A Look Ahead: Minnesota at Tampa Bay
Down, but not out. That’s been the theme around the training ground as Minnesota United FC prepares for Saturday night’s road clash against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Trying to snap a three-game losing streak, Minnesota travels to Al Lang Stadium for a 6:30 p.m. CDT kickoff against the North American Soccer League’s defending champion, and while the match isn’t technically a must-win for United, the players are approaching it as such.
“We have six games left, and we have to look at this as our playoff run,” defender Brian Kallman said Wednesday as the team trained following an unexpected 1-0 loss to the Des Moines Menace in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The “playoff run” days are gone as the NASL’s championship will be contested between the winner of its Spring Season and the winner of the Fall, leaving little margin for error for teams hoping to be one of the two vying for the league title.
Despite the losses—two in the league to go along with the disappointment in the Open Cup—United FC is well within striking distance of the top spot and could theoretically go top with a convincing win at Al Lang. Providing extra motivation will be last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to the same Rowdies squad. Minnesota controlled most of the game but was left ruing missed opportunities as Tampa Bay pounced on defensive miscues for all three goals.
“Last Saturday was one of those that hurt because we definitely deserved to come off the field at least tied, and there’s no doubt there’s a huge disappointment within the club after Tuesday (in the Open Cup),” United FC head coach Manny Lagos said. “We want to show that we’re better, and we have that chance now against the defending champions in a challenging environment.”
To that end, Minnesota’s biggest challenge will be finishing its opportunities, especially early in the match. United FC has outshot its opponents in all but one match it’s played this season, and its 31 shots on goal ranks second in the league. While creating chances has been a comfortable task for United’s front line, finishing them has not. Last Saturday, four first-half saves from Tampa Bay goalkeeper Diego Restrepo left Minnesota off the board and trailing at the break.
At the other end, Minnesota will need to avoid the defensive miscues that have cost it goals in the past month. Struggling with injuries, Minnesota’s backline has changed in each of its last three games. Team captain Kyle Altman will miss Saturday’s game as he continues to recover from a concussion, but center back Connor Tobin traveled with the team and could make his first appearance since suffering a high ankle sprain in training at the end of April.
Read More Team News →