COLUMBUS CREW SC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
MAPFRE Stadium | Columbus, Ohio
10.28.2018 | MLS Week No. 35 | MLS Game No. 34
3:30 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN)
CLB: 13-11-9, 10-2-4 at home
MIN: 11-19-3, 1-13-2 on the road
Minnesota United prepares to cross the finish line of the 2018 regular season this weekend in their final game against Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium on a packed Decision Day. The Crew will be looking to fend off a strong charge from Montreal Impact — who play the New England Revolution simultaneously — and take all three points at home to secure their spot in the playoffs as the sixth seed. The Loons will do their best to play spoiler and end their season on a high note with their second road win and first since Week 2 in Orlando.
Like every team in action this weekend, MNUFC kicks off its game against Columbus at 3:30 p.m. CT. Pregame coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
For defender Francisco Calvo, the season overall has been a rollercoaster ride that’s included a trip to Russia to represent Costa Rica at the World Cup, stretches of disappointing play, call-ups for international friendlies and a move out wide to left back that has unlocked more of his passing and ballhandling acumen. In short, it’s been an inconsistent 2018 for the team’s captain.
“For me, it has been a hard season,” he said. “In the beginning of the season our first goal was to get into the playoffs and at some point we were really close. I remember after the Seattle loss [on August 4 at home], after that we got down and that is not good for us. We need to take all the good stuff we had this year and then come back again stronger.”
Following a hard-earned draw on the road against Real Salt Lake and a pair of home wins over playoff teams NYCFC and Seattle Sounders FC, Minnesota has slumped toward the season’s final whistle with disappointing losses to Philadelphia Union, the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy. That final loss came on a historic day for the club when it broke a 42-year-old attendance record for a pro soccer team in the state with 52,242 fans packing TCF Bank Stadium. For Head Coach Adrian Heath, that simply wasn’t good enough.
“I wanted us to put a performance on for 50,000 people and we didn’t do it, unfortunately,” said Heath. “I was very disappointed. We had too many players who didn’t perform on the day against a team that had a lot to play for. We made it easy for them. I have said it a million times that goals change games. We started the game quite brightly. We had the first two best chances of the game. Had one of them gone in I think it would have changed the whole complexion of the game, but it didn’t. Our defending was poor. We wanted to start the second half on the front foot and then you concede a couple of goals in virtually a couple of moments and the game is over then. We gave ourselves a little bit of a lifeline, but it was not enough. It was too little, too late.”
Although the playoff implications of this upcoming game for Columbus are clear, less clear is whether this will be the final game for the Crew in MAPFRE Stadium. Uncertainty is still swirling around the storied franchise and no one really knows what is going to happen next year. At least for this weekend, though, Heath feels he can count on the Crew being the same consistent threat they’ve been all season.
“We know what is going to come,” he said. “They are going to play a wide open, expansive game. The team virtually picks itself. It seems the last two or three years their team has virtually been the same. It is going to be a difficult afternoon for us. They are notoriously really good at home and they have an awful lot to play for. There will be a lot of emotion around it. Is it going to be the last game in that stadium for that group? Do they move to Austin? Are they not moving? They have to win the game to maybe make the playoffs, so there is an awful lot to play for. We have our part to play in that because we owe it to Montreal to go there and try our best to try and make it difficult for the Crew and give Montreal every opportunity of making the playoffs.”
For his part, Calvo isn’t letting the chance to play spoiler weigh too heavily on his preparation, instead concerning himself more with getting Minnesota to play its own game.
“We need to finish the season strong,” he said. “It is just one more game, so we just have to travel on Saturday and play on Sunday and try to get a good result. It is not about them. It is about us. It is about our pride and trying to do our best that game. If we can win, that is good for us and what happens to them is their problem, not our problem. We want to finish with a win.”
Minnesota United’s next game will be at Allianz Field. See you then.
Minnesota United FC
M – Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction)
M – Ethan Finlay (right ACL tear – out for season)
M – Kevin Molino (left ACL tear – out for season)
GK – Bobby Shuttleworth (back)
GK – Alex Kapp (left leg)
Columbus Crew SC
M – Mike Grella (left knee)
- Columbus Assistant Coach Pat Onstad was a teammate of Manny Lagos on the San Jose Earthquakes in 2003.
- Crew SC Assistant Coach Josh Wolff played with Lagos and Amos Magee on the Chicago Fire.
- Lagos ended his playing career with Columbus in 2005.
- Loons Assistant Coach Mark Watson played the inaugural MLS Season in 1996 with Columbus.
- Ethan Finlay spent his entire professional career with Columbus before joining MNUFC. He played for Crew SC from 2012 through mid-2017 when he was traded to the Loons.
- Marc Burch played the second half of the 2006 season with Columbus.
Josh Williams and Collen Warner were teammates in 2015 when they played for Toronto FC.
- Adam Jahn played with Sam Cronin as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes in 2013 and 2014.
- Darwin Quintero has been directly involved in 25 goals in 26 appearances since joining the Loons at the end of March 2018 (11 goals and 14 assists).
- Quintero’s 14 assists are tied for the fourth-most in MLS. He is three behind joint leaders Luciano Acosta of D.C. United and Borek Dockal of Philadelphia Union.
- Quintero is two shots on goal from tying the club single-season record of 34 shots on target.
- MNUFC set a new Minnesota pro soccer attendance record last week, with 52,242 fans at its TCF Bank Stadium finale against LA Galaxy on Sunday, October 21.
- MNUFC had an average home attendance of 23,905 in 2018.
- Miguel Ibarra continues to extend his career record of 61 MLS appearances for the Loons.
- If Ibarra makes an appearance against Columbus, he will tie the club single-season record of 33 appearances set by Bobby Shuttleworth and Jerome Thiesson in 2017.
- Ibarra has been among the most accurate players in the league in 2018, with 52.8 percent of his shots on target.
- Columbus has scored the second fewest goals in the league, with just 40 this season. It is ahead of only the Colorado Rapids, who have 34 goals.
- Minnesota is the only team with just one penalty kick awarded this season.
- The Loons lead MLS with 131 saves. 103 have been made by Bobby Shuttleworth and 28 by Matt Lampson.
- Crew SC’s Pedro Santos is the third-most fouled player in MLS. He has been fouled 83 times in 29 appearances.
- Zack Steffen has 10 clean sheets this season. He is tied for the third-most in the league.
- Columbus needs to win against MNUFC in order to ensure a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. A draw or a loss against the Loons would require Montreal Impact to lose or draw its game against New England Revolution if Crew SC is to keep its sixth-place spot due to tiebreakers.
- MNUFC is 6-4-0 against Eastern Conference teams in 2018.
- The final playoff spot in both conferences is still up for grabs. In the East, Crew SC has a two-point advantage over seventh-place Montreal. In the West, just one point separates Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy. RSL has already played all 34 of its games, while the Galaxy will finish off the season at home against Houston Dynamo with hopes of leapfrogging into the final spot.