For one thing, the starting XI is sure to be different.
Looking at the starters in the home opener last year, the only players getting minutes this season are Francisco Calvo, Jerome Thiessen, Christian Ramirez, and Rasmus Schüller. Most of the starting roster is not even with the team, and between injuries, new players, and perceived drop in form, Calvo could be the only player who starts against the visitors on Saturday.
It’s not just the improved roster that has the players thinking that the match will play out very differently this time.
“I think it’s going to be a totally different game,” Calvo explained at practice recently. “We know each other a lot. We know who will be playing next to you now. It’s the confidence.”
Schüller echoed his captain’s words. “We have a much more stronger foundation. Our defensive as a team is better. We know how to work together, all eleven guys together. We trust each other.”
The team has already shown that this season. Fans watching the season opener likely thought this season would be more of the same when the Loons went down 3-0 to San Jose. However, the team stayed together, fought hard, and came back to end the game down only 3-2.
That result, while still a loss, gave the team confidence.
“It was unfortunate,” Schüller said about the San Jose game. “We played good in many moments, but then we did some mistakes and let in some goals. We just kept doing the things that the coach and the coaching staff wants us to do. That day we didn’t get points, but the following two games we did.”
Observers of the team have also seen a marked change this season. Play-by-play broadcaster Callum Williams spoke of the differences he has seen.
“The one thing that I’ve noticed being at NSC [Minnesota United’s practice facility] most days watching training, there’s more of a group feeling. Everyone is more together.”
Whether the differences will prove to be enough for Minnesota United FC to get three points against an Atlanta side that expects to compete against the best teams in the East remains to be seen.
No matter what happens Saturday, it is sure to be a good game.
“I’m expecting a good game,” Williams enthused. “I can’t wait for it.”
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