Minnesota United FC vs. Houston Dynamo Preview
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Minnesota United remains undefeated in league play at Allianz Field, and this weekend, the home side welcomes one of the deadliest attacks in MLS in the form of Houston Dynamo. Built around the blistering pace and physical brio of Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas and Romell Quioto, the Dynamo have put up impressive numbers at home with six wins and two draws, while struggling to replicate that form on the road, there they've won one and lost two. Fortunately for the Loons, they come into the game having blanked the Columbus Crew 1-0 with perhaps one of the most complete performances of the season so far.
The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 25 with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
"Thought it was a very professional, well-deserved win," said Head Coach Adrian Heath when asked about the victory over Crew SC. "I can't remember Vito [Mannone] having an awful lot to do during the game. Obviously, the shot from [Federico] Higuain hit the post, couldn't do much about, and then I think he came out at somebody's feet in the second half. Apart from that, can't think of us really being in a lot of trouble. I thought the shape of the team looked good. I thought defensively we looked very sound. The two centerbacks were excellent. Romain [Metanire] was his normal self and I thought Miggy [Ibara] adopted great to that new role that we asked him to play. When I look back and we got Darwin [Quintero] on the field and more out of [Kevin] Molino again, it was a very pleasing day and everyone came through unscathed as well."
Heath's comments point to some of the currently fluid nature of the squad. With teams focusing in on the danger presented by Romain Metanire - who welcomed his second child this past week - down the right side, the team needed a measure of attack down the left not provided by Eric Miller. Enter Ibarra, usually a left or sometimes right winger, pressed into service as a left back. One of his standout qualities has always been his work rate, and that stood him in good stead as he flew up and down the sideline, giving a good account of himself on both sides of the ball.
It was another member of the Loons' NASL incarnation who made the difference against Columbus as defender Brent Kallman headed a cross set up by a corner back across the face of goal and onto the foot of midfielder Ethan Finlay. The former Crew player finished it smoothly, giving him his first goal of the season, his first goal since returning from an ACL injury last year, and his first goal against his former team.
"When they asked me afterward, I said I was just trying to put it back where it came from and maybe going for goal," said Kallman when asked about the play. "But when I think back to the moment, I think I realized that I probably couldn't score with the way I was going to have to lay out. So yeah, I'll say I was meaning to pass it across because it's the truth. So I just let it hit me in the side of the head and redirected it and it softened up and Ethan was able to get on the end of it. It worked out."
While the game against Columbus carried a great deal of personal weight for Finlay as he faced his old droogs, the matchup against Houston carries a different kind of weight. MNUFC began the season with a five-game road trip prior to the opening of Allianz Field and, since that time, Heath has been saying that they'll have a real sense of the team after the schedule evens out. While the schedule won't technically be even until the end of June, after the game against the Dynamo, the team will have played seven away and six at home. Win and they have a chance to get within a point of the Galaxy in fourth place in the West; lose and they could be overtaken by FC Dallas and fall back to sixth.
"I said before the game with Columbus, let's see where we are at the end of these two games," he said. "If we were to go and get another three points this weekend, it would set us up nicely. Now all of a sudden, when we've got seven away and six at home, it will give us a better idea of where we are in the league table. It's going to be tough. [Houston] have started very, very well. Probably the most dynamic front three or four in all of MLS. They've got a bit of everything: abundance of pace, size, physicality, little bit of craftiness around the box. We're going to have to defend equally as well as we did against Columbus. The one thing about us, we look like we can create. If we can create the chances we've done the last few weeks, we should be fine."
Defending against Houston will be a bit of different task, however. While the Crew's chief danger came from the chance creation of Federico Higuain and the scoring of Gyasi Zardes, the Dynamo have a three-headed monster in Elis, Manotas and Quioto, any of whom are as equally comfortable finishing in front of goal as they are providing assists to the others. But Kallman says the main danger can't be avoided simply by defending in a low block.
"It seems counterintuitive, but if you stay back, you open yourself up for worse stuff," he said. "This team's always a tricky one because they'll lull you to sleep. They're going to let us have a lot of the ball and they're going to leave always at least two of those guys high that are really fast and really good attackers. They're just looking to break on you and they're probably the best team in the league at doing it. Everyone's got to stay really switched on. When we have the ball, we have to be thinking 'What's the worst that could happen?' Guys gotta be ready to defend right away when the ball turns over in transition. If we can keep them from transitioning on us and getting counterattacking chances, I think we've got a good shot."
Heath as well is cognizant of the threats posed by Houston.
"In [Alberth] Elis, is there anyone more dynamic in the league?" he asked. "I don't think so. People underestimate how good he is in the air as well, because he's a huge kid. And then [Maruo] Manotas has really developed. I think they've done a great job in bringing him along. [Romell] Quioto on the other side is very, very quick. They've got a lot of really good pieces - the kid [Memo] Rodriguez as well. Attacking-wise, they're a formidable outfit, so we'll have to defend well, get a good shape and make the most of when we get the ball. As I say, I do think we can cause them problems as well."
Minnesota United's next game is a midweek tilt against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday, May 29. That game gets started at 6:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Head Coach Adrian Heath on the threats that Houston pose... "In [Alberth] Elis, is there anyone more dynamic in the league? I don't think so. People underestimate how good he is in the air as well, because he's a huge kid. And then [Maruo] Manotas has really developed. I think they've done a great job in bringing him along. [Romell] Quioto on the other side is very, very quick. They've got a lot of really good pieces - the kid [Memo] Rodriguez as well. Attacking-wise, they're a formidable outfit, so we'll have to defend well, get a good shape and make the most of when we get the ball. As I say, I do think we can cause them problems as well."
Defender Brent Kallman on the keys to the defensive improvement recently... "I think we're doing a way better job this year of getting numbers behind the ball. It's not so much the back six having to defend, we're defending from the front. We've got 11 guys behind the ball, that's hard to break down. I think it really showed itself the last several games at home, but especially Saturday night, where they only got four shots, I don't think one on target. We really limited their chances and that's because the guys up front are doing their job. They're getting behind the ball, making it hard to make that first pass in the midfield."
Midfielder Miguel Ibarra on making Allianz Field a fortress..."Our fans, to us, they're like having an additional player on the field, they give us the energy to get results. At home, we're a strong team and I think our fans, if they keep supporting us, [Allianz Field] will always be a stadium where other teams won't want to play against us because they know, with the support of our fans and the team we have, they won't get a result."
(NEWS, NOTEWORTHY STATS, ETC.)
Minnesota held Columbus Crew SC to zero shots on goal in its last league game on Saturday. This is the first time MNUFC has prevented an opponent from hitting the target since joining MLS. Prior to that game, the Loons had held opponents to one shot on goal eight times.
Ethan Finlay scored his first goal of 2019 against Columbus on Saturday. It is his first goal since March 10, 2018. He was sidelined for most of last season after suffering a season-ending injury on April 22, 2018 against Seattle Sounders FC.
Finlay made his 180th regular season appearance in MLS last game.
Brent Kallman provided his first assist of the year on Finlay's goal. The two players were teammates at Creighton University prior to Finlay joining MNUFC in 2017.
Kallman has made six consecutive starts for the Loons.
Romain Metanire was also credited with an assist on Finlay's goal. He leads the Loons with five assists on the year. He is just two assists behind league leaders Carlos Vela of LAFC and Nicolas Lodeiro of Seattle Sounders FC.
Metanire, Vito Mannone and Osvaldo Alonso have played every minute of the season for the Loons.
Mannone kept his fourth clean sheet of the season against Columbus. He is one shutout away from tying Bobby Shuttleworth for the club single-season record, and three from tying the club all-time record.
The Loons are 2-0-3 at Allianz Field.
MNUFC has conceded just one goal in its last four home games.
Minnesota is currently on its longest home unbeaten run at five games.
On Tuesday, Minnesota United announced it had loaned midfield Romario Ibarra to C.F. Pachuca of Mexico's Liga MX. Romario will be on loan for 13 months, with Pachuca having an option to buy at the end of the loan.
MNUFC welcomed German club Hertha Berlin to Allianz Field for an international friendly on Wednesday night. The game was the first of a U.S. summer tour for the Bundesliga club.
Houston has been one of the best teams at home this season, going 6-0-2 at BBVA Compass Stadium. However, it is just 1-0-2 while on the road.
Minnesota and Houston are two of five teams that are undefeated at home so far this season.
This will be Minnesota's third of five games in 15 days.
Chris Duvall was Minnesota's first selection in the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft. He was traded to Montreal following the conclusion of the draft.
Joe Willis and Collin Martin were both in the D.C. United organization in 2013 and 2014. Both were loaned to the Richmond Kickers during the 2014 season.
Duvall and Martin were teammates at Wake Forest in 2012.
Tyler Deric was coached by Adrian Heath while on loan with the Austin Aztex in 2009.
DaMarcus Beasley and MNUFC Director of Player Personnel Amos Magee were teammates on the Chicago Fire from 2001 to 2002.
Darwin Ceren and Kevin Molino were teammates on Orlando City SC from 2014 through 2016.
G - Bobby Shuttleworth (knee)
D - Chase Gasper (leg)
D - Carter Manley
M - Eric Bird (left ankle injury)
F - Ronaldo Peña (left knee injury)
M - Marlon Hairston (right hip injury)
F - Alberth Elis (head injury)
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO
ALLIANZ FIELD | SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA
5.25.19 | MLS Week 13 | MLS Game No. 13
7:00 p.m. CT (FSN + / MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
MIN: 5-4-3; 2-0-3 at home
HOU: 7-2-2; 1-2-0 on the road
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