Coming off a convincing win against Indy Eleven last Saturday and a humbling defeat to AFC Bournemouth in a midweek friendly, the Loons hope to keep pace with the top of the table against the struggling Strikers.
Minnesota’s up-and-down fall season continues at home; Carl Craig and company are 2-1 in the league, but have two losses in friendlies to add to their account. Fort Lauderdale has not fared as well, sitting second from the bottom on the fall table with one point from four matches. On the combined table, Fort Lauderdale sits at 16 points, just above the drop-off that is the bottom four. The Strikers are also coming off of a midweek 3-0 defeat against the Chicago Fire in U.S. Open Cup play.
Minnesota defeated the Strikers 3-0 in their only meeting this season. All-time, Minnesota leads the series with ten wins, five losses, and four draws. Perhaps best remembered is the semifinals loss in 2014 that want to penalties after regulation and extra time ended 1-1.
Minnesota enters the match with a clean bill of health*; no injuries or suspensions. Fort Lauderdale will be missing midfielder Ramon Nuñez and coach Caio Zanardi after both were ejected in the Strikers’ previous match. Defender Nana Attakora will miss this week after suffering a concussion on Wednesday.
*since publishing this has changed. See bottom for update.
The Strikers have struggled this season, and it shows in the disciplinary department. Fort Lauderdale has seen 37 yellow cards (to Minnesota’s 24), with both teams also being shown the red on four occasions. The Strikers are combative, drawing 210 fouls to Minnesota’s 153, but conceding more as well — the Floridians have conceded 225 fouls to the Loons’ 162.
Minnesota’s advantage comes in two places: the Loons have kept five clean sheets to the Strikers’ one and the Loons have converted shots to goals at nearly twice the rate of Fort Lauderdale. The Strikers, however, have completed a higher percentage of both their passes and crosses.
The problem for Fort Lauderdale likely lies in their roster; Caio Zanardi has been forced to rely on Geison Moura, Maicon Santos, and Paulo Jr. as his primary forwards. This is not a recipe for success.
This is a meeting Minnesota should be winning. The Loons are at home facing a squad that is short one of its main attackers and its coach. Look for Fort Lauderdale to try to break their run of poor form, but this is not the Strikers team that downed Minnesota on penalties two years ago.
Minnesota will almost certainly start the same lineup as last Saturday, with one change; Ben Speas should be ready to return in the number 10 role behind Christian Ramirez.
Fort Lauderdale will be forced into at least one change, with Nuñez seeing red last week. Look for Geison Moura to start in his place leading Fort Lauderdale’s attack.
The match begins at 7 p.m. Central Time and will be broadcast on My 29 and ESPN 3.
Since publishing, Fifty Five.One has learned via Andy Greder that Kevin Venegas is unavailable due to a torn meniscus. There are a few options coach Craig has, but according to Jeff Rueter, Damion Lowe has been the go-to right back when Venegas is out. Therefore, it is likely Lowe will play in the right back position, with Tiago Calvano filling out the central defense.