SPORTING KC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
09.13.2020 | MLS Week No. 11 | MLS Game No. 11
7:30 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
SKC: 5-3-2 (2-2-1 at home)
MIN: 5-3-2 (3-2-2 on the road)
In their new home’s inaugural season in 2019, Minnesota United lost just one game at Allianz Field. So it surely left a bitter taste in the Loons’ mouth when they dropped their 20020 home opener 2-1 to visiting Sporting Kansas City. That loss began a three-game slide that MNUFC was finally able to stop authoritatively with a pair of home wins over Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas that vaulted them to the top of the Western Conference. Now Minnesota heads down I-35 to try to do at Children’s Mercy Park what SKC did at Allianz Field a few weeks ago. While MNUFC has had to endure a broad swathe of injuries, the players who have stepped up have done so admirably, including a developing relationship and understanding in midfield between Jan Gregus and Hassani Dotson. Mason Toye opened his 2020 MLS account at last against FC Dallas and Robin Lod looks reborn on the right side of the attacking midfield. Tying all the strings together is new DP Emanuel Reynoso, who already has two assists and a hand in most of the goals scored in the last two games. With Reynoso growing ever more comfortable with his teammates, the Loons will be aiming for something they’ve never gotten — points at Children’s Mercy Park.
Since coming to Allianz Field and walking away with all three points, Sporting have endured their own slump, losing twice to Houston and drawing with Colorado and Dallas. As with Minnesota, some of that has come down to the compressed schedule and missing players. SKC are without Felipe Gutierrez for the rest of the season, have not had Ilie Sanchez since the regular season picked back up and haven’t had Alan Pulido for the last two games. But Sporting KC also boast impressive depth and players up and down the roster who know how to play Head Coach Peter Vermes’ system. Following Thursday night’s drubbing of the Quakes by the Sounders, SKC now sits in third in the Western Conference behind MNUFC. There’s little danger of them dropping all the way out of the playoff picture, given the confirmed news that the top eight teams will all make the postseason out of the West, but upending Minnesota in a clash of teams near the top of the table could go a long way towards re-establishing the position SKC held as cup contenders before the season began.
MASON TOYE ON BUILDING MOMENTUM
“In the beginning we only had one game at home, and you play against Dallas and Houston away, those are tough games. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we knew the last game [Real Salt Lake] was going to be really difficult for us and we really needed to get a win and we did and we needed to get another one tonight. We are just trying to continue to keep it rolling and not overthink the next game in Kansas City at all and we are trying to continue to just win the games and it’s that plain and simple. That’s what Adrian Heath has been talking about, you can talk about tactics, but at the end of the day you just need to go out and win games and that’s what we need to continue to do.”
ADRIAN HEATH ON MIDFIELD ROLES WITHOUT OSVALDO ALONSO
“It’s a little bit different because obviously Ozzie [Alonso] generally plays the deeper one with whoever he plays with. He’s normally the 6 if you’d like. And, obviously, with Hassani [Dotson], all of Hassani’s strengths is going and foraging for the ball and, so, you know, they have to bounce off each other, they have to give a little bit of balance off each other. And, Hassani, as we’ve always said, he looks to break on and drive forward with the ball. And that’s where Jan [Gregus] has got to be sensible and not get too ahead of the ball himself because we need that little bit of defensive base there. But so far, they’ve done okay. I’ve been pleased with them.”
Minnesota has enjoyed some of its greatest success this season when it has dedicated a measure of defensive energy to confronting the team’s midfield playmakers high up the pitch and stymieing the attack before it even gets started. Against Columbus in the Round of 16, the midfield was effective at frustrating Darlington Nagbe and they did the same against Magnus Eriksson when the Loons faced San Jose in the quarterfinals. In the Loons’ loss to Sporting KC at Allianz Field, Gianluca Busio was afforded a great deal of space to create out of that deep-lying playmaker position. It will be interesting to see if Mason Toye or one of the attacking midfielders are tasked with blowing up Busio this time around in order to keep the home side from getting too comfortable.
Fourteen of the 26 goals in the all-time series between these teams have come in the final 15 minutes of a half.
SOUND OF THE LOONS: MLS DYNASTIES?