Minnesota lost its only match against the Galaxy in mid-May, a heartbreaking home defeat in which it owned 65% of possession. The Loons fielded a lineup very similar to what was deployed last week against Sporting Kansas City, including pairing Christian Ramirez and Abu Danladi up top and starting Miguel Ibarra on the left. Other than being memorable as a tough loss, the match stands out for an early injury to Baggio Husidic, who broke his leg in an injury the Galaxy would blame on the poor turf at TCF Bank Stadium.
|VAR||Juan Guzman Jr.|
Los Angeles Galaxy
D Robbie Rogers (ankle injury) – Out
M Sebastian Lletget (foot surgery) – Out
M Baggio Husidic (fractured fibula) – Out
D Pele van Anholt (torn ACL) – Out
D Daniel Steres (transverse process fracture) – Out
D Bradley Diallo (right hamstring injury) – Questionable
M Bernardo Añor (hamstring injury) – Out
D Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles) – Out
M Sam Cronin (head injury) – Out
D Joseph Greenspan (red card suspension) – Out
Last week, we reflected on the loss to Houston wherein Minnesota United dominated possession in the first half but was still outshot ten shots to two. It’s a theme I’ve been harping on for several weeks now: if Minnesota is owning possession, it is playing too patiently. There is no playmaker, no No. 10 with laser vision and magic touch who is setting free roaming wingers with perfectly weighted through balls. There are no twinkle-toed artists taking defenders on one-on-one, breaking ankles and dribbling around them to find acres of space. Instead there is a team full of competent, but not game changing, players from top to bottom who can make the most of the talents they do possess by putting opponents on the back foot and chasing.
The first game of the year against Los Angeles is just another data point in that argument. Minnesota was the better team that day, by conventional reckoning, anyway. Some missed chances and an unlucky own goal by Christian Ramirez were the difference. But against a team as thoroughly poor as Los Angeles, at home, two inches wide or two inches in shouldn’t have been the difference.
The Loons almost literally doubled up Los Angeles in passes, completed 80% of those passes to LA’s 65%, and outshot them 22 to 8 (at least in this case, they actually did win the shots battle). But for all that performance, the Loons barely edged the Galaxy in shots on goal, seven to five. It’s not about how big your possession is, it’s what you do with it.
Other than Sam Cronin, Minnesota will be able to pick its roster without compromise. The most unsettled position will be that defensive midfield role (hint: Collen Warner is a better fit than Collin Martin, so long as Warner is staying at home and not streaking in on goal). Any other deviations from the roster that was rolled out against Houston is Adrian Heath experimenting with the pieces he has to play with ahead of next year. That would hardly be the end of the world, with playoffs out of reach and only the future to play for.
How does that kind of lineup stack against Los Angeles? Tough to say, because the Galaxy are A) the classic example of a whole being less than the sum of its parts, and B) the club plays at home worse than most clubs play on the road. To look at this lineup, one would expect a striker like Giovanni dos Santos to perform: he has six goals this year. Emmanuel Boateng is a young, speedy guy whose career was supposed to be blossoming right now: he has scored four goals, actually the most he’s ever scored anywhere, and he’s split time with a rotating cast of wingers. Jermaine Jones is a Designated Player who is on death’s doorstep. Gyasi Zardes is a name that should stand out in the minds of many American soccer fans, but if you don’t follow the Galaxy you will be surprised to see him playing right back a la Graham Zusi; Zardes has not flourished in his new home. The only consistent bright spot on this roster is Romain Alessandrini, who left Marseille in the prime of his career for…this.
Los Angeles at least have speed to burn out wide. Expect Galaxy forwards to push up field and try to stretch Minnesota’s back line to create seams. Minnesota should enjoy space to work with on the attack, then, with opposing fullbacks working end to end and a Los Angeles center back pairing that has not performed well this year. A wide open game should be on tap.
Jermaine Jones is a midfielder for whom every pass is a do or die hero ball. Either he will land the impossible and break someone on goal from fifty yards out, or he will look like a fool. If the ploy to pull the Minnesota back line wider is successful, midfielders like Jones and Alessandrini will have that much wider spaces to land those miracle passes. That could be enough.
Against a team who will use width to pull a defense wide, the defensive midfielder role becomes essential to cover exposed gaps and not give opponents the time to exploit them. Whoever fills that role on Sunday – Warner, Martin, or the ghost of Cronin – needs to stay at home and know when to drop back and when to apply pressure. Keep the opponents to a goal or fewer, and Minnesota knows it has at least two goals in it against opposition like this.
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Tags: Abu Danladi, Baggio Husidic, Christian Ramirez, Colin Martin, Collen Warner, Emmanuel Boateng, Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Houston, Jermaine Jones, Match Preview, Miguel Ibarra, Minnesota United FC, MLS, Romain Alessandrini, Sam Cronin, sporting Kansas City