After what seems like an eternity, the wait is finally over and Minnesota United will play their first game as a part of MLS tonight at 8:30 CST when they take on the Timbers at Providence Park in Portland. The game is set to air nationally on Fox Sports 1, which means the Loons will be on stage in front of plenty of viewers for their MLS debut.
What to Watch For
After winning MLS Cup in 2015, the Timbers missed out on the playoffs last season as they finished off the year with a sub-par record of 12-14-8 (win-loss-draw). Minnesota United and Portland played each other earlier in the preseason back on February 12th, a game which ended in a 2-2 draw thanks to two goals by Johan Venegas and a late equalizer from Fanendo Adi. Minnesota United will play their first game in MLS on the road in Portland, where the Timbers were a stellar 12-3-2 in 2016. This game seems destined to be a wide-open offensive affair as both teams have shown the ability to score goals at will. Portland has scored at least two goals in each of their last four preseason games as the Loons scored five goals in a two-game stretch earlier in February.
Interesting Notes about MNUFC
- The Loons failed to record a single win in their preseason games in 2017 but their only loss came to Toronto FC, who lost in the MLS Cup Finals.
- The last expansion team to win their MLS debut was the Vancouver Whitecaps who defeated Toronto FC. by the score of 4-2 back in 2011.
Interesting Notes about the Portland Timbers
- Portland has yet to be beaten in their home openers since joining MLS back in 2011, posting a record of 2-0-4, which includes a victory last season over 2015 MLS Cup runners-up Columbus.
- The Timbers were an absolute force to be reckoned with at home last season, posting a 12-3-2 record at Providence Park.
Keys for Minnesota United
Going on the road to face Portland as your first official MLS game is a tall task, and Minnesota will need to put in a strong defensive performance and stifle the Timbers talented attacking corps if they want to come out with any points. Equally as important will be the play of the attacking players, which includes Kevin Molino, as they’ve shown flashes of brilliance as a unit in the short time that they’ve been together. If the Loons can get on the scoreboard early tonight it will surely take a bit of pressure off the rest of the team, which would be a big help in a tough road game.
MNUFC Key Player: Kevin Molino - The former Orlando City man is the heartbeat of Minnesota’s offense.
Keys for Portland
The Timbers will need big performances from Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri, who combined to net 30 of Portland’s 48 goals in 2016. They have no shortage of creative attacking talent as they have three designated players in their attacking corps and that doesn’t even include U.S. International Darlington Nagbe. One spot they may look to attack in Minnesota’s defense is the right back position, where former Timber Jermaine Taylor seems likely to get the start tonight. Taylor has struggled mightily this preseason and his former team should know enough to try and test him a bit tonight. On the other side of the coin, Portland’s defense was lackluster last season, having conceded the eighth-most goals in the league, and they will surely hope to shore things up this season starting against a talented Minnesota attack. They will most likely key in on Minnesota United’s big offseason acquisition Kevin Molino, who looked absolutely stellar in the team’s preseason games.
PTFC Key Player: Fanendo Adi - The talented Nigerian has scored 16 goals in back-to-back seasons for Portland.
Well, there you have it! With just mere hours until kickoff, the MLS season is finally upon us. Hopefully, tonight’s inaugural United game will be one to remember.