LOOK AT US. HEY, LOOK AT US. HUNOU? NOT ME: It’s not hard to surmise where the focus of most Minnesota United fans will be for this game. Following paperwork for visas and a quarantine period after entering the country, two exciting new signings are ready to join the team on the pitch. Forward Adrien Hunou joins Minnesota as a Designated Player from Stade Rennais in France’s Ligue 1. The 27-year-old was a homegrown player for Rennes and a fan favorite and promises to bring quality both as a finisher and as the first defender in Head Coach Adrian Heath’s pressing scheme. He’ll be joined by the third Argentine to join the team in the last year, Franco Fragapane. The left winger comes from Talleres in Argentina’s Primera Division, a club based in Cordoba, where both midfielder Emanuel Reynoso and forward Ramon Abila hail from. After stumbling out of the blocks to start the season, the Loons have now posted back-to-back shutouts on the strength of a more cohesive defense and just enough offense. The hope is clearly that Hunou and Fragapane can give the attack the kind of boost that can make one goal games into two or three goal games.
HOW MUCH YOU WANNA MAKE A BET I CAN KICK A SOCCER BALL OVER THEM SUPPORTERS: Due to a call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team for a friendly against Switzerland, Real Salt Lake will be without the services of goalkeeper David Ochoa. You might remember him from Minnesota United’s home opener, where he got so annoyed with fans in the Wonderwall that he booted the ball into the stands following the game. Still not ringing a bell? This guy:
Yeah, so anyways, Real Salt Lake will likely start Andrew Putna in goal, who started 15 games for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2020 and was on the roster of the Chicago Fire’s U23 team in the Premier Development League in 2014 at the same time as Minnesota’s Tyler Miller. So, still a revenge game. Kinda.
LOD MANAGEMENT: Don’t look now, but Robin Lod — who struggled in his first season with Minnesota United before finding his stride last season playing as an inverted winger on the right side and a false 9 up top — is quietly placing himself among the statistical elite in MLS through the season’s early going. His current expected goals (xG) total of 3.08 has him not far behind Inter Miami’s Gonzalo Higuain (3.29) and San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski (3.08). It also has him ahead of SKC’s Alan Pulido (2.56) and NYCFC’s Jesus Medina (2.56). Shift the focus to a combination of chance creation and finishing with expected assists plus expected goals (xG+xA) and the story so far looks even better for the Finn. His 4.32 xG+xA has him behind only Raul Ruidiaz, Chicharito and Carles Gil in the league. Given that Gil has looked like an MVP so far with the Eastern Conference-leading New England Revolution and that Chicharito and Ruidiaz sit one and two atop the Golden Boot race, that’s some rare company. The tantalizing element of all this is that Lod is not a ball-dominant player, either as a scorer or a playmaker. While he’s 11th on the team in touches per 90 at 44.09, he’s second in touches in the box per 90 at 7.11. As we saw last year, he benefited tremendously from having both Emanuel Reynoso and Kevin Molino to play off of, contributing efficiently whenever he did get the ball. If Hunou and Fragapane can pull defenders’ attention alongside Reynoso, Lod stands to profit as a do-it-all player who can find the gaps and exploit them.