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Preview: With Injuries aplenty, the Loons look to take down a weakened SKC side

MNUFC and SKC will have their rubber match tomorrow night in Kansas. Both teams are suffering heavily from the injury bug.

Ashle Norling/E Pluribus Loonum

Minnesota United looks to win for the third straight time overall and take the rubber match against Sporting Kansas City. Not only are they looking to take the rubber match but this is Minnesota’s first in three straight matches away from home, making this all the more important. That’s not even mentioning that SKC and MNUFC are atop the West with the Loons leading via tiebreaker.

Performance to this Point:

That brings us to both teams performances to this point in 2020.

As we detailed ahead of the match against FC Dallas, the Loons have had a very up and down 2020 season. The Loons kicked off the season with two straight road wins before the season was suspended due to COVID-19. During the MLS Is Back tournament they beat SKC before drawing with RSL and Colorado before progressing to the knockout stage. Three straight wins, including a shootout win over Columbus, in the knockout round were followed up by a big loss to Orlando City SC. Following the loss to OCSC the Loons have gone 2-3-0, which happen to also be their last five matches now. With two straight wins at home , including 7 goals scored, MNUFC looks to be in a good spot.

Sporting Kansas City has a lot of similarities to MNUFC in terms of their season. SKC also kicked off the season with two straight wins before the COVID-19 suspension. After a loss to Minnesota in the MLS Is Back group stage opener SKC won two straight to head into the group stage. At this point the similarities in seasons continue as the former Wizards beat Vancouver on PK’s before losing in the knockout quarter-finals to Philadelphia. Since the end of the MLS Is Back Tournament, Sporting KC has gone 1-2-2 in their last 5. The only win in that time period? 2-1 over MNUFC on the back of an own goal by the Loons.

Manager Thoughts:

The Loons are suffering heavily from the injury bug heading into Sunday night’s match. One key spot they’ve been affected in is the midfield and attack. After Ozzie Alonso picked up a knock early against Real Salt Lake, Hassani Dotson has gotten the nod from Adrian Heath. This has required a little change to MNUFC’s strategy but not one the gaffer is dissapointed with.

“It’s a little bit different because obviously Ozzie [Alonso] generally plays the deeper one with whoever he plays with. He’s normally the 6 if you’d like. And, obviously, with Hassani [Dotson], all of Hassani’s strengths is going and foraging for the ball and, so, you know, they have to bounce off each other, they have to give a little bit of balance off each other. And, Hassani, as we’ve always said, he looks to break on and drive forward with the ball. And that’s where Jan [Gregus] has got to be sensible and not get too ahead of the ball himself because we need that little bit of defensive base there. But so far, they’ve done okay. I’ve been pleased with them.”

Players to Watch:

For Minnesota United I have to give the nod to GK Dayne St. Clair. DSC has started the last two matches for the Loons after Greg Ranjitsingh started the three prior matches, to not so great results. His start is of course also in part due to Tyler Miller’s hip surgery that put him out of action for the remainder of 2020. In 180 minutes played DSC has only faced a total of 6 shots and given up just two goals. However Sporting KC is averaging 14.4 shots per game and 4.5 shots on goal per game. With those numbers DSC will need to be at his best and that’s why he’s our MNUFC player to watch.

Making a pick for who to watch for SKC was more difficult than for MNUFC. Sporting has multiple players out including Espinoza and Pulido who both made an impact in the last game. So my pick is midfielder Gadi Kinda. Kinda was the only SKC player to score against MNUFC in their 2-1 win over the Loons back in August. Both of his shots were shots on goal and of course one did get past keeper Greg Ranjitsingh. With a lot of the high impact players out for SKC, Kinda will absolutely need to make an impact for his side.

Injury Report:

Minnesota United FC

  • Questionable: None
  • Out: Tyler Miller, Ike Opara, Aaron Schoenfeld, Ethan Finlay, Luis Amarilla, Ozzie Alonso, and Greg Ranjitsingh

Sporting Kansas City

  • Questionable: None
  • Out: Winston Reid, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez, Erik Hurtado, Alan Pulido, and Daniel Salloi

NOTE: Romain Metanire will also not be playing due to his Red Card on Wednesday against FC Dallas. He will be eligible once for next weekends match at Houston Dynamo.