS teams (10 goals for and 10 goals against).
  • MNUFC has won its two matches against Canadian teams this season. It pulled off a 1-0 result against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 5 and a 2-0 victory over Montreal Impact on May 26. Both matches were at TCF Bank Stadium.
  • Last week, the Loons were shutout for the first time in five matches in a 1-0 defeat to FC Dallas. It was tied for the longest scoring streak in club history.
  • MNUFC set a new team corner kicks record against FC Dallas last week. The Loons took 13 corners, beating the old record of 12 set on May 21, 2017 in the 2-1 loss against LA Galaxy.
  • Ibson reclaimed the club record for most appearances last week, taking the pitch for the 45th time in MLS.
  • Toronto and MNUFC traded goals in the only meeting between the teams last season (Reds won 3-2).
  • Kevin Molino scored both of the Loons’ goals vs. Toronto last season, one from the run of play and one off a rebound after his penalty-kick attempt was saved.
  • Alex Bono saved Molino’s penalty kick during that match and was the last goalkeeper to stop an MNUFC penalty.
  • Toronto became the first Canadian club to reach the MLS Cup Final in 2016, where it fell to Seattle Sounders FC in penalties.
  • In 2017, Toronto became the first Canadian team to win MLS Cup, defeating Seattle in the final.
  • Toronto was the lone Canadian representative in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League. It reached the final, but was defeated on penalties against Chivas of Mexico’s Liga MX.
  • Sebastian Giovinco currently leads MLS, with 80 total shots.
  • Greg Vanney was named MLS Coach of the Year in 2017. He led Toronto to its first domestic treble that year, winning the Canadian Championship, MLS Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in a single season.
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