For the first time since the MLS Cup Playoffs match at the end of the 2019 season, Minnesota United will take to the pitch at Allianz Field in front of fans. No more than 4,100 fans will be in the stadium and the Wonderwall will be assigned seating, but it’s a huge improvement over last year.
“We spoke about the 7,000 or whatever it was in the stadium at Seattle and what a difference it made. It was just great to see,” said Adrian Heath in his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon.
Real Salt Lake will open their 2021 season today at Allianz Field, a place that has not traditionally been nice for RSL to play at. Since MNUFC joined MLS in 2017 RSL is a lacklustre 12-36-12 (.290 Winning %) on the road in that time period. In addition Real Salt Lake is 0-4-1 (.100 Winning %) in Minnesota. Even with the poor record Adrian Heath is not underestimating his opponents this week, saying:
“We always respect the opposition. We don’t fear them. We give them the respect that they deserve. They’re always competitive. They always have a really good go, I always feel, Salt Lake. The games against them are traditionally tight, and I don’t expect any different.”
A huge thing Adrian Heath will have to rectify tonight is the defensive issues that plagued the club in the season opener against Seattle.
“I don’t think they [Seattle] had to work hard enough to score the goals. When people are side footing it in from four, five yards out with none of our bodies around them, then there’s something wrong,” Adrian Heath stated on Friday.
Another factor will be RSL’s new forward Bobby Wood. The 28 year old Hawaiian will be making his debut in North America after spending his entire professional career in Germany. Heath said on Wood:
“You don’t play in the big leagues of Europe if you’ve not got quality. And I know that if we give him time, we give him space and we give him the opportunity, he will take them.”
Wood spent most of his time with TSV 1860 Munich and Hamburger SV but also short stints at Hannover 96, 1.FC Union Berlin, and FC Erzgebirge Aue. Through 184 Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga matches Wood has 34 goals and 13 assists.
A big factor tonight will be the addition of fans after a fan-less 2020 season, players and coaches noted how much the crowd affected the match last weekend in Seattle. With Ethan Finlay saying:
“It was really exciting. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t super excited even though it wasn’t our fans. It was great to see people in the stands, to hear what real cheers and real jeers sound like again. It’s one of the reasons we play this sport.”
Minnesota United FC
- Questionable: None
- Out: Ike Opara (undisclosed) Niko Hansen (left thigh), Bakaye Dibassy (left thigh) Ramón Ábila (right hip/thigh)
Real Salt Lake
- Questionable: None
- Out: None