It was just two short weeks ago when the Seattle Sounders went to Minnesota and beat the Loons. That 4-nil drubbing was great on the score sheet, but also not necessarily indicative of Minnesota United’s strength as a team. Though they are no healthier on the road. Sunday’s 7 PM game on FS1 will feature a Western Conference favorite at home and an expansion team struggling to find direction.
Alex from e pluribus loonum answers Three Questions. He also answered similar questions just two weeks ago. There was no reverse this week.
SaH: How does the health of the team differ from the last game?
epl: After a two-week layoff, Minnesota United should be a much healthier team this go around. The Loons were without two incredibly important players -- forward Christian Ramirez and defender Brent Kallman -- and it looks as though both of them will be available to play on Sunday. According to the team's injury report, the players that are currently questionable to suit up are Marc Burch, Sam Cronin, and Christian Ramirez. Burch is recovering from a long-term injury but both Cronin and Ramirez practiced so I'd expect them to start. Hopefully, the team has used the downtime to heal and game plan or else it could be a long night for MNUFC supporters.
SaH: What needs to change?
epl: Minnesota needs to play a more patient game this time around. Seattle was lethal in their counter-attacking play in the last game, and I'd be shocked if Adrian Heath didn't change up his tactics a bit. In an interview earlier this week he mentioned that he prefers to come out and attack the opposing team when at home, and that strategy clearly backfired as the team trailed by two goals early. It's imperative for Minnesota to stop Seattle's counter-attacks before they materialize. If you give quality players like Jordan Morris, Will Bruin, and Clint Dempsey space in the box, you're not going to win against Seattle.
The Loons also need to drastically improve their marking in order to stand a fighting chance against the Sounders. If you look at the tape from the last time these two sides met, the marking was just atrocious at times. There were three white shirts crowding certain attackers and leaving others wide open for dangerous attacking runs. The center backs need to remain disciplined and communicate to ensure that they're covering enough ground and aware of dangerous runs at all times.
Offensively, I think Minnesota played fairly well in the second half. They had a few threatening chances but they need to select their shots a bit better. Two out of their four shots on target came from outside of the box, which is unacceptable given the fact that they shot eleven times. When they get the ball in the box, they need to finish those chances. With Christian Ramirez back in the fold, the team should do a better job at that this go around. Ethan Finlay, who was recently acquired, should provide a spark to the team's attacking corps as well.
SaH: What's the primary difference in how Minnesota plays on the road?
epl: MNUFC are a classic MLS-style Jekyll-and-Hyde team with their home and away form. They're one of three teams that haven't secured a road victory yet, and unsurprisingly none of these three squads (New England, Colorado) are even close to a playoff spot.
The Loons inexperience is obvious when they play on the road... most of the players are not used to playing on the road in this league. It entails a completely different mental makeup from when you're at home. The energy level and attacking output has flatlined on a regular basis and Adrian Heath has been perplexed as to why it's happening. It's most likely a combination of bad coaching and ...
Projected lineup: Shuttleworth | Boxall - Calvo - Kallman - Thiesson | Cronin - Ibson | Finlay - Molino - Nicholson | Ramirez
Projected lineup for Sounders: Frei; Jones, Marshall, Torres, Leerdam; Alonso, Roldan; Morris, Dempsey, Lodeiro; Bruin