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Hottest teams in MLS face off: Minnesota United vs. Austin FC

The fourth-place Loons are 10 points behind second-place Austin

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Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath watches the action in the first half of a MLS game at Allianz Field on May 28, 2022. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL — Saturday night’s match at Allianz Field pits two of the hottest and best teams in MLS, but for Minnesota United, it’s less about catching Austin FC and more about creating separation from the clubs beneath them in the Western Conference standings.

Going into the 7 p.m. kickoff in St. Paul, the fourth-place Loons (11-9-5) are 10 points behind second-place Austin (14-5-6) with nine regular-season games left, but Minnesota is only five points from being outside of the MLS Cup Playoff field.

“It’s like (Austin) are playing with house money a little bit; the consequence of a defeat for them at this moment are not huge,” Loons manager Adrian Heath said Friday. “For that group below, every point is so important. We have to be aware that (Saturday), they are going to come and take the game to us.”

The Loons’ defense has been leaky lately, allowing four goals to Portland Timbers in a 4-4 draw on July 30 and four goals in a 4-3 loss to Colorado Rapids on Aug. 8 before conceding only one in a 2-1 win over Nashville last Sunday.

Austin is tied for the league lead with 54 goals, and Sebastian Driussi has scored an MLS-best 17 goals.

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“They play on the front foot,” Heath explained. “… They are playing with so much confidence, and there is nothing like that for players. They are winning games and scoring goals. They are winning games from seemingly impossible positions, and they’ve kept going.”

The Loons’ back line appears likely to undergo a change, with left back Kemar Lawrence missing training this week with a knee ligament strain.

“It’s not too bad, but it can linger,” Heath said. “If (on Saturday) he doesn’t feel 100 percent, he won’t play.”

MORE MINNESOTA LOONS COVERAGE:
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The Loons acquired Rosales on an 18-month loan in August 2021, liked what they saw across 30 MLS matches.
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Minnesota has yet to announce its end-of-season roster decisions, but Trapp, the club’s captain, and Miller are expected to be under contract in Minnesota for 2023.
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Loons acquired 20-year-old wide attacking midfielder Cameron Dunbar from Los Angeles Galaxy.
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Magee will vacate his role in the Loons’ front office in scouting and recruitment, which saw him routinely travel abroad in search of MLS talent.
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The 29-year-old Ohio native will return to MNUFC for his third season with the club next year. Trapp had guaranteed compensation of $784,875 in 2022, per MLS Players’ Association figures.
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Dallas, which earned the third seed in the West, has one of the league’s most dangerous goal-scorers in MLS in Jesus Ferreira. The U.S. men’s national team striker had 18 goals in the league this season —the fourth-highest total in MLS in 2022.
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Minnesota locked in the sixth seed and will travel to No. 3 FC Dallas for a first-round match next week.
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The Loons’ kit men are responsible for setting up the team’s oval-shaped locker room at Allianz Field, with everything players need to perform — from emergency headgear down to their socked toes.
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Fragapane is on a team-friendly guaranteed compensation of $257,000, per MLSPA, and has been one of the most productive Loons over his two seasons.
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MNUFC went into Saturday’s match in California with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help. That assistance came with Real Salt Lake’s draw with L.A. Galaxy late Saturday night, but Minnesota didn’t do its part of the equation.

Oniel Fisher and DJ Taylor are two options to step in.

With an abundance of midfield players healthy and available to play — Robin Lod, Kervin Arriaga, Wil Trapp, Joseph Rosales and Jonathan Gonzalez — multiple players will be left out of the starting XI.

“It’s strange, a few weeks ago we had two midfield players fit and now we have four or five who are waiting for a chance,” Heath said. “… When we announce the team there will be two or three unhappy people, but fortunately that is the way it is.”

New Designated Player attacker Mender Garcia will be available to come off the bench for his MLS debut on Saturday. Heath has raved about the 23-year-old Colombian’s speed.

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA UNITED FC
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