After consecutive matches against the Portland Timbers, and all the extracurriculars that came with them, I think we can all agree it's nice to play to Minnesota United this weekend.
That's not to say the trip to Minnesota on Sunday (YouTubeTV, UniMás 46 | 4pm) will be an easy one. The Loons put together back-to-back wins with a 3-2 victory over Real Salt Lake last weekend and a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution on Wednesday. Winners of three of their last four matches, Minnesota is second in the conference in home wins with seven.
And we haven't even mentioned the tear Darwin Quintero has been on in recent weeks.
LAFC's trip to Minnesota, with a date at home with the Galaxy looming, isn't a cakewalk by any means. So let's take a closer look at this matchup:
Where To Watch/Listen
LAFC At Minnesota United, July 22 at 4pm PT
TV: YouTubeTV (prematch show starting at 3:30pm), UniMás 46
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
Touched on briefly above, Minnesota United are currently on their best run of the season with three wins in their last four matches. The Loons have scored nine goals in those four matches, which includes being shutout by Houston in their only loss.
What The Players Are Saying
Mark-Anthony Kaye on LAFC's focus heading into the weekend: "Our first focus is Minnesota. We want to continue to go in the right direction in the league. Minnesota is the next team in front of us, we just need to deal with that. Once that game is over with, then we will deal with the Galaxy."
Steven Beitashour on Darwin Quintero: "He likes to chip the ball. We've noticed that. The past couple of games, he's been ambitious. And he's pulled off a couple. I think Tyler's aware of that. But overall, he's a good player. He's crafty. He's quick. He likes to get in good little spaces and take guys on. We'll be aware of him.
LAFC Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1): Tyler Miller; João Moutinho, Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman, Steven Beitashour; Mark-Anthony Kaye, Benny Feilhaber; Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing; Adama Diomande
What To Watch For
Stopping Quintero: With five goals in his last four matches, Darwin Quintero is starting to show why Minnesota made him the first Designated Player in team history. His three goals against Toronto were all moments of individual brilliance. We're not talking about tap-ins here, this guy gets his money's worth when he scores. Add to that blistering pace and composure with the ball at his feet, and the Colombian is definitely the danger man in Minnesota's attack.
Happy Without Possession: The Loons allow visiting teams a lot of the ball. It hasn't hurt them as of late, but LAFC have to like their odds if Minnesota is going to cede possession to them. Especially, when you look at Minnesota's defense. A switch to a three-man backline has resulted in wins, but Minnesota is near the top of MLS in shots by opponents per game. While LAFC are near the top in shots taken per match. Give players like Adama Diomande, Carlos Vela, or Diego Rossi multiple opportunities, and you're basically asking your goalkeeper to have the match of his life.
Changes In Midfield: Lee Nguyen is suspended for this match after picking up a red card against Portland last Sunday. With Eduard Atuesta and André Horta still working towards match fitness, Bob Bradley's choices in midfield are a bit slim. Last Sunday, he fielded a three-man midfield, opting to use Carlos Vela as a wide attacker. In the midweek Open Cup match, Vela was much higher up the pitch and started in a more central location with Mark-Anthony Kaye and Nguyen as the band of two behind him. Vela scored and had more of an overall impact on the match from that position, but Bradley noted is was just one of the options available depending on the opponent. We'll see if LAFC attack Minnesota in the same way or if yet another change to the midfield setup is in the cards for Sunday.