What to Watch For: Houston Dynamo vs. MNUFC

Tonight’s Western Conference matchup with Houston Dynamo has more than just playoff implications for Minnesota United — it has some underlying narratives that go deeper. While the two sides have already met twice in 2019 – with MNUFC victorious in both games – the last Dylan Wolpers Derby of 2019 may be the toughest of the year for the Loons. With a predicted high of 93 degrees Fahrenheit and a Houston team that is rearing to spoil MNUFC’s playoff hopes, tonight promises to be full of action.

Superman Returns
For the first time since being traded to LAFC in August of 2018, Minnesota United will face their all-time leading scorer in MLS play, Christian Ramirez. In 50 league appearances, Ramirez – known to Loons fans as Superman – scored a club record 21 goals in league play for MNUFC. Ramirez was traded to LAFC when the Loons had already faced the team twice in league play, meaning that the forward never played against his former club in 2018. A year later, following a mixed stint with LAFC, Ramirez was traded to the Houston Dynamo on August 6, 2019. Ramirez has appeared in four games during his short time so far in Houston, starting two games and scoring a well-taken goal against the Philadelphia Union. Interim head coach Davy Arnaud started Ramirez up top in Houston’s last game, a 1-0 loss at Sporting KC. Expect Ramirez to be back in the starting XI once again to face his former club and with this added edge, he will be hungry to get on the scoresheet.

International Call-ups Continue to Affect MLS
Between double game weeks and a long season, MLS presents constant action for many fans, and international call-ups present complications. With games scheduled directly during the period of international fixtures, MLS teams must play without many of their best players who have been called up to represent their respective national teams. While this does allow for new opportunities amongst those who may not feature for their sides regularly, it has shown to drastically affect the results of games. Most recently, the Seattle Sounders traveled to Colorado without 10 of its first team players. The Sounders were then beaten 2-0 by the Rapids, a result that some may argue would be different if Jordan Morris, Raul Ruidiaz and company were all available. Six Loons – Jan Gregus (Slovakia), Robin Lod (Finland), Rasmus Schuller (Finland), Kevin Molino (Trinidad & Tobago), Mason Toye (U.S. U23) and Hassani Dotson (U.S. U23) – represented their countries over the weekend and are now faced with a whirlwind of a turnaround if they are to feature in tonight’s game.

Goin’ Back to Back
After taking a marquee three points from Banc of California Stadium against league-leading LAFC, Minnesota United can put together two successive MLS road wins for the first time since the very beginning of the 2019 season. With finishing touches being put on Allianz Field, MNUFC began 2019 with a five-game road trip in which it won three out of five, taking nine of 15 available points. The Loons opened the 2019 MLS season with a narrow 3-2 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC and followed that up with a dominant 3-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. Since the back-to-back road wins, MNUFC has gone 3-8-1 away from home and hasn’t been able to string together decisive results on the road. With the regular season winding down, tonight’s matchup with the Houston Dynamo could provide Minnesota United an opportunity to do exactly that. After Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera was dismissed, interim Head Coach Davy Arnaud has yet to win with the Dynamo (0-2-1) and his side sit 11th in the Western Conference – just above last place Vancouver. Minnesota’s two remaining road games are at Providence Park and Century Link Field, two notoriously difficult places to get a result. Tonight’s game is a prime time for the Loons to take advantage of Houston’s turbulent season and grab three more points and put together a run of good form on the road to close out 2019.