Franco Fragapane scored the game-winning goal for Minnesota in the 61st minute of Saturday’s game, giving them their greatest victory of the year. The goal and the victory were perfect examples of what Minnesota has become into over the past 15 days and why they are among the most dangerous teams going into the final eight MLS games.
The fourth-placed United faced off against Austin FC, the darling of the 2022 MLS season, on Saturday night in front of a packed Allianz Field, and prevailed in one of their greatest complete games of the year.
Austin FC, a second-year team, entered the weekend tied for the league lead in goals scored and in second place in the West by a significant margin. Austin had the lowest point total in the league the previous season and missed the playoffs by 17 points.
On Saturday night, Minnesota limited Austin to just one shot on goal, their fewest since their 1-0 loss to Portland back on Mar. 12. (third week of the season). That’s encouraging given the rollercoaster ride they’ve had this season, starting with one of the league’s best defences up until the June break before giving up 19 goals in their next 10 games.
However, in the past two games (albeit a tiny sample size), the Loons have successfully thwarted attacks led by the league’s top two scorers in Nashville and Austin.
Dayne St. Clair, the goalkeeper, stood on his head and stopped seven shots against Nashville, but this past Saturday, because to the team defence performed in front of him, he only faced one shot on target.
As the playoffs are only eight games away, the defence returning to its early-season form at a time when manager Adrian Heath has the offence burning on all cylinders comes at the right time.
The three important players in Minnesota’s offence have all been lethal in their last five games, scoring goals and setting up opportunities for their teammates. While his Argentinian teammate Franco Fragapane has scored four goals and added one assist, star player Emanuel Reynoso has been the least active of the trio, scoring just three goals and providing just one assist. Luis Amarilla, a forward, has scored three goals and provided an assist on two more in his previous five games after scoring just two goals in his first 17 appearances.
Minnesota has scored 27 goals in its 12 games since the June break, compiling a 7-3-2 record. They’ve gone from not being in the playoffs to appearing to be assuredly in one of the home playoff positions.
The Loons’ victory on Saturday night kept them in fourth place with 41 points. The Loons are only one point behind Dallas for third place after FC Dallas’ 4-0 loss to Nashville on Sunday, despite having played two fewer games than the Texas squad.
The Loons are playing soccer that is excellent in the MLS Cup playoffs as the season comes to a close. The Loons’ 36% possession percentage on Saturday was their third-lowest total for the season. The fact that Minnesota has won all five of their games with the lowest possession percentage, per fbref.com, is peculiar considering that they have only possessed better than 50% of the ball in six games this season. Losing the possession war is not altogether unprecedented for Minnesota.
In the MLS Cup Playoffs, so many clubs have found success with a style that concedes the possession battle, is tough to break down defensively, and is deadly on the break.
The Loons are attempting to clinch their fourth straight postseason berth, but five of their remaining eight games will be against teams that have already been eliminated, including their final three games against the three worst defences in the Western Conference.
This Saturday at 2:30 pm, Minnesota United will play host to Houston Dynamo at Allianz Field.
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