ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Sputtering Loons can lock in MLS Cup Playoffs as soon as this weekend

A win against San Jose on Saturday secures Minnesota United a playoff spot

Los Angeles FC forward Kwadwo Opoku tackles Minnesota United forward Luis Amarilla during a Sept. 13, 2022, game at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota
Los Angeles FC forward Kwadwo Opoku tackles Minnesota United forward Luis Amarilla during a Sept. 13, 2022, game at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — Minnesota United has the easiest remaining schedule among clubs surrounding them in the MLS Western Conference playoff race, but for the Loons, nothing has been easy lately.

Case in point: MNUFC’s 4-1 loss at 13th-place Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 17.

The Loons hold the seventh and final West spot for the MLS Cup Playoffs going into their penultimate game at last-place San Jose at 9 p.m. Saturday, followed by a visit to St. Paul from 10th-place Vancouver on Decision Day, Oct. 9.

“We always said playoffs were the minimum requirement, and can we get a home-field advantage?” manager Adrian Heath said Thursday. “With two games to go, that’s still available.”

Minnesota knows if it wins, it is in the playoffs for a fourth straight season. Lose or draw and the Loons will need help.

ADVERTISEMENT

Here are the two most straight forward avenues for MNUFC to clinch a playoff spot this weekend: If the Loons win, they need Real Salt Lake to lose or tie L.A. Galaxy. If RSL wins, Minnesota needs Portland to lose to Los Angeles FC.

The Loons can clinch if they draw against San Jose, but that scenario needs more factors to line up in their favor.

Minnesota must mind its own business; the Loons have captured one point in the last 15 available (0-4-1) and need to stop a leaky defense from letting one goal become two, then three in quick succession, and on the other side, find scoring in any sort of volume.

“It’s getting back to basics: one v. one defending, winning duels, defending the box and having pride in those moments and being proud of what we are putting together as a team in terms of defensive shape,” captain midfielder Wil Trapp said. “That’s what we need to recover back to. When we do that well, we are a very difficult team to beat. We win the ball high and we have tons of quality in the front half of the team.”

MORE MINNESOTA LOONS COVERAGE:
Pro
Minnesota locked in the sixth seed and will travel to No. 3 FC Dallas for a first-round match next week.
Pro
The Loons’ kit men are responsible for setting up the team’s oval-shaped locker room at Allianz Field, with everything players need to perform — from emergency headgear down to their socked toes.
Pro
Fragapane is on a team-friendly guaranteed compensation of $257,000, per MLSPA, and has been one of the most productive Loons over his two seasons.
Pro
MNUFC went into Saturday’s match in California with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help. That assistance came with Real Salt Lake’s draw with L.A. Galaxy late Saturday night, but Minnesota didn’t do its part of the equation.
Pro
With Minnesota’s playoff positioning slipping in three straight scoreless losses, a goal and a point will be precious. But they lost points from a winning position at home.
Pro
After signing a 2½-year contract with MNUFC through the 2024 season, with a club option for 2025, the 28-year-old Paraguayan has played in three games — an international friendly versus Everton, plus coming off the bench in two MLS games, wins over Houston and Portland.
Pro
Seven field players have played at least 90% of the minutes across the five MLS matches since June 25. Two more, for a total of nine, have been on the field at least 78% of the game action in that span.
Pro
If the goalkeeper isn’t voted in, he can be added by United manager Adrian Heath
Pro
Minnesota United also working to send forward Adrien Hunou back to France
Pro
Minnesota United will play its ninth different starting lineup in the season’s ninth game on Sunday

The Loons will need to ride playmaker Emanuel Reynoso, who the club announced this week has signed a new three-year contract. When Reynoso provides a goal or assist, Minnesota is 25-5-5 across all competitions.

When the Loons reached the West final in 2020, they did it on the back of Reynoso.

“We know they’re two finals and we depend only on ourselves,” Reynoso said through team translator Gabriela Lozada.

MNUFC will likely have to do it without integral midfielder Robin Lod. The Finn missed the SKC game with a calf injury, but participated in part of Tuesday’s training session with the aim of joining in Wednesday and Thursday if he didn’t have an issue. However, he was not in training those days and is officially listed as questionable.

ADVERTISEMENT

“If it’s not 100%, he won’t play,” Heath said.

When Heath has said a version of this statement in the past, that player doesn’t play.

The Loons had four players return from international duty. Michael Boxall (New Zealand) joined in training Wednesday and Thursday. Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales (Honduras) participated on Thursday. Dayne St. Clair (Canada) has met the team in California.

Pecking order

Final home-field spot:

4. Nashville, 47
Remaining games: vs. 13th-place Houston; at 1st-place LAFC

On road in playoffs:

5. L.A. Galaxy, 46
Remaining games: vs. 8th RSL; at 14th Houston

6. Portland, 46
Remaining games: vs. 1st LAFC; at 8th RSL

ADVERTISEMENT

7. MNUFC, 45
Remaining games: at 14th San Jose; vs. at 10th Vancouver

Out of playoff field:

8. Real Salt Lake, 43
Remaining games: vs. 5th LAG; vs. 6th Portland

9. Seattle, 40
Remaining games: at 12th Kansas City; vs. 14th San Jose

10. Vancouver, 40
Remaining games: vs. 2nd Austin; at 7th Minnesota

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA UNITED FC
What to read next
Pro
In an instant, Foligno slammed his helmet and started screaming at the referee. He was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor as well as a misconduct. All of it added up to 19 penalty minutes.
Pro
Kevin O’Connell empowers Cousins on a daily basis and the results speak for themselves.
Pro
He is now on a nine-game point streak, the longest of his career to this point.
Pro
The Timberwolves have been booed at more home games than not thus far this season