Minnesota United has made their way from Casa Grande, Arizona to Portland, Oregon to participate in the annual Portland Timbers Preseason Tournament. The Loons aren’t strangers to the competition having attended the past couple of editions. MNUFC will join the Timbers, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Real Salt Lake--all clubs from the Western Conference (check out our handy Western Conference Guide here).
Minnesota United has three matches in the tournament, which will be played in a round-robin format from February 9-15. Tournament tickets are available. United opens the tournament on the 9th against Vancouver in the first match of a doubleheader at 7pm*. They also face the Timbers on the 12th at 7pm* and Real Salt Lake at 7pm* on the 15th. As in years past, the matches will be streamed online. Check out our guide on how to watch the tournament, coming soon.
*All times CST
This tournament will serve as Minnesota United’s first real-ish test of the preseason. The competitive format of the matches should motivate the participating clubs to push for results, but it is still the preseason. Some things worth watching for:
Video Assistant Referee Testing
FIFA has given Major League Soccer the go-ahead to roll out in-game video assistance for referees (VAR). The league expects to fully incorporate VAR after the MLS All-Star break, but has been testing out the system at preseason matches. VAR was debuted at the FIFA Club World Cup in late 2016 and will be on trial for all three of the Loons’ matches. It may not be necessary, but expect there to be some debate of its practicality and place in soccer should it be utilized.
Scouting the Timbers (and the other guys)
As previously mentioned, RSL, Vancouver, and Portland are all fellow Western Conference sides. This tournament will give MNUFC the opportunity to see what their soon-to-be competitors are putting on the field. Keep in mind that Portland hosts Minnesota United on March 3rd in the first match of our inaugural season. The Loons will play four matches at Providence Park in the next month, four more than will be played at TCF Bank Stadium.
Searching for a Star(ikov)
Minnesota United is bringing just four of the initial eleven trialists to this tournament, including breakout goal-scorer Eugene Starikov who has scored both of MNUFC’s preseason goals. Other new players such as SuperDraft pick Abu Danladi, John Alvbåge (who made some fine saves against New England Revolution and Croatian side NK Istra 1961), and recent acquisition from Orlando City, Kevin Molino.
These matches will be fans’ first chance to see Minnesota United in a full 90 minutes. You’ll be able to find full analysis of the games here on E Pluribus Loonum.
What do you hope to see from the preseason tournament? Have any bold predictions? Let us know in the comments section!