MLS Preview and Prediction: Minnesota United vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Minnesota United vs. Columbus Crew
Venue: TCF Bank Stadium – Tuesday, July 4 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST) 
Match Odds: Minnesota United 13/8 – Draw 5/2 – Columbus Crew 29/20

Preview

Minnesota United welcome Columbus Crew to TCF Bank Stadium on Tuesday evening. It’s the first ever meeting between the two in Major League Soccer.

The home side are sitting 10th in the Western Conference, winning just five games season. They have struggled to keep the opposition out and as a result Minnesota have conceded 41 goals, 11 in their last five games.

It seems unlikely that Minnesota will reach the playoffs as they trail the top six by four points. Although that isn’t a huge tally the Western Conference is fiercely competitive and it is their first season in MLS.

Columbus Crew have been in and out of the top six in the Eastern Conference this season. However, they are going to need to perform more consistently if they are to finish in a playoff spot.

They come into this one having lost 2-0 at home to Atlanta. A disappointing result and one that will give Minnesota some confidence.

Columbus have struggled on the road in 2017. They’ve lost six of their last seven and they’ve conceded at least two in the last six of those games.

Team News

Minnesota’s injury woes continue, they could be without seven players on Tuesday evening. Bernardo Anor, Thomas de Villardi, Joseph Greenspan, Marc Burch, Vadim Demidov, Brent Kallman and Abu Danladi all look set to be out.

Columbus Crew are looking set to be without up to three through injury for the trip to Minnesota as Gaston Sauro, Ben Swanson and Niko Hansen are all expected to be out.

Minnesota United vs Columbus Crew: Key Points

Minnesota United’s last five: L/L/W/D/L

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/L/L/W/L

Key Stat: Leaky – No side has conceded more goals than Minnesota United in MLS this season. Their backline has been breached 41 times and Columbus Crew will fancy their chances of adding to that total in this fixture.

Key Player: Federico Higuain – The Argentine playmaker has contributed to 11 goals so far in 2017. His haul of nine goals makes him joint top scorer for Columbus Crew and he will be key to unlocking Minnesota here.

Prediction

Minnesota United 2-2 Columbus Crew – Minnesota haven’t struggled to find the back of the net, but they have been woeful defensively. They certainly have the ability to cause their opposition trouble here. Columbus Crew will see this as a winnable game, but they have not travelled well this season. A score draw looks seems likely.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Colorado Rapids vs Minnesota United FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United
Venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – Saturday, March 18 – 21:00 ET (01:00 GMT)
Match Odds: Colorado Rapids 2/5 – Draw 16/5 – Minnesota United 13/2

Match Preview

Colorado Rapids welcome struggling MLS new boys Minnesota United to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday in a game that looks like it is going to go only one way.

The Rapids won their opening game of the season but lost 1-0 to Red Bulls last weekend, a result they will be expected to bounce back from here.

Pablo Mastroeni will demand nothing more than a win but will make his side aware they are not to undermine their opposition or take things lightly just because of their previous two results. There will be plenty of respect on the field with Colorado looking to get the job done early.

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Minnesota United have really struggled in their opening two games of their first ever MLS campaign. This is one of the last places they will want to visit off the back of already conceding 11 goals this season.

Adrian Heath’s side were taken apart 6-1 in the coldest game in MLS history last weekend and things will get better for them. The side has plenty to learn and become accustom to and if they put in a solid performance this weekend they will send a message out to the rest of the Western Conference that they’re not just here for a hiding.

Minnesota are conceding a goal every 16 minutes so far this season. Defensively things are going to have to drastically improve if they’re to start picking up points.

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Team News

Colorado Rapids have four injury concerns as John Berner, Axel Sjoberg, Kevin Doyle and Alan Gordon are all sidelined.

Bernardo Anor and John Alvbage are Minnesota United’s only injury concerns heading into this tie.

Key Points

Colorado Rapids’ form: W/L

Minnesota United’s form: L/L

Key Stat: Fortress – Colorado Rapids have lost just once in their last 20 Major League Soccer home games

Key Player: Dominique Badji – The Rapids forward has netted once already this season and this is a great chance for him to show he can provide on a regular basis.

Dominique Badji celebrating his first goal of the season via: coloradorapids.com

Score Prediction

Colorado Rapids 5-0 Minnesota United – It’s not a prediction made lightly but Colorado are very strong at home and Minnesota have been thumped in both of their fixtures this season. We expect The Rapids to win comfortably.

Gallery: Exclusive images from Portland’s 5-1 demolition of Minnesota

The 2017 MLS season kicked off on Friday night and the Portland Timbers gave Minnesota United a harsh reality check in the expansion side’s first game in the league.

The Timbers won 5-1, with Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri both grabbing a brace as the home side ran away with the season opener in front of a packed Providence Park.

Lawrence Olum was the unlikely scorer of the first goalscorer of the new season, with the score staying 1-0 into halftime. Valeri then doubled the hosts lead early in the second half, before Christian Ramirez scored Minnesota’s first ever MLS goal to give the visitors a glimmer of hope.

But Portland ran away with the game in the final ten minutes. Valeri scored a penalty on 82 minutes, before Fanendo Adi scored two breakaway goals in stoppage time to see the Timbers win 5-1.

You can see exclusive photos from Friday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB Photographer Denise McCooey.

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MLS 2017 Season Preview and Predictions

The 2017 MLS Season is here at last. A record-high 22 teams will battle for this year’s MLS Cup in what is Major League Soccer’s 22nd season. Two new expansion franchises enter the league this year, with Atlanta United joining the Eastern Conference and Minnesota United joining the West, while Orlando City’s brand new soccer-specific stadium will host MLS matches for the first time too. The top six in each conference will make the playoffs once again, but with 11 sides now in each, things are sure to be more competitive than ever before in what could be the most unpredictable season in the league’s history.

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The New Boys

It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta and Minnesota, with both sides dealing with the challenge of building a squad that can jump straight into MLS and compete. No expansion side has made the playoffs at the first attempt since the Sounders did in 2009, and that will undoubtedly be the aim for both of this year’s new sides in 2017.

Atlanta have splashed the cash to build a team that, on paper at least, looks good enough to earn a place in the postseason at the first attempt. Former Barcelona head coach Tata Martino is the man in the hotseat tasked with getting a talented young group of players to deliver on their preseason promise. Three south American Designated Players have been signed – all under the age of 23, with each expected to get fans off their seats from the first whistle.

They’ll be plenty of fans in those seats too, given the fact Atlanta have already sold a staggering 30,000 season tickets before a ball has been kicked. Expansion sides tend to flatter to deceive in their first campaigns, but Atlanta looks like the sort of team ready to make a real splash.

By stark contrast, Minnesota United have been much more careful in terms of spending. They have not signed a single DP ahead of the opening weekend, with any big spending likely to take place in the summer once the squad has found its feet. Instead, Targeted Allocation Money has been spent to build the squad, along with some clever trading to bring in the likes of Johan Venegas and Kevin Molino. Molino in particular is expected to shine under former Lions boss Adrian Heath, who has his second chance to get an expansion side into the playoffs at the first attempt this season.

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The Loons have also kept a host of names from their NASL days, and they now have to hope that their trust in those players pays off in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive Western Conference. There have been some suggestions that this Minnesota side will be one of the worst in MLS history, but they look to have enough about them to prove those critics wrong.

Standout Signings

As always, there have been a host of changes to squads over the course of preseason. But unlike any other year, MLS clubs have started to look for younger talent as it has become clear all 22 sides are starting to prioritise longer-term goals. Atlanta’s trio of young DPs have already been mentioned, but they weren’t the only side to splash the cash on younger Designated Players this winter. FC Dallas have added striker Cristian Colman, Real Salt Lake have landed Albert Rusnak, Vancouver have brought in Yordy Reyna and Sporting Kansas City have moved to sign Gerso Fernandes. All of those names are sure to make an impression in 2017, along with a host of more ‘traditional’ DPs that have joined the league, although the following five are all still under the age of 30.

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LA Galaxy have added some raw pace by bringing in Roman Alessandrini from Marseille, NYCFC have added creativity by signing Maxi Moralez to replace Frank Lampard and Chicago have added firepower by bringing in Nemanja Nikolic. On top of that Portland have signed Sebastian Blanco, while Fredy Montero is back in MLS after four seasons abroad. He has joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and will be hoping to pick up where he left off with Seattle, where he scored 47 goals in 119 regular season games.

What’s for certain is that the new DP signings will give MLS a fresh feel in 2017. More quality should mean more entertainment and more goals. Oh, and more selection dilemmas for MLS Fantasy managers…

Emerging Stars

With MLS getting younger this year, there will be plenty of focus on some of the league’s emerging talents. Some were here last season and left an impression, while others are looking to prove their worth as early as possible. The average age of squads in MLS this season is now 26.3, with FC Dallas boasting the youngest squad with an average age of 24.31. Walker Zimmerman will look to continue his improvement as an MLS defender, but will also be hoping to make an impression on the international stage if he can keep getting better. Elsewhere, the likes of LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget and NYCFC’s Jack Harrison will be looking to have breakout seasons so long as they can nail down regular starting roles.

Jack Harrison, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Cody Cropper will be hoping this is the year he can become a standout goalkeeper. He had struggled for game time in England in the past but is now in New England, where he’ll expect to impress. While in New York, Sean Davis has the seemingly impossible task of trying to fill the void left by Dax McCarty’s departure to Chicago. But he should be giving the time on the field to prove his worth and will be looking to help lead the Red Bulls to the top of the East once more.

Who Will Be MVP?

As with any season, making a prediction like this before the first ball has even been kicked is brave stupid, but why not do it again? There are a host of new unpredictabilities all over the league this year but the same star names will expect to be challenging at the top end of the scoring charts, and for the MVP award too as a result. Sebastian Giovinco was probably shocked not to pick up the 2016 MLS MVP award, with David Villa instead scooping that award, and both attackers will once again be tipped to dominate defences from day one.

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Strikers have dominated the MVP award over the past five seasons, but playmakers such as Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Sacha Kljestan will fancy their chances of making a case for the honour if they can have standout campaigns.

But it’s impossible to overlook Giovinco. The Atomic Ant has scored 39 goals and picked up 31 assists in 61 regular season games and is arguably the greatest player to ever play in Major League Soccer. If he stays healthy, he’s surely going to be MVP.

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Who Will Win MLS Cup?

The only thing that’s even more brave stupid to predict than the MVP is picking the team that will lift MLS Cup nine months on from now. But hey, why not give that a go too? The way the Sounders marched to MLS Cup glory last season from a seemingly lost position in the summer was incredible, but is unlikely to be repeated this term given the increased competition and quality in the league. No side has retained the trophy for four seasons but the Sounders still have the tools at their disposal to put up a strong defence. LA Galaxy are usually in the mix but they are set for a transitional year and don’t look to be in a position to go and get their hands on a sixth title this year.

MLS Cup Final 2016 - Toronto vs Seattle Sounders

What does look likely is that the winner will come from the Western Conference for the eighth time in nine seasons. FC Dallas have still never lifted MLS Cup, which seems insane considering they’ve finished top of the West for two-straight seasons. They have all the tools to go all the way this year. Mauro Diaz is out for the first four months of the new season, which is a huge blow, but he’ll be back at a key time of the season and will be able to help Oscar Pareja’s men go all the way in 2017.

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Vancouver Whitecaps also look like contenders this year, as the addition of Montero should make them much more of a force this term. Toronto FC were one shootout away from winning the title last term, and if Giovinco and Jozy Altidore can remain healthy for the majority of the campaign, they will likely be there or thereabouts again.

Don Garber: MLS has ‘total belief’ in latest expansion franchise Minnesota United FC

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber strongly believes that the latest expansion franchise to be revealed, Minnesota United FC, will succeed as they represent everything that is spurring the growth of MLS.

Minnesota United FC were officially announced as the league’s 23rd expansion franchise on Wednesday afternoon and will enter the league by 2018 at the latest.

It’s a fascinating turnaround of fortunes for Minnesota United, who currently play in the NASL, as the club almost ceased from existence two years ago.

Uncertainty had surrounded soccer in Minnesota for years and after changing team names, league’s and ownership several times, Dr. Bill McGuire came in to save the club in November 2012.

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“[The owners] are totally committed,” Garber said at Wednesday’s expansion announcement from Target Field. “They love this game, they love this city and they’ve got a great plan for a building.

“They represent exactly what we want and what we need to continue this momentum that we have, that’s really stimulating the growth of our league.”

Don’t Miss: EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Garber and the people at the top of the MLS pyramid chose Minnesota as the 23rd expansion franchise despite solid bids from Sacramento Republic, Las Vegas and a second one from Minnesota headed by the NFL’s Vikings ownership.

And the decision to award the latest MLS expansion slot to Minnesota United FC is something the MLS Commissioner thinks will go down as a great one.

“We have total belief in the Twin Cities. This is a market that is young, that is diverse, that has more people riding their bicycles around than they do in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is a pretty hip place.

“It has an incredible international flair too. It is a city that represents all of the things that we have been able to capitalize on that are allowing our league to be a sport for a new America. It’s diverse, it’s young and it is empowered by people who are the next generation of great sports fans.”

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United are set to enter MLS in time for the start of the 2018 season but could come in a year earlier, depending on developments with LAFC and their stadium plans, though Garber admitted that the date of entry had nothing to do with David Beckham’s proposed Miami franchise.

“It could be as early as 2017. We have a number of moving pieces. That’s part of the dynamic with a young sports league. The target is no later than ‘18 and it could be as early as 2017.

“Los Angeles is coming into our league and they are either ’17 or ’18 and Minnesota will be either ’17 or ’18. It’s not related to Miami.”

Will Minnesota United FC take MLS by storm when they enter the league in the next three years?

EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Minnesota United FC are set to become the latest Major League Soccer expansion franchise when MLS Commissioner Don Garber and United owner Dr. Bill McGuire make the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, and that means another set of passionate supporters are set to enter the league too.

Minnesota United’s largest and oldest supporters group is the Dark Clouds and they have followed the team through thick and thin since they were formed in 2004. They are delighted that the club is finally on its way into MLS and cannot wait for the next era.

“It’s hard not to see the place in MLS as vital,” the Dark Clouds’ President Jim Oliver told MLSGB’s Louis East. “Minnesota’s had second division soccer for going on 26 years now, so we’ve had a team to support for a long time and have managed to survive through lean economic times and fraudsters for owners.
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“Despite that long history though, the competition for getting the rights to the MLS franchise in Minnesota might have put another club in United’s geographic area, which would have spelled doom for our club. That’s why it was so important for United to go for the MLS spot, and why we’re so pleased that our owner Dr. McGuire and his partners were willing to make the commitment.”

Some members of the Dark Clouds have been waiting for as long as two decades for their MLS dream to come true so the fact that United are set to become the league’s 23rd club is certainly something they’ve earned.

“MLS has been around for 20 years, so there’s definitely some among us who’ve been waiting that long,” Oliver added.

“Honestly we’ve been happy to support a lower-division club since the founding of the Dark Clouds 12 years ago, but nobody can say that you don’t dream of the quality players, stadiums and competition that the top flight provides.

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“For the Dark Clouds, we’re excited about all the attention MLS will bring and how it’ll help us to expand the charitable work that our group does. We’ve supported local soccer-related causes for years, and it’ll be great to hopefully turn that trickle of volunteerism and cash donation into a flood.”

Minnesota United’s official website claims: “We are industrious and built around the idea that hard work yields the greatest rewards. We are strong and getting stronger. We are United.”

More of those rewards are just around the corner now. An MLS franchise could enter the league within the next three years and United fans will hope to dominate in the top flight the same way they have done in the NASL over the past four years.

The NASL started it’s second chapter in 2011, and Minnesota United won the championship at the end of that first season. United then won the NASL Spring Championship last season and will look to enter MLS in style by continuing to dominate the second-tier of US Soccer until then.

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

“We’re expecting big things from United,” Oliver continued. “The ownership group has show a commitment to really raise the level even in the second division, bringing in great players and staff and systems that kept us firmly on top of the table last year.”

“There’s no other second division club in this country that commits resources to things like preseason tours (England last year and Brazil this year) and signings on the level we’ve seen from United in recent years. Dr. McGuire wants a dominant side and he’s done what it takes to build one. We can’t wait to see that in MLS.”

Are you looking forward to seeing Minnesota United enter MLS as the latest expansion franchise?

Minnesota United FC to seal next MLS expansion spot on Wednesday

Major League Soccer is set to announce Minnesota United FC as the league’s next expansion franchise on Wednesday afternoon as MLS will “make an important announcement on the future of soccer in Minnesota” at Target Field.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Minnesota United owner Dr. Bill McGuire will make the announcement at noon ET (16:00 GMT) on Wednesday as the Twin Cities are set to host the league’s 23rd team. The event will be streamed live on MLSSoccer.com.

The league confirmed that it was in discussion with Minnesota United about a possible expansion franchise last week and it is thought that the city’s plans for a downtown, open-air, soccer-specific stadium were key in their successful bid.

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“MLS leadership is well aware that the passionate soccer fans in Minnesota combined with a world-class, soccer-specific stadium make the Twin Cities and our state a perfect home for the next MLS expansion team,” the club said in a statement on their website last week.

United currently play in the North American Soccer League and play in front of around 8,500 fans at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

They took on Swansea City in Blaine last summer and beat the Premier League side 2-0 on their preseason tour.

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USMNT midfielder Miguel Ibarra and Northern Ireland international Jonny Steele both play for United and are two names that many will recognise.

It is unclear as to when they will enter the league at this point, though that should be confirmed in Wednesday’s announcement.

Atlanta FC are set to enter MLS in 2017, while Los Angeles FC are also expected to join the same year though that depends on their progress towards a new stadium.

David Beckham’s Miami franchise is still fighting for a slot, along with Sacramento Republic and those two look set to battle for the 24th slot, though the league is getting prepared to expand beyond 24 teams in the coming years.

What do you make of Minnesota United FC being announced as Major League Soccer’s next expansion franchise?