With 10 games left in the season maybe we should start with some numbers. Minnesota United currently sit in 7th place with 34 points. Holding a game in hand against a number of teams in the West they are 4 points out of a home playoff game, 1 point above the playoff line, and 4 points clear of 10th place. Which is to say that in an incredibly congested West there are 7 teams within 8 points of each other, all clustered around the playoff line and in sight of 4th place. The Vancouver Whitecaps, in 9th with 1 loss in their last 12, LAFC, in 8th with 1 loss in their last 5, and the Portland Timbers, in 5th without a loss in their last 5, all seem to be finding their form at the right time, while the LA Galaxy, barely holding on to 4th, are winless in their last 6 after losing to Minnesota at the weekend. With a final stretch in which they face 2 teams from the East who are also fighting for the playoffs, 3 teams who are currently ahead of them and 5 teams currently below them in the West, things are getting quite serious for the Loons.
Or we could simply offer up the words of Michael Boxall, who was, as always, a bit more direct mid-week. “We should be taking points if not winning every single game we play [at Allianz]. No matter who walks into the building, whether they’re top of the standings, whether they’re mid-table, or bottom of the standings we need to pick up 3 points at home.”
The Houston Dynamo come into tonight’s game on a bit of a run, without a loss in their last 3. And this has been, historically, a tight matchup with each team winning 4, while playing to 4 draws in their 12 previous meetings. Yet tonight, against a ‘bottom of the standings’ team, Minnesota should expect nothing less than a win.
Shortly after their last meeting, a lackluster 2-1 win for Minnesota in front of a disappointingly small crowd at BBVA Stadium, Houston fired their senior vice president and general manager, Matt Jordan. Whether that presaged a larger house-cleaning and rebuild from new owner Ted Segal is yet to be determined, but head coach Tab Ramso and his team must now be looking ahead, fighting to earn a place in whatever future there may be for the club.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has more immediate concerns. Finally getting close to full strength, with only Ján Greguš and Justin McMaster listed as unavailable for the night, with Hassani Dotson listed as questionable although still going light in training, the team will look to learn what was the fluke and what was the truth from last week. Allowing 4 goals against Kansas City seems to be the anomaly for a defense that has only conceded 29 on the season, 4th fewest in the West, while collecting 8 clean sheets. But after only generating 3 shots on goal from a meager 34% possession the 3 scored against LA seems to be less than sustainable. Although the Loons proved last year that a stout defense and a two-person offense can carry a team to the Western Conference Finals, 10 games feels like a long road for Emanuel Reynoso+1 to haul. If this team has any realistic hope of doing something extraordinary through the end of the season and into the playoffs they will have to come up with something more than ‘get the ball to Rey.’ Tonight, it seems, is the night to find that something more.
As Minnesota is getting healthy at the right time to find some late season form, Houston comes to St. Paul with a long injury report. Most problematic for them will be the loss of defender Adam Lundkvist and the possible absence of Tyler Pasher, Houston’s third leading offensive contributor with 4 goals and 3 assists on the season. Yet as Ramos noted in pre-match comments, much of Houston’s three game run of form has come from the solid play of Griffin Dorsey and Teenage Hadebe, the continued excellence of Fafà Picault, who leads the team with 10 goals and 4 assists, and the re-found form of Darwin Quintero. With all of their troubles - their inability to find any consistent form, a possible off-season rebuild, carrying a few too many knocks and injuries - Houston could still be, at the moment, a dangerous team.
After the week the Loons just had it would be easy to look past tonight’s game. Hopefully they will also listen to Boxall. “Everything is in our hands. We just got to take care of everything we can control.”
Ján Greguš - out (ankle)
Justin McMaster - out (thigh)
Hassani Dotson - questionable (knee)
Nico Lemoine - out (right groin injury)
Adam Lundkvist - out (lower body injury)
Corey Baird - questionable (lower body injury)
Adalberto Carrasquilla - questionable (lower body injury)
Tyler Pasher - questionable (lower body injury)
Marko Maric - questionable (left leg injury)