LAFC vs Minnesota United: Preview
In the final match of a three-game home stand, LAFC will host conference rivals Minnesota United FC at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday evening with kickoff scheduled for 7:30pm. The Black & Gold will look to continue to be the only team in MLS to remain undefeated at home with their current record standing at 11-0-2. LAFC enters this game on a 6-game unbeaten streak and will be searching for their 20th win of the season. If the Black & Gold are successful in obtaining the three points from this match, they will clinch the 1st playoff seed in the Western Conference, which subsequently would give them a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Minnesota will have no shortage in motivation to win this match as a victory in Los Angeles can potentially boost them from 5th to 2nd place in the West. The Loons enter this game on a 3-game winless streak in road matches with their most recent victory being a 3-2 win in Vancouver on July 6. Minnesota are the only team this season that LAFC have not faced, yet they will play them twice in the same month in another example of MLS’ peculiar oddities.
The goalkeeping situation at LAFC has probably reached its limit in regards to the amount of doubts that have risen after Tyler Miller’s performance vs the Galaxy last weekend. Miller’s mental toughness has been questioned by fans and media as Pablo Sisniega’s name has become one of importance in the conversation of Miler’s replacement. Although I do believe that Miller needs some time off to recollect himself, Sisniega has not played a competitive match in over a month. It will be interesting to see what head coach Bob Bradley decides to do in this match and for the remainder of the regular season as LAFC head into the playoffs.
Given a minor right hamstring injury that he suffered last weekend vs Carson, club captain Carlos Vela is very unlikely to see the field on Sunday night. With Bob Bradley prioritizing the health of his most valuable player for future matches (playoffs), the medical and training staff at LAFC will not take any risks and will therefore give Vela all the time necessary to recover. With the Mexican not in the line-up, minutes are up for grabs and we may have gotten a clue last weekend as to who will “replace” Vela in the attack. New DP signing Brian Rodriguez made his MLS debut in the LA Derby to positive reviews and with another week of training added to build chemistry with his teammates along with acclimating himself to Bradley’s system, the Uruguayan will surely make an impact on the pitch.
The Loons, unlike the Black & Gold, are not a possession-based build up team. Minnesota prefers a more direct style of play where defenders skip the midfielders and look for the long ball to their forwards. In this approach, Minnesota can use the speed of Colombian winger Darwin Quintero (leads the team in goals with 8) on the counter and potentially get a set piece out of it if the Black & Gold are caught out of position. Minnesota also has the vision of midfielder Jan Gregus, who leads the team in assists with eight, as well as defender Romain Metanire, who pushes forward quite often to deliver dangerous crosses as his six assists speak for themselves. As a team that do not concede many goals as of late, the Loons will not take any chances in their own half and will clear out every ball in sight to prevent LAFC’s counter press from taking effect.
With the visiting team giving the initiative to LAFC, it will up to the Black & Gold to break down Minnesota’s defensive blocks through creative, build-up play with the midfield trio of Eduard Atuesta, Mar-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing. With the possible absence of Vela, the likes of Adama Diomande and Diego Rossi will have to take on a bigger role to keep their defenders busy at all times. Don’t be surprised to see Josh Perez continue to get major minutes as he has been one of the most-improved players this season at the club and his performances as of late have shown just that. The possession will be there for LAFC but like I always say, “It’s not about how long you have the ball; it’s about what you do with it”. Minnesota will do everything in their control to make things difficult for LAFC to try and get a result on the road. However, if LAFC can play their football with intensity, intelligence and precision, there is almost no team in MLS that can stop them.