MINNESOTA UNITED vs. CHICAGO FIRE FC
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
10.14.2020 | MLS Week No. 18 | MLS Game No. 18
7:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
CHI: 5-8-4 (0-5-3 on the road)
MIN: 6-5-5 (3-1-1 at home)
After a weekend that saw their game against FC Dallas postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests, Minnesota United prepare to host Chicago Fire FC at Allianz Field on Wednesday. In a season that’s already been turned upside down and in which the Loons have had to deal with injuries to key starters, more absences due to coronavirus will hit even harder. The team’s shared history — although brief — favors MNUFC. Minnesota got their first road win in MLS against the Fire back in 2017 and have overall won twice while losing just once in the all-time series. Former MNUFC captain Francisco Calvo will no doubt be chomping at the bit to get a result against his old team, while the rest of the Fire will want the W for other reasons: Chicago are the only team in MLS yet to claim an away win in 2020.
Good morning from Blaine. pic.twitter.com/IzEMzmngNe— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 13, 2020
The Fire were likely hoping for a more normal season for their relaunch as they returned to Soldier Field with a new-look badge and feel, but all of that has taken a backseat in 2020. Instead Chicago have found themselves struggling to find consistency under first-year Head Coach Raphael Wicky. Recent results — at least — have them on the upswing and into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference with clean sheet wins over Houston (4-0) and Atlanta (2-0) at the end of September. The team has struggled mightily on the road, though, while Minnesota have not lost at home since early September.
MICHAEL BOXALL ON ROBERT BERIC
“I think it’s great that we’re finally playing teams that we haven’t played before. Conversely, that kind of goes both ways. He’s not sure what to expect from our back four and how we defend. Anytime we’ve come up against perceived difficult challenges, we always rise to that occasion. Bakaye [Dibassy] has come in and he’s looked so comfortable and it’s great playing alongside him, the few times we have lined up alongside each other.”
ADRIAN HEATH ON CHICAGO FIRE FC
“It’s never easy when you’re sort of rebranding the club from the inside and the outside. Because, they’ve virtually, I think it’s 18 new players since the start of last year. You know, they rebranded, they’ve gone back to the big stadium, Solider Field, they’ve had the rebranding. And, I said it at Disney, I think they’re a really well-organized, well-drilled outfit. You know, they’ve got strength in good positions with [Robert] Beric, CJ Sapong, he’s always a handful, [Fabian] Herbers, he’s had a sort of renaissance if you’d like, [Przemyslaw] Frankowski, with his pace in wide areas. They bought some really good competitive and combative midfield players. This is going to be a tough game for us. A well-organized, well-motivated team. For what’s a really important week for us when you look at what’s at stake. Wednesday. Then, at the weekend. Suddenly, you put six points on then, will get us a long way to where we think we’ll need to be for the playoffs. So it’s something that we’ve spoke about. It’s something we could have ill-afforded the three days where we haven’t been able to train in the buildup to this game, but, as I said, I don’t want to use it as an excuse. I want the players to be focused on what we can do about it, not what we can’t.”MORE
“Asked about his favorite Minnesota United players, he leans into the ones he’s gotten to meet personally at player camps, naming Jan Gregus, Chase Gasper and Michael Boxall.” https://t.co/HSTw6MZMJw— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 12, 2020
One way or another, Chicago has become quite the home for former Loons. Minnesota’s all-time leader for appearances and minutes at goalkeeper, Bobby Shuttleworth, is the Fire’s current first-choice netminder. Francisco Calvo was traded to the Fire early last season, and MLS SuperDraft pick Wyatt Omsberg joined the team just prior to the start of the 2020 season. On the flip side, Raheem Edwards — who was acquired in exchange for Omsberg — has proved his worth for MNUFC, contributing three assists and energy off the bench.
Neither team has scored in the first 15 minutes of a match during the all-time series.
LOON DIVE: KEI KAMARA