Preview | #CLBvMIN

Preview | #CLBvMIN

COLUMBUS CREW SC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED
MAPFRE Stadium | Columbus, Ohio
09.23.2020 | MLS Week No. 13 | MLS Game No. 13
6:30 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North+, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

2020 Records:
CLB: 8-1-3 (6–0-0 at home)
MIN: 5-4-3 (3-3-3 on the road)

Despite the disappointment that inevitably comes with giving up a two-goal lead, Saturday night’s 2-2 draw for a point in Houston was likely the justified result. Each team put up an even 1.98 xG according to MLS’ Ben Baer, meaning that the quality of shots they got added up to just about two goals apiece. Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair put in another strong shift in his fourth start, including the first penalty save of his young career. While the team awaits word on the injury statuses of defender Bakaye Dibassy and midfielder Kevin Molino — both of whom had to come off against Houston — they’ll also be welcoming forward Kei Kamara to the fold. Needing another striker, MNUFC went out and got the fifth all-time leading goalscorer in MLS, giving the Loons yet another big body to target on crosses and set pieces. With the season more or less at its halfway point, MNUFC sit in fourth place in the lonesome and crowded West, three points back from top of the table Seattle and three points up from being on the outside looking in. With the schedule in Phase 3 still up in the air, there’s no time like the present for MNUFC to seize the opportunity to upend the leaders in the Supporters Shield race and snatch another victory from Columbus Crew SC as they did in the Round of 16 in the MLS Is Back Tournament.

THE OPPOSITION
Columbus Crew SC have been the class of MLS for much of the season and sit currently in the lead for the Supporters Shield, boasting a staggering +16 goal differential and having conceded just four goals all season. Much of the credit for that steadiness goes to their double pivot and the confident ball handling and tempo of midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Artur. The Crew haven’t lost a step despite Nagbe’s absence the last few games, and they’ve also been without high-priced offseason acquisition Lucas Zelarayan for a few weeks as well. It simply goes to the show that the star of the team may very well be Head Coach Caleb Porter’s system, which all the players have bought into. Add in a career year for Gyasi Zardes that has the forward second in scoring with nine goals just behind Diego Rossi’s 10, and you have a recipe for a Columbus side that are feeling their oats and confident in every game they go into, especially at MAPFRE Stadium where they are 6-0-0.

KEI KAMARA ON PLAYING WITH EMANUEL REYNOSO

“It’s huge, it’s huge. I’ve played with one of them in Guillermo Barros Schelotto so this is, actually I don’t think it’s a good thing for me to say because that makes me feel really old that I played with Guillermo but it’s great. When you have players at that caliber, you want to help them out so they can achieve bigger dreams that they want to. Hopefully he’s one of those guys that’s looking to make the rest of the guys around him better. It’s good to have a big guy that he can feel comfortable to feed balls to and we can work off of each other.”
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ADRIAN HEATH ON KAMARA'S COMPETITIVE NATURE

“You only have to speak to people who know Kei. At times he’s controversial, he says it as he sees it and one of the things I think that he will bring to us is a big personality. I think at times we’ve been lacking a little bit of that. He’s never shy at letting people know what their jobs are and as I’ve said all along, this isn’t a popularity show, we have to be competitive and I think he will hold people accountable as he’s always done. It’s perfect timing, perfect place for everybody. For him, he needed a little lift and a change of scenery and we certainly needed somebody of his magnitude to come in. Speaking to Ike [Opara] and a few of the guys who know him well, they’re really pleased that he’s in the building. I think he’s going to be huge for us, I really do between now and come the end of the season.”

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STORYLINE
This will be the first Eastern Conference team the Loons will face in a regular season turned absolutely upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. While it’s par for the course to face fewer teams from the other conference in a season, it’s also usually customary to face a variety of foes from one’s own conference. Instead, MNUFC have squared off against Sporting KC three times, Houston twice in Texas, and will see Real Salt Lake for the third time to close out Phase 2 later this week, all this while not yet facing the Galaxy, Sounders or LAFC this season. The result league-wide of this kind of imbalance is a supremely volatile season in terms of results and assessing teams, even in a league known for its volatility. The upshot by the end of the year will be that any team with a postseason berth should feel it’s just about anybody’s game in the playoffs this year. A team with Minnesota United’s depth should be well-positioned, especially if they can get some of their regular starters back for a stretch run.

FIRST TOUCHES

Kamara has taken 1026 shots in his career, and is the only MLS player with more that 1000 shots.

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SOUND OF THE LOONS: SECOND SHIFT STARTERS

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