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Match Preview: New York at Minnesota

by on 28 October 2016

Minnesota United must win Saturday night. Rayo OKC must lose Sunday afternoon. Any other combination of events ends Minnesota’s 2016 season. Also, the Loons face the league’s top team — the Cosmos — that they’ve only ever beaten once before.

If that weren’t enough, Loons fans will bid farewell to the National Sports Center on Saturday. With the team set to begin play in MLS using TCF Bank Stadium as a temporary venue, Minnesota United will no longer call Nessie home, though her name will surely be sung for seasons to come.

Between the bittersweet pangs of nostalgia, and the apprehension and excitement of change, lays the tension of a season on the edge. There is a case to be made the pull of such emotions is what has slowed the Loons as the fall season has approached its conclusion. The erosion of Minnesota’s lead on the field in the race for fourth has resulted in the aforementioned tension that thousands in Blaine will chant, cheer, sing and shout to prolong. A win, to keep fans on edge until Sunday.

Recent Form

Cosmos W W D W W +10
GD
2.6 PPG
MNUFC L D D W L +1
GD
1.0 PPG

New York has scored 10 more goals than its opponents over its last five games, while Minnesota has scored five total goals in its last five contests. After having lost the spring season title at the very death to Indy Eleven, the Cosmos redoubled their focus and ran away with the fall season title. Worryingly for a Minnesota team in need of a win, New York doesn’t appear to be slowing down as it charges toward the playoffs.

Previous Meetings

The historical series against the modern iteration of the Cosmos has been nearly all New York. Minnesota owns a 1-4-5 record and has been outscored eight goals to four. For those doing the math, meetings between the two teams have resulted in a combined average of just 1.2 goals per game.

When hosting the Cosmos in Blaine, the Loons have fared better, posting an even 1-3-1 record with two goals for and against.

The Loons’ lone win over the Cosmos came during the spring season, with Christian Ramirez’s 90th minute goal lifting Minnesota to a 1-0 home victory on April 23rd. New York would extract its revenge when it hosted Minnesota on September 10, securing its own 1-0 home win on the back of a David Diosa goal.

Officials

Referee Allen Chapman
Assistant Peter Balciunas
Assistant Dan Stupca
Fourth Kyle Burkhardt

Chapman is an experienced official with 89 MLS, four NASL, one USL, and three U.S. Open Cup matches on his record. This season, Chapman has issued 65 yellow cards and four red cards in 18 matches across all divisions, awarding four penalties in the process.

Chapman was last at the helm of a match involving Minnesota on October 27, 2013 when the Loons defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-1 in Blaine.

Roster Report

Bernardo Añor returned to the field against Carolina last weekend following a prolonged absence due to injury. Unfortunately, Jeb Brovsky suffered a knee injury in that same game, has since undergone surgery, and will miss the remainder of the 2016 season.

No other Loons have been confirmed out for Saturday’s regular season finale.

New York: Last Time Out

New York jumped on Miami early last Saturday. Arrieta and Yohandry Orozco scored 2nd and 7th minute goals, helping the Cosmos build a 4-0 lead by halftime. There was little left for the Cosmos to do in the second half, other than comfortably wait out the final 45 minutes. Juan Arango turned in a Man of the Match performance, tallying a goal and two assists.

The Cosmos found success attacking in numbers, with Arango pushing forward to form a semblance of a strike partnership. Arrieta, Diosa, and Orozco play fairly narrowly, and full backs Ryan Richter and Ayoze will be overlapping to provide width.

Image Courtesy of lineupbuilder.com

Image Courtesy of lineupbuilder.com

Head coach Giovanni Savarese has assembled a fair amount of depth on his roster, but certain Cosmos have emerged as clear first-choice starters. That list includes fullbacks Richter and Ayoze, goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, holding midfielder Adam Moffat, center midfielder Ruben Bover, attacking midfielder Arango, winger Orozco, and forward Arrieta. Of that octet, only Maurer was rested against Miami, making way for one of the league’s better backup keepers in Brian Holt.

Notably, the talented yet fragile center back Rovérsio made his return to the field for the Cosmos last weekend. As has often been repeated, and always with a heavy emphasis on when, the Brazilian can be one of the best center backs in league when healthy.

Matchup

A good place to start when handing out an end of season award to a league’s best manager, is to judge the the field by the number of dollars of salary spent per win or point in the standings. That metric suggests FC Edmonton’s Colin Miller has been the best head coach in the NASL this season. But New York’s Giovanni Savarese is an equally deserving candidate.

The Cosmos parted ways with creative midfielder Niko Kranjcar, defender Hunter Freeman, the versatile Michael Lahoud, defender Jimmy Ockford and forward Yasmani Duk during the 2016 season, and Savarese kept the Cosmos machine chugging along, seemingly without a bump in the road.

Counting stats can be crude metrics, but Arango’s 15 goals and seven assists in 2,530 minutes this season carry plenty of signal in relation to noise. Damion Lowe and Brent Kallman have solidified their places as the Loons starting center back tandem, but with Brovsky unavailable, it will be interesting to see which midfielder(s) play in front of defense for the Loons, and if any are tasked with shadowing the Cosmos’ dangerman.

Up front, Arrieta isn’t the most clinical center forward, but the Costa Rican stays involved in the Cosmos’ attack and plays in a line-up that provides plenty of goals from midfield.

Collectively, the New York is stout defensively, and it bears mention that the Loons and Cosmos have combined for just four goals over five matches contested in Minnesota.

Whether or not Savarese rotates his squad to keep legs fresh for New York’s November 5 semifinal, or uses Saturday’s match to keep most of his first-choice players sharp, the Loons shouldn’t go in expecting the Cosmos to do them any favors.

If Minnesota’s tenure in the NASL provides any guide, it takes a team’s best effort to better the Cosmos, and even that hasn’t always been enough.

Whatever the eventual outcome on Saturday, let’s raise the curtain at least one more time this year.

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