SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- Minnesota United's inaugural MLS season comes to a close with the team's 34th and final match of the year this Sunday, October 22 against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. With a win, San Jose can lock up the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, setting up the opportunity for the Loons to play spoiler. Kickoff is at 3:00 p.m. CT, with pre-match coverage getting underway at 2:30 p.m. on FOX 9+ and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
When last these teams met in Minnesota back in April, MNUFC was riding high on a stretch of two wins (both at home), one draw and one hard-fought loss over its last four. With the Quakes on a six-match winless streak at the time, the Loons were optimistic about notching their third home win that night, but in the end it was San Jose who came out on top in a 1-0 win after Florian Jungwirth dinked home the winner off a cross in the 54th minute.
The Loons can exact a measure of revenge for themselves with a win on Sunday, but they'll also have a chance to play spoiler and open the door for a team like FC Dallas - currently parked below the red line - to get into the playoffs. It's an opportunity Head Coach Adrian Heath regards as a duty to the game itself.
"We have our obligation to the other teams," said Heath. "Were we in this situation that Dallas are in, we'd expect everybody to be doing everything they can to keep it going and keep the integrity of the competition going. You know, it's going to be a huge game because San Jose need to win to make the playoffs. So there's a lot to play for. And I want to make sure that we're as competitive as we can possibly be."
This final match of the season also represents a chance for the squad to get rid of the bad taste left over from a poor showing last weekend against LA Galaxy. The Loons came out flat last Sunday against a Galaxy side that's struggled at home all season and left Carson City with a 3-0 loss. The key to moving on for Heath is putting it behind them.
"We need a response from the game at the weekend," said Heath. "I was angry after the game, because we're better than that. And we've shown lately that we are better than that. I want the guys to understand that it's really important for us to finish this season in a positive note. And if that makes us be the spoilers, then so be it. But we can only think of the integrity for the competition, doing everything that we can for everybody else. We would want it if we were in the same position. So, you know, let's go and forget the disappointment of LA. Let's go and get after it. And let's give a really good professional account of ourselves."
It's been nearly eight months since MNUFC opened its first season as an MLS club with a rainy defeat at the hands of Portland Timbers FC in Providence Park. From the team's first month - when they looked like they might contend for worst expansion season of all time - to their first home win against Real Salt Lake, their upsets of Sporting Kansas City and Portland Timbers FC, their first road win against the Chicago Fire and their 3-2 win over Atlanta United on the road, the Loons have never lacked for heart. They've bounced back from each rough or disappointing stretch and displayed flashes of dazzling potential. As Heath is not shy about saying, there remains much to be done to get the team where they want to be. Once the final whistle blows in San Jose, the offseason begins and the work doesn't stop.
M - Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury)
M/D - Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury)
M - Sam Cronin (head injury)
San Jose Earthquakes
D - Harold Cummings (leg surgery)
D - Marvell Wynne (heart abnormality)
M - Fatai Alashe (quad injury)
D - Nick Lima (hamstring injury)
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