Two teams hoping to build upon recent success meet Wednesday night in an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
The expansion LAFC looks to remain undefeated in its third game of a four-game homestand to open the stadium following a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas last week. Minnesota United FC come to Los Angeles after winning consecutive games for a second time this season after defeating Vancouver 1-0.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley made two changes that helped his team defeat the Seattle Sounders FC in the Banc of California Stadium opener two weeks ago, utilizing 20-year-old Colombian midfielder Eduard Atuesta for his first start. Forward Latif Blessing was inserted in the lineup for defender Omar Gaber while Diego Rossi played as the only striker with Marco Urena out injured with facial fractures.
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Last week against Dallas, Lee Nguyen was impressive in his LAFC debut coming off the bench for the final 17 minutes.
“You score more by being a little bit sharper. We had opportunities where you choose to play the ball hard across the six, you try to develop ideas that can become habits and then they happen so natural,” Bradley said of how his team has evolved. “All these things happen so fast and they are easy. You try to work to be sharper every day.”
Minnesota United FC coach Adrian Heath made three changes that helped his team beat the Houston Dynamo two weeks ago with Eric Miller replacing Carter Manley at outside back, Alexi Gomez starting as midfielder and rookie Mason Toye earning his first start for an injured Christian Ramirez (hamstring strain) up top.
Last week against Vancouver, Miguel Ibarra scored the lone goal in the 60th minute, 10 minutes after Toye was dismissed with a red card for violent conduct, forcing the Minnesota United FC (4-5-0) to play the final 40 minutes with 10 men.
Goaltender Bobby Shuttleworth made sure the result held up with seven saves on target to help Minnesota earn its first shutout of the season.
“I thought it was a monumental effort considering how long we played a man down, but the team that we played, they’re the biggest team probably in the league,” Heath said after the match. “I thought the players, every single one of them, put themselves on the line so many times with crosses that were coming in the box. … Overall, incredibly proud of the players. It was a really big result for us.”
Minnesota United FC are in danger of having no strikers against LAFC with Abu Danladi (also a hamstring strain) and Ramirez out with injuries and Toye unavailable due to a red-card suspension. Their trip to Los Angeles is also quickly followed by a home match vs. San Jose on Saturday.
Heath is certain Colombian Darwin Quintero, Minnesota’s first Designated Player, has rapidly become a standout for the team’s offense. He has two goals and an assist in the four matches he has played.
“I think we know that if we can get him the ball in and around the final third he’s got incredible vision, great first touch, makes things happen,” Heath said.
Saturday’s match will be the first meeting between LAFC and Minnesota United FC.