With a spot in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals secured, LAFC travel to Minnesota United on Sunday (YouTube TV, UniMás 46 | 4pm).
The Loons are flying after back-to-back wins over Real Salt Lake and New England. Minnesota is back within striking distance of a playoff spot and forward Darwin Quintero is on a tear with five goals in his last four matches. Three Western Conference points are in the offing, here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC at Minnesota United:
After scoring a hat trick against Toronto FC a little over two weeks ago, Darwin Quintero picked up right where he left off in Minnesota United's back-to-back wins his week. The forward scored in both matches to bring his total for the season to eight.
With his mazy dribbles and ambitious shot selection, Quintero is a threat from nearly anywhere on the field. But he does have his preferences. The forward likes to drop off the opponent's backline in search of the ball. And once he's turned towards goal, he knows only one direction. So LAFC need to either deny Quintero the space to turn and gain speed towards the goal, or they need to multiple players around the forward to crowd him out.
Cover For One Another
With Quintero lurking in front of the defense, LAFC will need to mind the space they leave over the top.
Center backs Walker Zimmerman and Laurent Ciman have to be in tune with each other on who is stepping and who is covering when Minnesota goes long. Loons striker Christian Ramirez isn't one for pace, but his holdup play can create running lanes for Quintero. If Ramirez is occupying either of the LAFC center backs, the other needs to be aware of the threat in behind.
Get The Ball Forward And Let Your Attackers Do The Rest
Not advocating for long ball here. But the pitch at TCF Bank Stadium is... well, it's not good.
The ball won't be whipping around the pitch the way the LAFC midfield likes it. And Minnesota's backline is still struggling to keep teams off the scoresheet. One or two quick passes before stretching the field vertically should put the Loons under considerable pressure, and with Adama Diomande or Marco Ureña lurking in the box, Minnesota will have to decide whether the let LAFC's wide attackers go to work or open space in front of goal. Either way, it leaves the home side vulnerable, while keeping the ball high up the pitch considerably neutralizes Minnesota's best threat in Quintero.