Coming off a weeknight blowout that saw Minnesota United FC blow a 1-0 lead to be bounced from the US Open Cup by a 2-1 loss to third-tier Union Omaha, the Loons will have a lot to prove in a return to MLS play tonight — And perhaps as much to overcome.
Two stalwarts of MNUFC’s backline, Michael Boxall and Kervin Arriaga, are suspended for yellow card accumulation. While fluctuation is nothing new to Minnesota’s defense, Boxall and Arriaga (a recent addition who quickly became a fixture) provide a level of stability that is sorely needed by a squad hurting for goals. That stability will take another hit if Arriaga’s partner Wil Trapp is unable to start due to a rib injury.
While a back four of Brent Kallman, Bakaye Dobassy, Kemar Lawrence, and O’Neil Fisher, has been tried and tested, they’ll need to settle a young midfield with little match time together against a NYC attack led by Valentin Castellanos and Thiago Andrade. The two have 11 goals between them this season and are coming in hot, undefeated in nine consecutive MLS matches (including one scoreless draw).
The matchup would be less of a concern if three of the top rotating attackers hadn’t joined Trapp on the questionable list. Winger-turned-striker Robin Lod, who leads Minnesota with six goals on the season, is listed with a groin injury. DP striker Luis Amarilla (tied for second with Emanuel Reynoso at two goals) and favored substitute Abu Danladi are both listed as well (foot and thigh, respectively). This will once again force Reynoso and Franco Fragapane into the spotlight of both their fans and NYC’s defense as they look for scoring opportunities with whoever is slotted into the attack — possibly the bench DP Adrien Hunou.
Adrian Heath’s match management and tactical decisions have been questioned in recent weeks, and rightfully so, as his squad has failed to adjust to adversity thus far. NYCFC will be a big challenge for a first-half team that has squandered brilliant early leads with late simple mistakes. This is a potential gold mine for Ronny Deila’s side.
“I have no doubt that Ronny’s watched us and knows that we play really well at home,” Heath said. “And if we can play as well as we have been, certainly like we did against the Galaxy [a 1-1 draw secured by Lod’s late heroics], then we’ll be able to cause them some trouble.”
Saturday night is sure to be as much of a management showcase as a defensive showdown. Kickoff at Allianz Field is set for 7PM and will be broadcast on Bally Sports North.