Minnesota United FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps Game Preview
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Minnesota United begins the 2019 MLS Season against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the first of five games on the road. Both sides have added pieces in the offseason with the hope of changing fortunes. The core of the Loons' roster returns for the new year, along with key additions. In addition to some major moves off the field with the opening of Allianz Field, new roster additions has Minnesota poised and ready for a successful campaign.
After two seasons in which the team conceded - by its own admission - far too many goals, MNUFC entered the offseason with its sights set squarely on improving the team's defense. This led to the acquisition of two MLS veterans, Ike Opara from Sporting Kansas City and Ozzie Alonso from Seattle Sounders. Each has been a standout defender in his own right, with Opara winning MLS Defender of the Year in 2017 and Alonso leading the Sounders to an MLS Cup in 2016. Opara is expected not only to bring size and skill to the backline, but organization and leadership, while Alonso will bring grit and tenacity in front of the backline.
Alonso will be freed to focus on defense by the addition of the team's third Designated Player, Slovakia international Jan Gregus, who is expected to take on the playmaking duties in the center of the pitch as the team's No. 8. Finally, the team added former Arsenal and Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone to bring experience, shot-stopping and distribution to the position.
Additionally, it's easy to forget that Quintero's 11 goals and 15 assists only represent a partial season, but the club's prolific first DP only appeared in 27 of the team's 34 MLS games last year. He, along with midseason acquisitions Angelo Rodriguez and Romario Ibarra, is in the midst of his first preseason with the team and all of them will figure to benefit from greater comfortability and preparation time for the 2019 season.
"From the middle of last season we've got eight new players who will probably start on Saturday plus the fact now, Finlay is back, plus Molino is around the corner. So we've never had the strength in depth, and I know for any coach in the league, that's a real positive. We've had a really good preseason and I think we're all excited about the season getting underway."
Minnesota United's match notes can be downloaded here.
Michael Boxall played the 2011 season with Vancouver Whitecaps FC after being taken by the club in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft.
Zac MacMath and Eric Miller played together on the Colorado Rapids from 2016 until Miller was traded to MNUFC in 2018. Felipe and Miller were teammates on Montreal Impact during the 2014 season.
Andrew Rose played with Osvaldo Alonso from 2012 through 2015 on Seattle Sounders FC. Fredy Montero and Alonso were on the inaugural MLS roster for Seattle and were teammates from 2009 through 2014.
MNUFC Assistant Coach Mark Watson played for Whitecaps FC in 2005, when the club competed in USL.
The Loons and Whitecaps FC split the 2018 series with a win each.
Minnesota scrapped to a 1-0 home win, and failed to comeback on the road as it fell 4-2 in Vancouver.
Minnesota and Vancouver were league opponents prior to both clubs joining MLS. They last met in the USSF Division 2 Pro League in 2010.
New Whitecaps FC Head Coach Marc Dos Santos coached Ottawa Fury against MNUFC during its NASL era.
Darwin Quintero led MNUFC in nearly all offensive categories in 2018. He had 11 goals, 15 assists, 78 shots, 32 on target and 85 corner kicks. Quintero led the Loons with five MLS Team of the Week appearances last year, and was the only one to win Player of the Week.
The last meeting with Vancouver was in the middle of a six-game point streak for Quintero. He assisted both of the Loons' goals in a 4-2 loss to Whitecaps FC.
Miguel Ibarra was just behind Quintero in the offensive stats. He had seven goals and eight assists and appeared in all but one game in 2018.
Minnesota is 1-2-1 against Vancouver in MLS games and has not yet won at BC Place.
MNUFC added its third Designated Player, Jan Gregus, during the offseason. The Slovakia international comes to Minnesota from FC Copenhagen in the Danish Superliga.
Vancouver's top three goalscorers from 2018, Kei Kamara, Alphonso Davies and Cristian Techera, are no longer with the team this season.
MNUFC opens the 2019 season with five road games. The Loons will face three Western Conference opponents in the opening three weeks, making their way down the West Coast of the continent. Starting in Vancouver, the Loons then head to play the San Jose Earthquakes and complete the journey against the LA Galaxy.
Minnesota went undefeated in its preseason fixtures, with a record of 4-0-2 while scoring 12 goals and conceding just two. The Loons kept a clean sheet in five consecutive games.
M - Kevin Molino (Knee)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
BC PLACE | VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLOMBIA
3.2.19 | MLS Week 1 | MLS Game No. 1
5:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North / MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
VAN: 13-13-8, 6-8-3 at home
MIN: 11-20-3, 1-14-2 on the road
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