Preview | #MINvVAN
© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Preview | #MINvVAN

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
05.12.2021 | MLS Week No. 5 | MLS Game No. 5
8:00 p.m. CT (The CW Twin Cities, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

2021 Regular Season Records (W-L-D):
VAN: 2-1-1 (0-0-1 on the road)
MIN: 0-4-0 (0-2-0 at home)

It’s hard to envision a worse start to the season than Minnesota United have had thus far. Two road games, two home games, a -7 goal differential and not a point to show for it. The Loons find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference heading into a home-and-home double-game week with Vancouver Whitecaps FC up first on Wednesday. Against Colorado over the weekend, MNUFC shifted into a 4-3-3 that helped them hold the advantage in the midfield in the first half and resulted in a 2-0 lead going into the half. But they ran out of gas in the second half and gave up three goals in the span of 25 minutes. To get a result, they’ll need to double down on that first half intensity and keep it up for the whole 90 against a Whitecaps team that fought Toronto FC to a 2-2 draw in their only road game so far.

THE OPPOSITION
The Whitecaps last qualified for the playoffs in 2017 when they were the third seed in the Western Conference. From there, they dropped to eighth and then bounced off the bottom of the table in 2019 to get back up to ninth in 2020. The club’s most notable achievement in that span has probably been selling Alphonso Davies on to Bayern in 2020 for a pretty penny. But right now, Head Coach Marc Dos Santos has the ‘Caps on an upward trajectory, thanks in large part to the play of forward Cristian Dajome. The Colombian already has three goals and Vancouver are sitting at fourth place on seven points, even with Sporting Kansas City and Colorado. The other key to Vancouver’s solid start has been goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who has made 14 saves on 17 shots so far and whose goals to expected goals ratio (essentially, how well he’s outperforming expectations based on the quality of shots he’s facing) leads the league at 0.7. The Loons will have to figure out a way to break down Crepeau while stymieing the attack as they remain on the hunt for their first points of the season.

MICHAEL BOXALL ON THE IMPACT OF THE FANS AT HOME

“It’s massive. Some of the places I’ve played where you’ve struggled to get crowds, and for the first couple years, we struggled to get results, all the Loons faithful continued to show up. I do not take that for granted so I appreciate every single person that shows up inside the stadium, watches at home, has a bumper sticker on their car. It’s cool to see around the city and we need to get on the right track to repay their faith in us.”
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ADRIAN HEATH ON WHAT NEED TO IMPROVE

“When I examine the performances, I think there’s not one game where I can think we haven’t had control of the game for large periods. For an hour in Seattle. I look at the game against Salt Lake where we had 20 efforts at goal, and this weekend, probably the first half in Colorado is as well as we’ve played since I’ve been the coach here. There a bit positives. Hey, we can’t get away from the fact that we haven’t done enough in the attacking third and we’ve certainly not defended the goal as well as we can. One of the strengths of this team last year was its resilience and not giving up when we were on the road, under pressure, and this year, it’s not been the case and we have to get back to that.”

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STORYLINES presented by BMW
HISTORY HAS IT’S AYE AYE AYE’S ON YOU: Minnesota United have not endured a four-game losing streak in MLS since the final four games of the 2018 season. For reference, the only players in the 18 for the start of that losing streak — a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park — who are still with the team are Michael Boxall and Brent Kallman. They closed out the streak and the season with a game away against Columbus Crew SC that featured Wil Trapp and Niko Hansen — playing for the Crew. Defender Francisco Calvo had a brace in that game, if you want to get a real sense for how long it’s been since the straits have been this dire for the Loons. If the problems were strictly tactical or about the overall quality of the team, they wouldn’t necessarily be easy to remedy, but they would be somewhat clearer. Instead, the Loons have been bedeviled by a panoply of problems from individual mistakes that other teams have ruthlessly exploited to injuries to being stuck waiting for the arrival of new Designated Player Adrien Hunou while badly needing more production in front of goal.

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FIRST TOUCHES
The Loons’ scoring percentage remains at the bottom of MLS at 4.9%. Vancouver score on 15.2% of their shots, good for fifth in the league. At 48.5%, almost half of the Whitecaps’ shots are on frame.

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SOUND OF THE LOONS: FOUR LOST

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