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Match Preview: Minnesota at Carolina

by on 21 October 2016

Minnesota travels to Carolina to take on the RailHawks in a match that could see the Loons try to regain control of their destiny as the season nears its close.

Minnesota comes off its first win since September third, while the RailHawks look to break a two-game losing streak. Carolina has virtually no hope of making the postseason, but they could spoil United’s Soccer Bowl bid with a win and other results going against the Loons.

Recent Form

RailHawks L D W L L -3
GD
0.8 PPG
MNUFC L L D D W -1
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1.0 PPG

Neither team has impressed of late, but as noted in the Power Rankings, Carolina’s midweek loss to OKC was perhaps the nail in the coffin. Minnesota, meanwhile, has completed their first win in over a month with an impressive victory over FC Edmonton. A win does not guarantee the playoffs for Minnesota, but a loss could eliminate the Loons from contention with other results going against them.

Previous Meetings

Minnesota holds a narrow 10-8-8 lead in the all-time against Carolina, and this in spite of being outscored 35-32 in the series. The Loons have had most of their success at home, compiling a 7-5-1 record when playing the RailHawks at the National Sports Center.

This season, Carolina defeated Minnesota 2-1 in Cary in the season opener for both teams. The Loons would avenge that defeat on July 2 via a 5-1 rout in Blaine.

Officials

Referee Marcos de Oliveira
Assistant James Conlee
Assistant Benjamin Wooten
Fourth Robert Dail

Marcos de Oliveira has issued 41 yellow cards, no red cards, and awarded three penalties while at the helm of 14 games this season (MLS, NASL, and USL combined).

Roster Report

Minnesota will be without Jamie Watson and Greg Jordan who are all recovering from injuries. Bernardo Añor has reportedly traveled with the team and could see some time on the field. Carolina has neither injury nor suspension hindering them.

Carolina: Last Time Out

Carolina’s 3-0 loss to Indy was no fluke. The RailHawks were lucky to enter the half time break only down one goal after conceding five shots on target. They were perhaps hard done by a 3-0 scoreline at full time, after two of the three shots on target ended up in the net. One of these was a simple shot by Nicki Patterson from the top of the penalty area, while the other came off a long Patterson ball to Don Smart, who crossed to Souleymane Youla.

Still, Carolina did not muster a shot on target till the 33rd minute, and then not another till the 70th. Carolina did complete more passing than Indy, but Indy tended to pass longer than Carolina. Furthermore, a glance at the chalkboard shows that a mere nine of Carolina’s 457 passes were completed into Indy’s penalty area.

Defensively, the RailHawks were relatively stable. They locked the penalty area down, only allowing that same nine completed passes into the 18-yard box. That said, four of those passes were completed to the penalty spot or closer to goal, two of which ended up in the back of the net. The match center shows that Indy assaulted Carolina’s penalty area, pumping passes and crosses in. While Carolina’s defense was able to keep most of these out, a team cannot allow four completed passes to the penalty spot or closer.

Image Courtesy of lineupbuilder.com

Image Courtesy of lineupbuilder.com

Carolina’s 3-5-2 formation provides good width in midfield, and Matt Watson’s defensive presence shields the center backs in the middle of the pitch. Kareem Moses and Steven Miller shuttle along the wings, providing width in attack and defense, and are a possible point of weakness.

Matchup

Last week, we saw a long ball to Ibson volleyed to Christian Ramirez, and this could be repeated if Moses or Miller are caught too far forward. Defensively, Minnesota’s back line will need to watch for Nazmi Albadawi arriving late to the area, with the full backs and two forwards occupying all four defenders for the Loons.

This should be a matchup that Minnesota wins. Albadawi has had a good season for Carolina, but the team as a whole has underwhelmed. Given the added pressure of needing the win to keep pace with the playoff race, look for Minnesota to try for all three points on their final road trip of the season.

The match kicks off at 6:30 PM, and will be shown on MY29.

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