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Minnesota United FC vs. Portland Timbers | 2019 MLS Match Preview

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS
Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota
08.04.19 | MLS Week No. 22 | MLS Game. No. 22
3:00 p.m. CT (ESPN, WatchESPN app, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

2019 Records:
MIN: 10-7-5 (6-1-4 at home)
POR: 9-8-4 (6-7-2 on the road)

Minnesota United is back at Allianz Field for a second consecutive home game as it hosts the in-form Portland Timbers in yet another important Western Conference matchup. Last Saturday, the Loons fought tooth and nail with a struggling Vancouver Whitecaps FC side but when the dust settled, the sides remained locked at zeroes. While Minnesota United failed to take all three points against Whitecaps FC, the result extended Minnesota’s unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions. The Portland Timbers come into Sunday’s fixture fresh off a 4-0 thrashing of the LA Galaxy and a 2-1 away win against the Seattle Sounders — becoming the only team to win on the road at CenturyLink Field during the 2019 MLS campaign. Come Sunday, the Loons have another chance to put a bit of distance between themselves and the Western Conference dogfight in a game presented by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

The game kicks off at 3:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN, streaming in the ESPN app and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North. You can also follow along with timely game updates on Twitter by following @MNUFCMatch.

In a match that Minnesota United was expected to win handily, Vancouver Whitecaps FC came to Allianz Field, put 11 men behind the ball and defended for their lives. Through a tenacious 90 minutes, the Loons thoroughly controlled every aspect of the game. MNUFC dictated the tempo, held more of the possession and put almost 40 crosses into the Vancouver penalty area. Unfortunately, the Loons seemed a bit off in the final third and were unable to find that decisive final ball that would have led to the breakthrough. While it may have appeared as points dropped at home, Head Coach Adrian Heath felt that his team put forth a tremendous effort and were unlucky not to have had a goal hit the back of the net.

“[You] certainly couldn’t have faulted the effort and the desire and the enthusiasm of the group to try and go win the game,” said Heath. “That was one of the things that I was worried about before the game but no, the players approached the game in exactly the right manner. On the day, we just didn’t find that one killer pass, that one good cross, that one effort and that was a little bit disappointing because when you put 37 crosses in the box, you expect to get on the end of one or two of them.”

Vancouver’s defensive game plan was beneficial at times for the Loons as the home side pushed bodies forward and controlled play almost entirely in the visitor’s half. While the increase in attacking play decreased the chances of Minnesota conceding a goal, it opened up the Loons on the counterattack. In their rare forays forward, Vancouver looked to pounce on giveaways high up the field by Minnesota United. They then looked to send early passes high and wide to attack the open spaces left vacant by the defenders that Minnesota had committed forward in attack. When Vancouver did choose to come out of their defensive shell, a missed chance then allowed MNUFC to hit back through their own transition offense. At times the Loons speed of play on their own counterattacks wasn’t quick enough, which allowed Vancouver to recover and get back into their shape.

“It is a bit difficult but I think obviously, our principles kind of stay the same but within that platform, we’ve got such creative players, Darwin [Quintero] obviously,” said Defender Michael Boxall. “I think [we had] good threats on the wings, Miggy [Miguel Ibarra] and Ethan [Finlay]. I think we would have like to have created more in that game. Maybe, in transition we just didn’t move quick enough and we gave them a bit more time to get in their shape than we should’ve.”

In what will likely be a complete contrast to Saturday’s stalemate with Vancouver, the Portland Timbers will visit Allianz Field intent on winning their third straight away game in MLS play. With renovations being made to the historic Providence Park in Portland, the Timbers were forced to play their first 12 games away from home. Through grinding out hard-nosed results, Portland is tied with LAFC in racking up six away wins during the 2019 MLS season – the most in league play. Boasting one of the most dynamic attacking forces in MLS and currently brimming with confidence, the Timbers have shown that they can hurt opposing teams in many ways.

“Well, it’s another one of them concentration jobs,” said Heath. “They’re very dangerous on the counterattack. They’ve got good players, [Diego] Valeri’s got the pass, [Sebastian] Blanco can run really well with the ball and then he’s [Brian Fernandez] got terrific movement and it looks as though he’s a top-drawer finisher as well. So, sometimes the preventative marking when you’re attacking, making sure that you’ve got your eye on him, where he is. Don’t fall asleep because invariably, top players, when you do, you get punished.”

While the Timbers have taken crucial points on the road against playoff quality teams, they have been prone to dropping points in very winnable games at home. In their last three MLS matches at Providence Park, the Timbers drew with the visiting Colorado Rapids and Orlando City SC – two teams that sit below the playoff line in their respective conferences. While the attacking prowess of Brian Fernandez, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Jeremy Ebobisse has been highlighted in recent weeks, Minnesota United’s offense has statistically been even better. Scoring a total of 38 goals – compared to Portland’s 35 – the Loons are tied for the third in MLS with the highest scoring offense. Both sides will enter Sunday fresh off six days of rest and full training sessions which bodes for an exciting attacking game come Sunday.

“We know it’s going to be really difficult,” said Heath. “This’ll certainly be the best test we’ve had in this run of games where we haven’t been beaten because if you look at the front three, whether it be [Sebastian] Blanco, [Diego] Valeri, [Brian] Fernandez, they’ve got quality all over, and then underneath that, [Diego] Chara. They’ve gradually, over the last four or five years, put a really good team together. When you look at the results that they’ve been having, [that] they’ve been picking up, we know it’s going to be a difficult game for us. On the other side of that, I do know that we are more than a match for anybody at Allianz Field and we’ve proven that again this weekend.”

Minnesota United’s next game is against the Portland Timbers – the second time in four days – in the Semifinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, August 7 at Allianz Field. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United FC

  • None

Portland Timbers

  • OUT: D – Marco Farfan (left knee)
  • OUT: GK – Jeff Attinella (right shoulder)
  • QUESTIONABLE: M – Andy Polo (hip)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • Miguel Ibarra was drafted by Portland in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft, but was not signed by the club.
  • MNUFC Director of Player Personnel Amos Magee was on Portland Timbers’ coaching staff from 2009–2013.
  • Lawrence Olum played for the Timbers in 2017 and 2018. He scored Portland’s first MLS goal against MNUFC.
  • Jeff Attinella was selected by MNUFC from Real Salt Lake in the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft but was later traded to Portland. He also played against Minnesota during his time in the NASL.
  • Carter Manley and Jeremy Ebobisse both played for Duke University in 2014 and 2015.
  • Darwin Quintero and Cristhian Paredes were teammates on Club America in 2017.
  • Michael Boxall and Bill Tuiloma are both members of the New Zealand national team.
  • Steve Clark and Ethan Finlay played for Columbus Crew SC from 2014 through 2016.
  • Eryk Williamson and Dayne St. Clair were teammates at the University of Maryland from 2015 to 2017.
  • Minnesota is currently on its longest unbeaten streak in the club’s MLS history. It has taken points in six-consecutive games with four wins and two draws.
  • Vito Mannone kept his seventh clean sheet of the season last weekend against Vancouver, tying Bobby Shuttleworth’s club MLS career record.
  • Despite keeping their seventh clean sheet of the season, the Loons were kept off the board for the fifth time in 2019.
  • The Loons have kept two clean sheets in the last three games.
  • Portland started the season with 12 consecutive road games.
  • This is one of just two road games the Timbers will play in the remainder of the MLS season.
  • These teams will meet again on Wednesday for the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal. The winner of the game will face the winner of Orlando City SC and Atlanta United FC in the Final on August 27.
  • Portland reached its second MLS Cup Final in 2018. It lost 2-0 on the road to Atlanta. It is the only MLS Cup Final that has ever been played in a closed-roof stadium.
  • Darwin Quintero had two assists in the last meeting with Portland.
  • Last game was the first time in the last six outings that Mason Toye did not record a goal or an assist.
  • Romain Metanire represented MNUFC in the 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target on Wednesday. The All-Stars played Spain’s Atletico Mardrid at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium.
  • Metanire is the third All-Star Selection in club history.
  • Portland’s Diego Chara also competed in the 2019 MLS All-Star Game.
  • Minnesota is tied for the fifth-most goals in MLS with 38. Portland’s 35 goals has it at ninth.
  • The Timbers have been given 50 yellow cards this year, tying them with the New England Revolution for the most in MLS.
  • Both teams have scored multiple goals in 10 games this season.
  • Quintero will be ineligible for Sunday’s contest as he serves a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • Six yellow cards and three red cards were handed out in Portland’s 4-0 win over the LA Galaxy last week.
  • Dairon Asprilla was ejected from Portland’s last game, and will serve his one-game suspension this weekend.
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