Minnesota United, Whitecaps look to get win streaks going

Minnesota United FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC look to continue the momentum built with wins last week when they square off Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

It’s only the third time the sides have played, but they are already forging a serious Western Conference rivalry.

The Loons and the Whitecaps head into Saturday’s match after crucial victories that snapped extensive losing streaks, and the two squads feel good about it.

Minnesota (3-5-0) beat defending Western Conference finalist Houston 2-1 at home Sunday as Darwin Quintero scored on a penalty kick and Ibson added the game-winner after the Loons had fallen into an early hole.

Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made sure those two goals were enough by turning away four shots.

“I was pleased with the commitment and the shape of the team,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “It’s a big win for us to move on from. Hopefully, this is a little platform, a little springboard for us to get some wins at home in the next few weeks.”

Despite the win, the Loons have now conceded at least one goal in 20 consecutive MLS matches, tied for the third-longest streak since the start of the 2007 season.

And all was not rosy for Minnesota United in the aftermath of the match with Houston. Forward Christian Ramirez pulled up about 30 minutes into it with a hamstring injury that could see him miss extended time, the latest malady for a team that has been decimated by injuries this season.

In response to its injury situation, Minnesota United acquired right back Eric Miller from Colorado on Tuesday in return for winger Sam Nicholson. The deal happened late on the final day of the primary transfer window and gives the Loons more flexibility once the summer transfer window comes around July 10.

Heath said he likely won’t dip into the free agent market before that summer window unless any more injuries dictate it.

“At this moment, we feel as though we’ll be OK,” Heath told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We’ve been working really, really hard in the build-up for this next window. Now, I just hope we can get them done.”

Meanwhile, Vancouver (4-4-1) was snapping a three-game losing streak as well with a definitive 2-0 home win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday.

Whitecaps FC coach Carl Robinson overhauled nearly half of his starting team from the side that finished with nine men and suffered a franchise-worst 6-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on April 21, and the changes seemed to jump-start his team.

Midfielder Cristian Techera was a part of the new group on the pitch and scored on a penalty kick in the 75th minute to pull the Whitecaps out of their doldrums. Anthony Blondell added a key insurance goal four minutes hence, and netminder Stefan Marinovic made five saves to post his second clean sheet of the season and third of his career.

“It was a good performance,” Robinson said. “We got what we wanted out of the game, which is a result. It was important we halted the run of three games and we did. We got stronger as the game went on.”

The Whitecaps have conceded goals in seven straight league road games (two wins, five losses), including a franchise-worst six goals to Sporting Kansas City in their most recent away match.

Vancouver owns the only win in the two-game series. The sides played to a 2-2 draw in their most recent meeting June 24, 2017.