Preview SJvMIN

PREVIEW | #SJvMIN

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. MINNESOTA UNITED
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex | Orlando, Florida
08.01.2020 | MLS Is Back Tournament | Quarterfinals
7:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

With first-choice #10 Kevin Molino nursing a hamstring injury, Head Coach Adrian Heath has opted to send out a 4-3-3 formation for Minnesota United’s last two games. Against Columbus Crew SC in the Round of 16, the Loons broke up the Crew’s win streak in the MLS Is Back Tournament by deploying Hassani Dotson as an advanced destroyer, disrupting Darlington Nagbe and Artur, while Osvaldo Alonso held down the space at the top of the box with bulldog intensity. With lingering question marks about Molino and new ones for right back Romain Metanire after he came off the pitch late last game, Heath is sure to keep everyone guessing on how he’s going to go about disrupting the San Jose Earthquakes’ aggressive man-marking scheme. But given the success MNUFC has had against the Quakes over the last two years — 3-0-0 with 11 goals to San Jose’s three — rest assured that the Loons will do their best to give their opponents fits and force their way through to the Semifinals.

THE OPPOSITION
Thus far, San Jose Earthquakes have feasted on their opponents in the MLS Is Back Tournament, going 2-0-1 in the Group Stage before knocking out Real Salt Lake in the Round of 16 with 11 goals total to just five conceded. As has been the case ever since Matias Almeyda took the reins, it’s been due to the Quakes’ man-marking scheme and how it runs other teams ragged. It also requires production from the attacking midfielder and the wings and they’ve gotten it from Vako and Cristian Espinoza, plus Magnus Eriksson has displayed some chops as a deep-lying playmaker in the nominal #10 position. In their last three meetings, Minnesota United has used crisp and decisive passing to break up the Quakes’ defense, as well as sending centerbacks forward to force defenders into bad choices. With two of Minnesota’s five goals in the tournament coming off set pieces, the Quakes will also need to limit those opportunities if they hope to get the result.

TYLER MILLER ON MINNESOTA’S SET PIECE SUCCESS

“It starts from the great service that Jan [Gregus] has been able to put in for our attacking players. Any player that’s in that situation would say that it really stems from the quality of the service and Jan has been able to deliver so far in this tournament which makes it easier for our attacking players to just get anything they can on it and we know that we have some big guys that can be dangerous in those situations. I think it’s a huge advantage for us.”
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ADRIAN HEATH ON MNUFC BEING LABELED AS UNDERDOGS

“Well, probably, on what people would perceive as current form, maybe that’s, you know, the bookies aren’t often wrong, are they? I don’t see many poor bookmakers. Certainly, I haven’t. We know what’s coming. I have tremendous respect for [Matias Almeyda]. I think the conviction of his actions with his group are incredible. Because it’s something that everybody doesn’t do. And, you know, there are bad spells, there are bad losing streaks, but he never waivers. And the players have obviously all bought in. You only have to see their reaction to goals and their reaction to victories after the game, to see that they’re all bought in on what they’re trying to do. So maybe they are favorites. I don’t know. But, at the end of the day, I know that it’s going to be a tough game and that won’t be swayed either way with what the bookies think.”

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STORYLINE
Through the Group Stage, what was at stake for teams was fairly clear. Between the chance to keep playing into the tournament’s later stages and getting results that would count towards the regular season, it seemed that most teams weighed the latter more heavily than the former. But with regular season results off the table, the carrot is very directly a berth in the Concacaf Champions League for the team and $1.1 million for the players. These are professional athletes, so you can bet on them going out there and competing to the end, but it will be interesting to see what kind of tactical decisions get made when it comes to holding for a tie and going to penalties or going for it at the end of regulation, and how those decision relate to a coach’s risk aversion or sense of what’s at stake.

FIRST TOUCHES
MNUFC defeated Columbus in a penalty shootout 5-3 after a 1-1 draw in regulation, the first for the club in MLS competition. The Loons last had a penalty shootout against then-USL team FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup on June 6, 2018. Minnesota won that shootout 3-1.

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SOUND OF THE LOONS: QUARTERFINALS

 

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