MINNESOTA UNITED vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
08.21.2020 | MLS Week No. 6 | MLS Game No. 6
6:30 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North+, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
It’s only 159 days late, but Minnesota United will at last have its home opener at Allianz Field. Instead of New York Red Bulls, the Loons will welcome Sporting Kansas City back to Saint Paul as MLS teams resume play in their home markets. While the general public will not be in attendance, don’t expect these two teams to take it easy on each other. MNUFC has never won at Children’s Mercy Park and SKC has never won on Minnesota’s home turf, plus the Loons took all three in the teams’ last meeting in the Group Stage of the MLS Is Back Tournament in a dramatic come-from-behind, 2-1 win. Minnesota United is still without Ike Opara, but defender Jose Aja proved his mettle in the tournament and the team will also be adding defender Bakaye Dibassy once the former Amiens player is cleared. The Loons will also be relying on Greg Ranjitsingh in net following Tyler Miller’s successful hip surgery. After making their way through to the Semifinals, the Loons will be out to show their success was no fluke as the regular season picks back up.
hold on, we're going home... pic.twitter.com/pJ18l6B3wO— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 20, 2020
Although Sporting Kansas City won Group D of the MLS Is Back Tournament, its run ended at the hands of the Philadelphia Union in the Round of 16. Throughout the tournament, Alan Pulido led the attack, although it was more through his playmaking than his goalscoring. Don’t sleep, though, on players like wingers Khiry Shelton and Gadi Kinda. Shelton is tied for the team lead with three goals, but couldn’t go against Philadelphia in the game that knocked SKC out of the tournament. Kinda, meanwhile, has been a revelation in his first season in MLS, scoring twice to go with two assists. The last time Sporting KC visited Allianz Field, the Loons triumphed with a last minute goal by Hassani Dotson, sending them to the playoffs and locking SKC out, but this is a much different and altogether more deadly Sporting side and Minnesota will definitely have its hands full.
CHASE GASPER ON WHAT THE TEAM TOOK FROM THE TOURNAMENT
“We’re taking back a lot of motivation. It was a bitter way to get knocked out in the semifinals after having a great tournament, I think that’s reigniting a fire and motivation in every guy on this team to come back out in the next six games stretch to do better and show the league what we are about. We’re one of the best teams in the league and just show it in these next six games.”
ADRIAN HEATH ON SPORTING KANSAS CITY
“It’s never easy and, obviously, we have tremendous respect for not only Peter [Vermes] and his staff, but his team. We probably pinched one when we played them down in Orlando and we’ll certainly have to play a lot better than we did that day to get a result. But I’m confident that we will be better. We’ve had four or five games since then, training has been excellent. We’re looking forward to coming back to Allianz, which our home record is terrific. We’re going to have to play well. We don’t fear them but we certainly respect them.”MORE
It's coming right for us! pic.twitter.com/RxHSHA6PO3— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 19, 2020
An interesting thing to keep tabs on as play begins again in home markets is how home field advantage plays out when there are no or limited fans at the games. Teams in MLS have traditionally held a massive advantage when playing at home, with the home side taking all three points 53% of the time. With so many factors to take into account — travel, climate, field conditions, fans — it can be difficult to parse what is having such big impact on results, but the games in Phase I will provide an opportunity to account for at least one of those variables, even if it’s on a limited basis. In their MLS history, the visiting team has yet to win a game between Minnesota and Sporting Kansas City, so it will be interesting to see if this match-up — as well as the upcoming game at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday, September 13 — will buck the trend in the all-time series.
MNUFC and SKC have the best scoring percentages in the league, finding the back of the net on 18.5% and 18.6% of their shots respectively.
SOUND OF THE LOONS: WHAT'S NEXT?