It seems about 95% of bye weeks are described as coming “at the right time.” Minnesota probably fits that narrative this time around. After encouraging back-to-back wins, the Loons have suffered consecutive losses, each with its own caveats, but each disheartening in its own way. Now, Minnesota enters a new phase of the season and a new era as an MLS club, welcoming its first-ever Designated Player. How will the lineup need to change to accommodate Darwin Quintero, and can he help the Loons earn another road win against a struggling Portland team?
In the shadow of Bob Ross, Minnesota United began its MLS journey in 2017 in inauspicious fashion. After a late Christian Ramirez goal bought Minnesota back into the game behind 2-1, Portland poured on three more goals in the final ten minutes to send the Loons packing with a 5-1 loss. Minnesota earned a measure of revenge later in the season with a 3-2 win at home, with Sam Cronin, Christian Ramirez, and Abu Danladi netting for the victors.
|Referee||Jose Carlos Rivero|
Jose Carlos Rivero will be already logging his fifth match as head referee this year on Saturday evening. Last year, Rivero had more yellow cards per game than any other referee who helmed at least 20 games. However, he ranked only 12th in fouls per game. One way to interpret this is that he lets a lot of dubious activity pass until it reaches his personal tipping point, at which he is quick to go to the cards. Our own referee expert, Doug Vetshak, predicts a roughly 30% probability that Wes Burdine will be angry at Rivero before halftime.
D Roy Miller (left Achilles tendon) – Out
D Alvas Powell (right thigh) – Questionable
D Liam Ridgewell (lower left leg) – Questionable
D Vytas Andriuškevičius (right thigh) – Questionable
M Sam Cronin (neck injury) – Out
M Kevin Molino (torn ACL) – Out
D Tyrone Mears (lower right leg) – Out
D Jérôme Thiesson (left hip injury) – Questionable
After a good win against Chicago with Miguel Ibarra featuring as a unique center attacking midfielder, it seemed that Minnesota perhaps had a lasting solution for playmaking. Rather than delivering perfect passes, Ibarra’s role would be to make runs into unpredictable spaces, create overload situations, and either find himself with space or having created space for others. If nothing else, it was a good use of the tools the team had, even if they wouldn’t create a team from scratch with that model.
Then Atlanta happened.
Where fan chatter is concerned, the Atlanta loss was divisive. Some felt Minnesota did a good job of owning possession and just lacked that lucky bounce to break a very good Atlanta bunker. Others believed that Minnesota’s overreliance on hitting prayer crosses into the box when crossing and aerial success are known weak points for the club. One fact emerged, though, that almost cannot be disputed: Minnesota missed having a real No. 10. Miguel Ibarra’s talent for making runs was entirely unhelpful against a team that had no intention of following him, and the team was desperate for a player that could operate in tight spaces and hit a perfect pass on a dime.
Darwin Quintero could be that player. His primary skill set may be as a striker, but as a second striker in the Kevin Molino mold, he may be able to find a balance between scoring goals and creating them. The question is whether the lineup or formation needs to be changed entirely, or whether El Científico will make a straight swap.
It is likely to be the latter. With Quintero taking over for Ibarra, the club is able to retain its trusty 4-2-3-1 and doesn’t have to play with decisions such as removing Sam Nicholson or Ethan Finlay, who have been strong early this season. Using Ibarra as an injection of speed and fresh legs in the 75th minute could be a great use of his talent, and that late game shift from an attacking midfielder who works centrally and with less movement to one that is all over the place would be a great curveball for opponents. It is the direction I expect to see United take in implementing their first Designated Player.
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