It’ll be nice next year when I don’t have to explain where the game is on TV. This one’s on BSN as usual, as well as on Channel 23 in the Twin Cities, at 7pm tonight. Get those non-cable-having friends interested in the Loons now, because come next year, you’ll have to send them your Apple TV password if you want them to watch.
It’s the Sameness That Kills You
What I want is for Minnesota United to do something, anything, almost anything at all. Take it from an experienced Minnesota sports fan: it is not, in the end, the results that get to you. It’s the drudgery. It’s the inescapable jaded feeling that you’ve seen it all and there’s more of the same on the way. Losing streaks are one thing, but they are not what eventually doom you, as a fan, that drive you away and make turning on the TV or showing up at the stadium feel like a chore.
I don’t really have to cite the Minnesota examples, but I will: the Twins in the playoffs. Gopher football, under any of the coaches that have dragged them from horrific failure all the way north to repetitive mediocrity. The entire history of the Minnesota Wild franchise.
I also don’t need to give you a detailed, in-depth preview of what the Loons will look like tonight in Miami. Nearing the halfway point of the season, we all know what Minnesota’s deal is. They aren’t getting much out of the wide forwards, and less from whoever starts at striker. Emanuel Reynoso is adrift in the Sea Of Nopassingoptions. Wil Trapp is earning yellow cards at an astonishing rate (he could, very seriously, earn two suspensions for card accumulation in just the first half of the year). The team is down three fullbacks from opening day, none of whom are coming back.
The bright spots are DJ Taylor, who’s having his best season as a pro and has made four consecutive starts for the Loons at right back, and of course Dayne St. Clair, who was the best keeper in the league prior to the international break, and was getting deserved mention as an MVP candidate. (Of course, St. Clair followed that up with an ugly game against New England, which I suppose may be proof we can’t have nice things.)
The thing to remember is that this is MLS, and so mediocrity over a handful of games is not nearly enough to doom any team. Minnesota has taken only four points out of a possible 21 in their last seven league games, but wasn’t outclassed in any of those. They won the expected goals battle in three of them, won another outright, and had the lead in a fifth. They could have had at least a point in all seven, and arguably should have won four.
More to the point, the Loons’ schedule gets real soft over the next month. Between today and the end of July, Minnesota has seven games, and six of them are against teams that are currently below the playoff line (which, of course, the Loons are as well.) Four of those seven are at home.
So Minnesota could, probably, do the same thing they’ve been doing, and end up being just fine. It wouldn’t be too hard for the Loons to get on a mini-winning streak, and shoot up the standings; they are, even after this swoon, just two points out of the playoffs at this point.
The winning, fans could handle. I’m not sure they could take the drudgery, though. I’m hoping for more! Some odd formation, or someone unexpected in the starting lineup. Give us a reason to hope for something else, Loons. I’m begging.
Inter Miami Is Not The Joke Any More
I just want to note again – as I will for years and years – that Inter Miami illegally signed five Designated Players in their expansion season, and still finished 10th in the Eastern Conference. They paid three guys under the table. Their owner got fined 250 large and the team got a $2 million fine. They cheated so blatantly that they even got caught by MLS, whose enforcement arm is one intern and a World Book Encyclopedia from 1996 that’s missing four of the volumes. And they still stunk! It was hilarious! This was after they named their club “Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami,” one of the most pretentious names in the long history of pretentious MLS names, and got sued by Inter Milan!
Anyway, the Herons face-planted out of the gate this year, with one point in five games, and then Phil Neville started making some changes. He banished the underperforming Gonzalo Higuaín to the bench; Higuaín has played just 85 minutes since, in five sub appearances, and hasn’t scored a goal. Instead, Neville started playing 21-year-old Ecuadorian Leo Campana, who’s now got seven goals on the season.
The youth movement – none of the regular Miami starters are over 30 – is starting to bear fruit. Since that ugly start, Miami has beaten New England and Atlanta and New York and Portland, all at home; they’re 4-1-0 at DRV PNK STDM (or whatever) since that early swoon. Midfielder Jean Mota is going to be suspended after getting sent off last week, but otherwise, most of the rest of the lineup is intact.
At any rate, this squad is not a joke anymore. They’ll play a 4-3-3 and try to control the ball, especially at home. They’ve got the firepower to score goals. Deandre Yedlin is there, and who doesn’t love Deandre Yedlin? And Loons NASL veteran Damion Lowe is there, too, a thing I can just hardly believe.
What Happened Last Time?
The joke’s on you, friend! These teams have never played, not ever. Oddly, this is the only team in the league that the Loons have played fewer than two games against.
What Do The Numbers Say?
0.53 – Goals added above replacement, per 96 minutes, for Loons winger Niko Hansen – tops on the team (number from American Soccer Analysis). Hansen has only played 33 minutes, which skews the numbers.
1.09 – Expected goals per game for Inter Miami, third-worst in MLS this season (again, numbers from ASA).
0 – Home games this season in which Miami has piled up more than 2 expected goals (according to ASA).
The Loons aren’t great on the road and Miami is decent at home, but this still feels like there’s not much between the two teams. A 1-1 draw sounds about right.