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Three questions with Black Hart of Saint Paul

The Loons are riding high despite a lot of early season off-the-field chaos.

Last Updated
3 min read
Jordan Morris going for a header against Michael Boxall courtesy of Brad Rempel of USAToday

How good is Minnesota United’s season? They’ve had one DP refuse to play and eventually get sold. Their top scorer is a bench player. They started the season with an interim head coach because their GM didn’t start the season with the team.

Despite all of that adversity, the Loons are 3rd in the West, have won 50% of their games (8-3-5, +7) and hold an 11 point lead over 10th place Seattle Sounders FC (4-7-6, -1).

The Sounders desperately need a win. They will likely have their largest crowd of the year as dozens and maybe 100s of former players and coaches will be in attendance celebrating the club’s 50th anniversary.

While the team isn’t in must-win territory (with MLS’s soft playoff line that’s nearly impossible at this point in the season), they are in must invigorate the fanbase territory. Players in successful sporting organizations shouldn't be answering reasonable questions about falling attendance.

What should Seattle fans expect from Minnesota United?

Answering Three Questions for the Black Hart of St. Paul, the coolest and only queer soccer bar on the planet, is Wes.

SaH: Minnesota’s attack doesn’t rely on a traditional starting forward for goal generation. Is that intentional, or due to the starter underperforming?

BH: So far the Loons have been relying on a squad for their goals. Teemu Pukki will likely start and though he hasn't been prolific, he's still quite dangerous on and off the ball and maybe just hasn't clicked with his final shot. Tani Oluwaseyi has been a standout, but he'll be away with Canada. That said, the rest of the attack with Bongi Hlongwane, Sang Bin Jeon, and Robin Lod can find goals.

Minnesota United's best available attacker is Lod (5 goals and 8 assists). They have five other players with two or more goals. The Sounders have only two players with two or more goals.

SaH: The Loons aren’t a possession team. Is it the midfield or the defense that’s key to preventing opposing attacks?

BH: Loons definitely have been happy to play without the ball, especially on the road. And though at times they'll play with a low block and score goals on a quick counter, it's not as basic as that sounds. Their strength comes from a back three that are calm on the ball and who can send long diagonals to switch play. They also have fantastic speed on the wings that not only break quickly but also harass the hell out of the opposition to turn the ball over. But Michael Boxall really is the heart of that defense and has turned into far better of a centerback than I think just about any fan every imagined.

Loons are expected to play in a 3-4-3, though they have also played a 5-2-3 of sorts.

SaH: With back-to-back road matches, the next in the midweek, will Eric Ramsay hold any players back for Dallas? Please say yes. We’re supposed to have a celebration of our history.

BH: Ramsay wouldn’t consider it holding back. One of the dangerous parts of Minnesota United is that they rotate no matter what. Ramsay sees his team as a unit and his players as widgets. He’ll throw on a young, unproven player for a veteran without worrying. And what’s weird is that it really works. For the first time, I really couldn’t tell you what the best XI is. I can tell you: here are the four potential centerbacks and Michael Boxall will play with two others, but couldn’t tell you which two. Robin Lod might be the best player on the team right now and he could start or just play off the bench and I don’t think I would take that as a relief if he’s only out there for 30 minutes. I will say that missing Dayne St. Clair and Tani makes the Loons weaker. Lod and Pukki coming off a trip back from Europe means those two might be more limited, but again, they should be ready to go for 60 minutes. It is a very rare time where I see Loons as more dangerous than the Sounders, so I’m looking forward to singing Happy Birthday to the Sounders at the bar after a Loons road win.

Seattle won’t be missing any players for the Euros or Copa America. Minnesota loses their starting keeper (St. Clair) and their best scorer (Tani Oluwaseyi). They are also without Joseph Rosalesdue to a red card, along with Hugo Bacharach and DJ Taylor out injured.

If you’re in the Twin Cities, head to the Black Hart and take a pic like Rapinoe did.