Minnesota United is back at Allianz Field for the second time in 96 hours on Saturday night, as the Loons get a home game against a struggling side that’s last in its conferen- you know, this is starting to sound a little bit familiar.
This time around, it’s D.C. United in town, led by brand-new head coach Wayne Rooney. Rooney appears to be a bit of a figure of fun these days, just because of how different he looks from his playing days, but it must be said that he did an absolutely bang-up job in an impossible situation at Derby County last year. Somehow, Rooney took a squad that at the beginning of the season barely had 11 registered players, and dragged them to what would have been a fairly comfortable mid-table finish, if not for a points deduction.
D.C. would take a comfortable mid-table finish. Anyway, the game’s at 7p.m. like usual, and on the usual TV channels (Bally Sports North, Channel 23 in the Twin Cities, ESPN+, et cetera). Minnesota can’t win at home this year, which is weird, but will expect to take three points – no matter who is in charge on the opposition’s sideline.
Kids From The Academy
I’m going to give you a quote from Adrian Heath post-game on Wednesday, one that I think might have said more than he meant it to. Speaking about his own team, he said, “It’s virtually the same team again. You look at their [Sporting KC’s] group tonight, they probably made four or five changes from the weekend, young kids from the academy with energy. We didn’t have that today.”
Heath hit the nail on the head. Sporting KC started six guys under the age of 25, four of them American, three of them Homegrown Players.
The two who aren’t American, Marianos Tzionis (Cyprus) and Logan Ndenbe (Belgium), are U-22 Initiative guys, just like Bongokuhle Hlongwane. Cam Duke is a Homegrown that’s actually from Overland Park, Kansas, who has been with SKC for ten years. But the other three guys have a similar story.
Felipe Hernández (non-Homegrown) is from Nashville. John Pulskamp is from California. Kayden Pierre grew up in Michigan. All of them signed to Sporting KC II, which played in the USL at the time they signed. All of them earned first-team contracts and moved up. Now, they’re available off the bench – and in a pinch, like on Wednesday, in the starting lineup – to contribute to SKC.
As we look at how the Loons lack depth, you have to say that this is the part that’s missing. This is the thing that Minnesota United has not yet done. Minnesota may not produce an awful lot of top-level soccer talent, not like California or Texas or Florida, and neither does the Kansas City area. But what Sporting KC figured out long ago was that as long as they had a pathway, as long as they gave players opportunities, they could develop players that could contribute when needed – even players who aren’t from Kansas or Missouri.
Minnesota’s getting there. They have a reserve team, finally. They have an academy pathway, even if it’s not a traditional setup. This particular tree is not yet ready to bear fruit, which is why the Loons are scrambling for players right now. But the green shoots are starting to appear.
What do the numbers say?
10 – Yellow cards for Wil Trapp this year, tied for the MLS lead. Trapp is one away from a third suspension this season. (FBRef.com)
0.88 – Per 90 minutes, the number of times Luis Amarilla has been caught offside this season. Amarilla is 24th in MLS, making him a pretty average league striker. (FBRef.com)
2 – Penalty kicks conceded this season by Trapp, tying him for the league lead with eight other players. Emanuel Reynoso has won two penalties this year, tied for second in the league, one fewer than Taty Castellanos. (FBRef.com)
7 – Number of players, on both sides combined, that have scored more than once this season. Taxi Fountas has 10, Ola Kamara and Emanuel Reynoso 7, Robin Lod 6, Luis Amarilla 5, Michael Estrada 4, and Franco Fragapane has 2.
What happened last time?
It was rough, really. The Loons were missing Emanuel Reynoso, so they tried playing a 5-2-3 against the helter-skelter-Hernan-Losada edition of D.C. The hope was that they could wedge the ball out of defense and then play 3-on-3 on the counter-attack. Instead, they lost what Brent Kallman described as seemingly every 50-50 ball, Bakaye Dibassy scored a single helpless goal on a set piece, and the Loons got overrun 3-1.
They’ve only tried five at the back one time since then, incidentally.
Man, the Loons are really not on a good run at home. Their last six: LDLLWD. (That one in italics is the U.S. Open Cup loss to Union Omaha.)
D.C. may not be very good, but a new broom sweeps clean, as they say. They’re a team to be feared, no matter how many 7-0 losses they’ve had lately.
This feels like D.C. 2, Minnesota 1. I don’t know why. It just does.