After traveling abroad last weekend to square off against Toronto FC, Minnesota United (3-6-2, 11 points) finds themselves back at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday. The Loons are set to square off against the Los Angeles Galaxy (3-5-2, 11 points), who have rounded into form over the past two weeks after a disastrous start to their campaign. The game is going to be nationally televised for the second week in a row for Minnesota as ESPN will be providing television coverage for the match starting at 4:00 p.m. CST.
MNUFC will ultimately be hoping to continue to build on their recent string of performances which included a dominating 2-0 win over perennial powerhouse Sporting Kansas City and a spirited loss against Toronto F.C. that could have been a win on another day. The Loons defense has continued to improve drastically over the past month and a half and they will face another tricky task on Sunday as they will look to stifle Los Angeles’ multi-dimensional attacking force.
TCF Bank stadium continues to be a welcome sight for the Loons, as they’ve undoubtedly played their best soccer so far this season at home. The team has won three out of their last four games at home, with the lone loss being their lackluster performance against San Jose back on April 29th. This weekend’s matchup should be interesting as Los Angeles has been a better team on the road, posting a 2-2-0 record which includes their impressive 3-1 road win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend.
Los Angeles Galaxy
The Galaxy fit the mold of a team that Minnesota United has struggled against this season, as they have plenty of creative-minded attacking players who can find the weaknesses in an opposing defense and exploit them. Los Angeles seems likely to line up in a 4-3-2-1 formation with lethal attacking talent up top. The Galaxy attacking force should feature the likes of U.S. International Gyasi Zardes, Emmanuel Boateng, recent Mexican National Team call-up Giovani Dos Santos, and one of the best attackers in MLS so far this season -- Romain Alessandrini. The French winger signed with the Galaxy at the end of January and has wasted no time adapting to MLS’ style of play. The former Marseille man has scored six goals, including two last week, and notched four assists in ten games so far this season. He’s been especially lethal on set pieces -- an area Minnesota United have struggled to defend this season-- and he poses a significant threat that the Loons backline need to be ready for.
Former Tottenham Hotspur Giovani Dos Santos has also found another gear as of late, having scored two goals and notched an assist in his past two games. The 28-year-old seems to have found the form that saw him net 15 goals in 30 games played for the Galaxy last season. dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes form a particularly interesting attacking duo as Zardes often times fills the role of a No. 9 which leaves plenty of space up top for dos Santos. Zardes’ form has been lackluster at best this season, having registered just one assist and no goals in 461 minutes of playing time but he still has the pace and finishing touch to give Minnesota’s backline fits.
The Galaxy backline will face a tough test when they square off against the likes of Christian Ramirez and Abu Danladi. LA have already lost Robbie Rogers to a season-ending injury and they will be without right-back Bradley Diallo due to him receiving a red card against the Red Bulls. Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo will be relying on Ashley Cole and Jelle Van Damme to step up and lead the makeshift backline. Brian Rowe will be the keeper between the posts come Sunday, seeing that Clement Diop is nursing a hip injury and will not play. Rowe has started five games this season, saving 11 out of the 19 shots that he’s faced. His overall record of 1-2-2 leaves a bit to be desired and it would behoove Minnesota to pressure him with plenty of quality shots.
MNUFC come into this game with plenty of confidence after proving to themselves that they have what it takes to hang with the best teams in the league after their win against KC and their close loss to Toronto. The team’s defense has progressed from a weak point to an area of strength after the first two months of the season, evidence by the fact that the backline had not allowed more than one goal in their three games prior to last week’s loss.
Kevin Molino’s performance against Toronto stood out from the rest as the former Orlando City man was able to score twice against TFC, once from the run of play and once off of a rebound from a penalty kick. Minnesota United broke the bank to acquire the Trinidadian international, and he made an immediate impact in the team’s first five games, scoring three times and providing two assists. Molino struggled interestingly enough when the team really began to hit their stride, recording just one assist in over 432 minutes. The 26-year-old seemed to link-up well with Abu Danladi, who provided a nice chipped ball into space which provided the assist for the team’s first goal. Danladi and Molino switched positions for the game against Toronto with Danladi moving out wide-right and Molino slotting into the No. 9 role. It’ll be interesting to see if a symbiotic relationship develops between the two players with complimentary skillsets.
As far as the team’s defense is concerned, they played a solid fundamental game against Toronto but a couple of mental lapses ended up costing them the result. Their defensive shape and marking have been adequate as of late, and they need to continue to press opposing attackers and cut down the passing lanes to turn over the possession. Sam Cronin will be counted on to take the pressure off of the backline by sniffing out plays before they develop. Ibson, who I suspect will start at midfield alongside Cronin, will act as a fulcrum for the team, getting balls from the backline and spraying them forward for the attacking players. The wily Brazilian did this fantastically against Toronto, especially on the team’s first goal.
Key Player for Los Angeles - Midfielder Romain Alessandrini
The French midfielder looks like a shoo-in for Newcomer of the Year if he continues to maintain his early season form. Alessandrini can do it all from an attacking standpoint as he has the ability to score from the run of play, provide proper service for his fellow attackers, and contribute from dead ball situations. In addition to his six goals and four assists, the Marseille native has 38 shots —14 of them on goal— so far this season which puts him behind only superstars Sebastian Giovinco, Clint Dempsey, and David Villa.
Key Player for Minnesota United - Miguel Ibarra
Since breaking through into the starting lineup against Colorado back on April 23rd, Ibarra has looked increasingly more lethal in the attack now that he’s settled in. The California native had a huge game against Sporting Kansas City when he was matched up with back-up right back Igor Juliao, tallying two assists, and he has another golden opportunity against the right side of Los Angeles’ defense. He should be able to take advantage of Nathan Smith, the 22-year-old who will likely start at right back for the Galaxy.
Projected Starting Lineups
I’m going to predict a 2-1 win for Minnesota United. The Galaxy have drastically improved their form as of late but they are still too reliant on set piece goals for me to believe that they’ll win on the road. Four out of LA’s last five goals have come from free kicks, corners, or penalties, and I believe that Adrian Heath will have the defense ready and alert on all dead ball situations.
What lineup would you like to see Minnesota United utilize on Sunday? Do you think they’ll be able to notch another win at home? Let us know in the comments below.