Preview: Minnesota United vs. Los Angeles FC
Minnesota United FC has enjoyed its most successful run of soccer of the season during the past two weeks but will have to play even better to beat surging and consistent Los Angeles FC when the two sides square off on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Loons (8-11-1, 25 points) have won back-to-back games for just the third time after defeating New England 2-1 at home on Wednesday. Minnesota United has won three straight MLS home games, their longest such streak in league play, and has scored nine goals in the three matches, matching the total from its previous eight home matches.
Christian Ramirez and Darwin Quintero scored at both ends of the first half in the win over New England to stake the Loons to the lead prior to intermission. Minnesota United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth allowed a penalty kick in the 52nd minute but did not surrender the equalizer, making six saves in the win.
"We got a lot of reward for what we put in over the last few weeks," Loons coach Adrian Heath said of the win over New England. "It was a monumental effort against a really well organized, aggressive and athletic team. I am pleased to be sitting here with three points."
With the goal by the Revolution on a penalty kick, Minnesota didn't give up a goal in the run of play for the first time in an MLS game since May 26.
"We did a good job on the entire back line covering for each other," Loons center back Brent Kallman told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "If someone made a mistake or someone got in behind someone, the other guy was in the right covering spot. It was a good performance."
As impressive as Minnesota United has been in the short term, LAFC has been even more so -- and for almost the entire season. Los Angeles' expansion side has a nine-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. A win in the Twin Cities on Sunday would garner LAFC the best start (38 points) of any MLS first-year franchise through its first 20 games.
LAFC heads to Minneapolis after a 3-2 home win over Portland in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday. The same two sides played to a scoreless draw four nights earlier in Los Angeles, marking the first time in LAFC's 19-game history that neither team scored.
LAFC (10-4-5, 35 points) got its own goal from Portland's David Guzman to jump on top in Wednesday's match and later got tallies from Carlos Vela and Marco Urena to cement the win and dispel any comeback from the Timbers.
"Seeing Carlos (Vela), Dio (Adama Diomande) and Benny (Feilhaber) be smart about holding onto the ball and playing it into the corner a little bit, it's a good way to finish the game," Los Angeles coach Bob Bradley said after the U.S. Cup win. "I think the guys know that we haven't done that well enough so tonight is something that we feel good about."
LAFC is undefeated in its past six league games (4 wins-2 draws), though it did see its run of 14 games with a goal snapped in the 0-0 draw with Portland. LAFC had averaged 3.2 goals in the five games before the scoreless draw.
This is the second all-time meeting between the teams, with LAFC defeating Minnesota United FC on May 9 in the Twin Cities.