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Is MNUFC a legit MLS Cup contender?

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With the US Open Cup finished it’s time to focus on the rest of the MLS season and road to the MLS Cup. But is Minnesota United ready to contend for the leagues biggest trophy?

SOCCER: DEC 08 MLS Cup - Portland Timbers at Atlanta United FC Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Super short answer, no. Longer answer, yes but also no, but the Loons can very much play spoiler to almost anyone’s MLS Cup chances.

Minnesota United’s last two competitive matches show the tale of two teams that the Loons have been this season. Against Atlanta United in the Open Cup Final MNUFC gave up two early goals, and had a third early one called off due to offsides. In Atlanta they would have their backs against the wall the entire night trying to overcome an early deficit.

Minnesota came flying out of the gate in the second half scoring just 2 minutes after the break but couldn’t muster a goal afterwards. It wasn’t for a lack of trying as MNUFC had 19 total shots, albeit 12 of them off target but in the second half the Loons controlled most of the possession. Late in the match Michael Boxall even came within inches of tying up the match but in the end they just couldn’t get many good shots on target.

Sunday on the other hand MNUFC visited Los Angeles to play Western Conference and Supporter’s Shield leaders LAFC. Compared to five days earlier it’s like we saw a totally different team on Sunday. Los Angeles dominated possession throughout the entire 90’ at Banc of California Stadium. Passing accuracy was also much lower and the amount of shots LAFC took was much higher than Atlanta.

While those all seem negative Minnesota scored twice early and just parked the bus. The Loons would block three shots and while LA did get 23 shots, only 8 of those we’re on target.

It is that inconsistency along with the goalkeeper position that dooms the Loons chances of winning the MLS Cup. Vito Mannone has been solid this season for Minnesota and is #4 in the league with 98 saves in 2019. And on Mannone’s back is how Minnesota is in this conversation of even making the playoffs. The problem is Vito has played every single minute of every single competitive match MNUFC has played in 2019 and that along with the amount of shots he faces will eventually exhaust him.

The Loons far and away have improved from their 2017 and 2018 campaigns, and 2019 is the best team we’ve seen on the field in their 10 year history. At the end of the day Minnesota’s inconsistency on the field, lack of big scorers, and over reliance on Vito Mannone will prevent the team from winning the MLS Cup

Not to say they won’t win any games in the Playoffs because they are good enough to play spoiler. But in a best case scenario I see this MNUFC team in the same spot as the 2002-03 Minnesota Wild. Good enough to make and win a few games in the playoffs, but getting bounced in the Conference Final by a team that’s much better then they are. At the end of the day the Loons are just a few pieces away from being able to take some hardware back to the Twin Cities.