Jan and the ball
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Minnesota United FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC | 2019 MLS Match Preview

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
07.27.19 | MLS Week No. 21 | MLS Game No. 22
7:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North+, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

2019 Records:
MIN: 10-7-4 (6-1-3 at home)
VAN: 4-11-8 (1-6-4 on the road)

Minnesota United returns to Allianz Field as it welcomes the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps, who currently sit in the cellar of the Western Conference table. Traveling to Rio Tinto Stadium this past Saturday, the Loons settled for a point as they drew 1-1 with Real Salt Lake. The result meant the Loons enter this weekend with their eight-game unbeaten streak intact. Vancouver Whitecaps FC are on the opposite end of the spectrum as they have lost their last six games and are winless in their last nine across all competitions. During their stretch of six successive defeats, Vancouver has shipped 19 goals and scored only three. The two clubs previously met in the first game of the 2019 MLS season when the Loons travelled to BC Place and took all three points in a thrilling 3-2 away win. This Saturday’s game against Vancouver presents Minnesota United with another opportunity to grab a vital three points in a tight Western Conference playoff race in a game presented by Star Tribune.

The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.

During Saturday’s action at Rio Tinto Stadium, both sides had an air of fatigue to them as play at times was slow and lethargic. Real Salt Lake Head Coach Mike Petke took the blame for the home side’s lackluster display as he felt he had pushed his team too hard during a long week of training. Head Coach Adrian Heath’s side hit their seventh game in just 22 days and were without regular starters Angelo Rodriguez and Osvaldo Alonso. With fatigue weighing on both sides and chances coming at a premium, a second half Darwin Quintero header from close range was then cancelled out by a 70th minute Marcelo Silva goal. The woodwork was the hero on the night for RSL as Jan Gregus saw his curled effort in the 88th minute careen off Nick Rimando’s far post. Battering Rimando’s goal from distance for much of the night, Gregus felt he was extremely hard-done that his shot didn’t hit the back of the net, which would have been enough for three Minnesotan points.

“Having watched the game a couple of times since, [I’m] a little bit disappointed,” said Heath. “I thought that our defensive shape was excellent against a really good attacking team, really good front four, a team that scored four goals against the Eastern Conference leaders, last time out. I thought our attacking play, our combination play, speed and movement of the ball, speed of thought was probably as poor as it’s been over the last six or seven games, which has been really good. But, hey, I can’t complain. We just had seven games in 22 days [and] came through undefeated in all competitions, scored a lot of goals, looked defensively sound.”

The thin air that envelops Rio Tinto Stadium may have been one of the main problems for Minnesota as much of their passing — so crisp and decisive in recent games — looked off throughout the night. Attacking through balls were over-hit, long diagonal switches flew out of bounds and crosses screamed all the way through the RSL penalty area. While the Loons saw a lot of the ball in transition and had great opportunities to get forward, it didn’t seem as if Minnesota’s penetration play would break down a resolute RSL defense.

“We had so many really good opportunities in transition,” said Heath. “Either our final ball wasn’t good enough or the next ball wasn’t good enough. As I said, it was a disappointment. It’s not something that I’m unduly worried about because as we’ve proved over the last six or seven weeks, scoring goals has not been our problem.”

With multiple Western Conference team’s taking points out of MLS Week 20, the table continues to be a dogfight. Seattle, Minnesota, San Jose, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and the Houston Dynamo are separated by just five points. As the margin for error is so slim, each remaining game for these teams becomes crucial. Before embarking on his side’s spell of seven games in 22 days, Heath remarked that July was one of the most important months in club history. Now, staring at an Open Cup Semifinal against the Portland Timbers and a fiery race to the playoffs, Heath’s side may have an even more momentous month of August to come.

“The next stretch of games is the most important one and that’s how it is because the league is very tight,” said Gregus. “Everybody keeps winning so we need to keep up the pace and that’s what we need to do.”

Vancouver Whitecaps FC will look to halt Minnesota’s blistering pace this weekend as the Canadian side are seemingly all but out of the playoff race. Vancouver currently sits in last place in the Western Conference on 20 points, 10 points from the playoff line. The visitors have won one of their last 13 games and have only one win on the road this season. The win came against the Colorado Rapids, who are just one spot above them in the table. While Vancouver has been disappointing as of late, they have had some noteworthy results earlier in the season. Vancouver took all three points in a 1-0 win over league-leading LAFC. Their win against the Colorado Rapids did come at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Loons had their last MLS defeat. This is no time for complacency for Minnesota United as it has been shown that on any day, any team can go on the road and beat anyone – exhibited in Houston’s shocking 3-1 road victory over a previously in-form Toronto FC side last weekend.

“Obviously, Marc [Dos Santos] will be disappointed with their last few results but this is football,” said Heath. “This is what happens and we’ve got to treat them with the respect that they deserve because they’ve got too many good players for us to think that this is going to be an easy game at the weekend. There’s never easy games in this division. No disrespect to my group but if we treat anybody lightly and we think that we can play at a reduced rate, if you like, and not at full tilt, then we’ll have a very difficult evening.”

Beginning with Vancouver on Saturday, the Loons embark on a run of games that will undoubtedly define the scope of their 2019 MLS season. Allianz Field will play host to games down the stretch that will have major MLS playoff implications as well as for the 2019 U.S. Open Cup Semifinal against the Portland Timbers. Heath was confident as his side will be at their fortress for some of the most important games of the season.

“I’m looking forward to getting back into our stadium,” said Heath. “The support has been incredible but [we have] Vancouver to come and then [Portland], another Western Conference team that’s going to be in and around the playoffs. So, huge, sort of, 18 to 20 days. We’re going to need all the players but more importantly, we’re going to need our supporters to support us the way they have been. If they do, it’s going to be difficult for any opposition.”

Minnesota United’s next game is back at Allianz Field as they host the surging Portland Timbers on Sunday, August 4. The game will start at 3:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United FC

  • OUT: M – Kevin Molino (right leg)

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

  • OUT: D – Jasser Khmiri (left knee)
  • OUT: M – David Norman Jr. (right foot)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • Michael Boxall played the 2011 season with Vancouver Whitecaps FC after being taken by the club in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft.
  • Zac MacMath and Eric Miller played together on the Colorado Rapids from 2016 until Miller was traded to MNUFC in 2018.
  • Felipe and Miller were teammates on Montreal Impact during the 2014 season.
  • Andrew Rose played with Osvaldo Alonso from 2012 through 2015 on Seattle Sounders FC.
  • Fredy Montero and Alonso were on the inaugural MLS roster for Seattle and were teammates from 2009 through 2014.
  • MNUFC Assistant Coach Mark Watson played for Whitecaps FC in 2005, when the club competed in USL.
  • With an assist last week, Mason Toye has gotten a point in his last five league appearances.
  • Toye leads the league with a rate of 1.42 goals and 1.07 assists per 90 minutes played.
  • Toye also as the top scoring rate in the league, with 57.1% of his shots ending up in the back of the net.
  • Darwin Quintero scored his team-leading seventh goal of the year against Real Salt Lake last game.
  • Quintero has two goals and two assists in his last four appearances.
  • Jan Gregus provided his eighth assist of the year on Quintero’s goal.
  • The 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake was the Loons’ first road draw of the season.
  • Vancouver has yet to score three goals in a game this season. It has scored two goals in seven games this season.
  • Whitecaps FC have not scored multiple goals in a game since June 26.
  • Minnesota’s current five-game unbeaten streak is its longest ever in MLS.
  • Vito Mannone’s 10 wins and 68 saves ties him for the fourth most in MLS in both categories.
  • Last game was the first time Minnesota has tied since May 4 against Seattle Sounders FC.
  • Quintero has gotten two assists in each of his last two appearances against Vancouver.
  • Seven of the Loons’ eight goals against Whitecaps FC have come in the second half.
  • Whitecaps FC played the second leg of its Canadian Championship Quarterfinal against Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League on Wednesday night.
  • Vancouver has won the Canadian Championship one time, in 2015, and finished runner up seven times.
  • Minnesota and Vancouver were league opponents prior to joining MLS. The teams last met during the 2010 USSF D2 Pro League season before Whitecaps FC joined to MLS in 2011.
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