Fresh off their first win of the season, and one that can really be solely attributed to the performance of goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United looks to keep the momentum up as they return to Allianz Field for the second time this season, taking on western conference foe San Jose Earthquakes.
A Homecoming, of sorts
Minnesota’s home opener against Nashville saw the return home of Minnesotans Eric Miller, Luke Haakenson, and Teal Bunbury. Tonight’s matchup offers a similar homecoming, for one Minnesota-native and two former Loons.
Bloomington’s own Jackson Yueill has kicked off 2022 relatively quietly. While he hasn’t lit up the score or assist sheet, the MN Thunder Academy product ranks among the top 10 in MLS in passes completed with 173.
Paired with Yueill in the Quakes’ defensive midfield is former MNUFC DP Jan Gregus. After a 2021 campaign that saw Gregus mostly out of the Loons’ lineup, the Slovakian has started all of San Jose’s first three matches, notching two assists in their 3-3 draw with Columbus on March 5th.
Believe it or not, both of those assists from Gregus were finished off by none other than former Captain Minnesota himself Francisco Calvo. The Costa Rican national has fit right in with Quakes’ manager Matias Almeyda’s system where defending is optional and chaos is encouraged. While the defender has undoubtedly played a role in the club conceding eight goals so far this season, he’s also been a contributor in the San Jose attack as well, with those two goals and three shots on the year.
Opportunity for Goals
While the Loons’ new look attack hasn’t quite generated the expected amount of goal scoring chances, and goals in general, early on, they’re facing a Quakes’ side tonight that shouldn’t provide too much of a barrier in getting to goal, having given up multiple goals in each of their first three games and the aforementioned eight total goals on the year.
Even with the traditional striker revolving door and issues in goal production over the last few years, Adrian Heath’s squad has encountered little issues putting up goals in bunches against this San Jose team, accumulating a 4-0-2 record over the last three seasons, outscoring the Quakes 18-6 during that span.
What do the Numbers Say?
Stats according to FBRef
- Dayne St. Clair’s 8-save clean-sheet performance on Sunday catapulted Minnesota into the top 4 in the league in total saves (12) and save percentage (86.7%)
- St. Clair’s penalty kick save on Patryk Kilmala is the only PK save in the league so far this season, at the time of writing this
- The Loons are finding the target at a much better rate to start 2022, ranking 2nd in the western conference in shots on target percentage (36.4%)
- MNUFC currently ranks in the bottom-4 of the west in pass completion percentage (76.9%), with medium distance passing (15-30 yards) being the Achilles Heal at 81.5% of those completed, good for fourth worst in MLS
- Set pieces have also been hard to come by for the Loons, as they rank 3rd to last league wide with just 10 corners and one direct-free kick generated over the first three games
San Jose Earthquakes
- The Quakes rank 3rd in MLS in outperforming their xG (+1.6)
- SJ has relied a lot on long stretching passes to generate chances, attempting 356 and completing 63.5% of those, good for 2nd and 7th best league wide, respectively
What Happened Last Time?
Minnesota was given a golden opportunity to get three needed points the last time these two teams met, on August 17th, 2021.
Down 1-0 after a Bakaye Dibassy own goal, the Loons found themselves up a man after Quakes CB Nathan was sent off with a red card in the 21st minute.
MNUFC would strike quickly, with Wil Trapp scoring just a minute later. But, despite the advantage, they weren’t able to push across another goal and settled for a disappointing draw.
What’s the Result?
Everything’s setting up for the floodgates to open offensively for Minnesota. I’m choosing to jump on the bandwagon.
Prediction: 3-1 Loons