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Three things: #MINvsPOR

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With an offense still sputtering, the Loons create some luck and a moment of beauty against the Timbers

July 24, 2021 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United midfielder Robin Lod (17) scores the game wining during the match against Portland Timbers at Allianz Field. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

1. The scouting report on Minnesota United was out. Consistently teams who were uninterested in controlling play or felt unable to press their own style simply conceded the attacking third - roughly from Wil Trapp to the top of the box - to Minnesota knowing that their offense, although top of the league in shots and with one of the best chance creators in the league in Emanuel Reynoso, could not score. Seattle Sounders did it last week and it almost worked for them. Portland Timbers did it this weekend but their heavy legs and heavier minds couldn’t maintain the flat and compact back eight past the twenty minute mark of each half. Maybe after these two big wins teams will have to rethink their approach.

2. The opening goal on Saturday was pure luck. Hassani Dotson’s service was “hopeful,” Adrian Heath said after the game. “Not a lot of gile to it, not a lot of craft.” But it was the kind of luck that effort creates. As Trapp described the play, “sometimes it’s just about putting it into a dangerous area. With the amount of bodies in there, with the amount of chances we had been creating, you put it in a position for guys to make plays, and Chase made a play.” The second goal, on the other hand, was simply beautiful. The two runs - Juan Agudelo to clear the space and Robin Lod to find the space - looked better than they probably were because of the tired legs and worn out minds of the Portland defense. But the vision and pass from Reynoso and the first touch and shot from Lod were really special. The goal stands on its own and is really worth another watch.

3. Having recently discovered the joys of America’s fascination with substitutions Heath made his first in the 56th minute on Saturday, bringing in Ethan Finlay for Niko Hansen, moving Lod up top while shifting Hunou out left in the process. It was an odd substitution. Certainly Lod, playing as a false 9, is the best forward option for this team. He plays quite angularly in that role, making flat or direct runs that often end in a hook. Hunou, on the other hand, seems to want to make the diagonal run to get behind the defense, looking over his back shoulder for the play to develop. With the compactness that the offense is designed for - with Franco Fragapane, Lod, and Reynoso - there is very little room for these diagonal runs, a problem exacerbated on the night by Portland’s flat defensive block. Prior to the substitution Hansen had been playing out of his regular position and pinching in more than he normally does but had still had a decent game. The switch, though, highlighted the ways in which Hunou is at the moment and maybe stylistically the odd man out on offense. While Hansen, at his best, simply bombs, for lack of a more technical term, the sideline, Hunou on the wing continued to make the diagonal runs that were, out wide, not quite the movement of a pinched in inverted winger but also not as direct as the runs that Hansen and Finlay make, or that Chase Gasper and Romain Métinare make when they are tasked with creating width and depth from the back. With Ramón Ábila, without explanation, left off the team for the night and Hunou seeming lost there are still a lot of questions for this offense.