Minnesota United FC vs. New York City FC
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Following a successful road trip to open the season that saw Minnesota United collect nine points from five games, the team at long last will open its new permanent home in Saint Paul, Minnesota, this week as it faces New York City FC at Allianz Field. Despite missing two key attacking cogs in midfielders Miguel Ibarra and Darwin Quintero, the Loons put in a gritty effort against New York Red Bulls in a 2-1 win last weekend, while NYCFC's early season struggles continued in a 0-0 home draw against a 10-man Montreal Impact.
Festivities for the Inaugural Home Opener at Allianz Field begin at noon on Saturday, so fans should plan to get there early for all the fun on the north side of the stadium, including the Target Bullseye Fan Zone, food trucks and live music. Kickoff is at 4:00 p.m. and the game is being broadcast on ESPN2 with pregame coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Coming on the heels of wins over the woeful Whitecaps and Earthquakes and losses to energized Galaxy and Revolution sides, the win at Red Bulls showed a team ready to play tough and take what the game gives them - an important quality for any team to foster, no matter their talent. Centerback Brent Kallman got his first start of the season in a revamped three-man backline that helped the Loons fall back defensively while adjusting to the missing pieces of the attack.
"I felt pretty good," said Kallman. "I got away with a big mistake in the first half, got a little bit bailed out and they didn't punish us in the score. I thought the plan the coaches put in really worked and the communication among the guys was really good. I think the guys in front of us - it's not just the back three or the back five or whatever - the guys in front of us and the guys up front worked really well and did a good job defensively. That took a lot of pressure off of us.
"To get those results on the road, it takes character," he added. "It's not easy to get done and I think this last weekend was a good example of that. It wasn't pretty, but it was guys having the grit and determination and fight to get it done. So I think we've proved to each other that we can do that early. It's going to pay off going down the line and we'll be confident in all the road games going forward."
The shift away from Head Coach Adrian Heath's favored 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3 last week came from a combination of working around injuries and building a strategy that could work against Red Bulls, who tend to play narrow. It came off better than expected because of New York's decision to go with a diamond in midfield. This opened up many opportunities to hit diagonals quickly that would switch sides on the attack. It also afforded the opportunity to drop five deep easily and pack in against a Red Bulls team that like to win the ball and play direct on the counterattack. In summary, it was an effective gameplan against an opponent who favors the aforementioned style, but don't expect Heath to necessarily stick to it when it comes to a team who wants to play with more possession.
"They have a lot of quality," said Heath of NYCFC. "The one thing I know is that if we don't approach the game properly and we allow them to dictate the pace, allow them to dictate the tempo with possession football, then it becomes a difficult afternoon. What we've got to do is concentrate on what we do. Try and play on the front foot, get after them and let's get the crowd involved in the game."
With Quintero once again healthy, Heath will have some decisions to make. Traditionally, he has not changed the team after wins, but getting Quintero back into the starting XI in his traditional role of free playmaker would likely necessitate a shift. For his part, Heath has remained adamant as ever that it's the players who put themselves into the lineup through their work in training, not the coach.
But while preparations continue both on and off the field through a bout of midweek inclement weather in the Twin Cities, there's a certain element to the first game in a new stadium that can never be planned for. For Heath, though, it's imperative that the squad remain focused.
"This is going to be home now. It's like something that was a dream, now has become the reality," he said. "I don't want to put a dampener on it, but we've just got to do our job. I'm sure it will be an incredible day for everybody - it will be an even better day if we win. As I said to the players before this week's training started, let's concentrate on what we've got to do. Not all the peripheral stuff. We've got a job to do, we've got to go and try to get three points."
There are a hundred thousand tiny elements that will go into and come out of this first game and for Kallman - who grew up in Woodbury and played for the team in the NASL when the crowds were only several hundred - the moment will be one to remember.
"It still doesn't feel really real," he said. "It's kind of hard to believe, still, even when I've been in there a few times now. I'm just going to try to take it all in and embrace it on the weekend because I know it's going to be pretty crazy. It's actually happening."
Minnesota United's next game will be on Friday, April 19 when they travel south to face Toronto FC at BMO Field. That game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT 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.
Head Coach Adrian Heath on his excitement ahead of the first game at Allianz Field...This going to be home now, as I said before, it was something that was once a dream is now reality. I don't want to put a damper on it but we just need to do our job, I'm sure its going to an incredible day for everybody and it'll be an even better day if we go out there and win. As I said to the players before this week's training started, "let's concentrate on what we've got to do." It's going to be great for everybody but we've got our job to do. We got to try to get three points and if we do it puts us in another good spot.
MNUFC Defenseman Brent Kallman on the five away games to start the season...It feels really good to get those points on the road, it takes character, it's not easy to get done and last weekend was a really good example of that. It wasn't pretty but the guys had grit, determination and fight to get it done. I think we've proven to each other that we can do that early on which will pay off going down the line and we're going to be confident on all the road games going forward.
MNUFC Forward Angelo Rodriguez on what he is expecting from NYCFC...We know the team is strong. I have faced them several times and have been fortunate enough to score against them but I think this weekend we must enter the game fully concentrated and if god allows it, we will win.
Rasmus Schuller and Alexander Ring are both members of the Finland national team and played together on HJK in 2012 and 2013.
Miguel Ibarra and Maxi Moralez played for Club Leon in 2016.
Francisco Calvo and Ronald Matarrita are members of the Costa Rica national team.
Ethan Finlay, Ben Sweat and Brad Stuver were teammates on Columbus Crew SC in 2014. Finlay and Stuver were on the Crew SC roster through 2017.
Carter Manley and Sebastien Ibeagha both played for Duke University in college.
Jeff Caldwell played for Seattle Sounders FC U23 from 2014 to 2016 while Osvaldo Alonso played for the first team.
Antonio Rocha played with Kevin Molino and was coached by Adrian Heath as a member of Orlando City SC in 2016.
This is the first game Minnesota United will play in Allianz Field. The privately-financed $250-million stadium broke ground in December of 2016 and completed construction in February of 2019.
This is Minnesota's first home game on grass since October 29, 2016. Brent Kallman is the only player currently on the Loons' roster who played in that game.
This will be the first home game the Loons have played in Saint Paul since May 21, 2013. MNUFC played a U.S. Open Cup game against the Des Moines Menace at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
MNUFC finished off its season-opening road trip with a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls last week. The Loons claimed nine of a possible 15 points to start the season.
Abu Danladi scored his first goal of the season in his first start in last week's win over RBNY.
Romario Ibarra scored his second goal of the year, after coming on as a substitute at halftime. Both of the Ecuador international's goals in 2019 have been game-winners.
Romario is one of six players in the league with two game-winning goals.
Angelo Rodriguez provided his first assist of the 2019 campaign against Red Bulls last weekend.
Defender Ike Opara and goalkeeper Vito Mannone earned spots on the MLS Team of the Week for Week 6 for their efforts in the Loons' win. This is the first time either of these players have made the Team of the Week as members of MNUFC.
Last week was the first MNUFC game this year that did not have a penalty kick awarded to either team.
Neither the Loons nor the Red Bulls were carded last week.
Jan Gregus' 14 corner kicks are the tenth highest individual total in MLS.
With 11 goals through the first five games, Minnesota has the fourth-highest tally in the league.
The Loons have scored on 18% of their shots, the third-most efficient scoring rate in MLS.
New York City FC has not won a game in 2019.
MNUFC and NYCFC met in the Orlando City Invitational, with the Loons claiming a 1-0 win during the preseason tournament.
NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson is one of six goalkeepers with multiple clean sheets already in 2019.
Minnesota's last home win came against NYCFC on September 29, 2018. Angelo Rodriguez scored both of the Loons' goals in the 2-1 result.
D - Chase Gasper (Hamstring)
M - Miguel Ibarra (Hamstring)
M - Kevin Molino (Knee)
New York City FC
OUT: M - Maxi Moralez (calf)
OUT: D - Alexander Callens (hamstring)
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. NEW YORK CITY FC
ALLIANZ FIELD | SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA
4.13.19 | MLS Week 7 | MLS Game No. 6
4:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2 / MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
MIN: 3-2-0; 0-0-0 at home
NYCFC: 0-1-4; 0-1-1 on the road
MINvsNYCFC Match Guide | MINvsNYCFC Hype Video
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