Minnesota United comes into Saturday’s game against the Whitecaps on a three-game winning streak. Saturday’s game is the first of a difficult string that sees the Loons on the road in six out of the next seven matches. The Loons have only one road win on the season, which came against Orlando City. Vancouver is coming off a 2-0 midweek win against Montreal in the Voyageurs Cup. The match against Minnesota will be Vancouver’s fourth game in 11 days.
Despite a Mason Toye red card back in May, a 10-man Minnesota United FC side was able to squeak out a win against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps FC. After Toye was sent off, Miguel Ibarra scored the lone goal of the game, with loanee Alexi Gomez providing the assist. Minnesota will be looking to mirror the result from May, although I am sure the Loons would prefer finishing the match with 11 men.
M Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction) – Out
M Kevin Molino (torn ACL) – Out
M Ethan Finlay (torn ACL) – Out
D Jérôme Thiesson (right leg injury) – Out
M Efrain Juarez – Suspended
Since the switch to the 3-5-2, Minnesota has become a counter-attacking team. With the 4-2-3-1 the Loons tried to keep possession and attacked mostly through lofted crosses into the box. With the new formation focusing on the counter attack, most of the goals the Loons have scored have come on the break. This has worked well against teams like Toronto, Salt Lake, and LAFC, all clubs who tend to want to keep possession. Vancouver, however, is not like these teams. Like Minnesota, the Whitecaps play best on the counter. The team that takes initiative on the ball will likely be playing out of its comfort zone.
The defense was an issue early in the formation switch for Minnesota, but the Loons seemed to have righted the ship during their previous two performances. Eric Miller coming in for Alexi Gomez should help going forward. The Peruvian came off injured in the 32nd minute on Sunday. Miller looked more solid in defense and managed to slide in a nice assist for Darwin Quintero’s goal first-half goal. Miller is a more natural fullback and, if he is at full fitness, he should start.
Vancouver may have slid past Montreal in the Voyageurs Cup, but its league form has been dreadful. The Whitecaps have lost four of their last five games in MLS, gathering two red cards and allowing 12 goals during that stretch. Two of those losses were to Colorado and Seattle, teams below both Vancouver and Minnesota in the Western Conference standings. I think Minnesota continues its winning streak and leaves BC Place with all three points.
Vancouver will win if…
it can capitalize on set pieces. In Kei Kamara, the Whitecaps have one of the most dangerous aerial threats in the league. Minnesota has been vulnerable on set pieces for the better part of a decade. Giving repeated chances to Kamara, and Vancouver’s Twin Towers, Kendall Waston and Jose Aja, could prove deadly for the Loons. Brent Kallman is the best aerial defender for Minnesota and will have his work cut out for him.
Minnesota will win if…
it can continue to be deadly on the counter. Waston and Aja might be powerful, towering defenders, but they are not quick. Darwin Quintero should be looking to make diagonal runs through Vancouver’s defense all match. If he can replicate his performance from Sunday, the Loons should take the season series against the Whitecaps.
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