In pictures: Alonso and Roldan brothers lead Seattle to 3-1 win over Minnesota

Seattle Sounders FC notched their first win of the season on Sunday with a 3-1 win at home against Minnesota United FC. Sounders scored two goals in two minutes from Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin to give Seattle an early lead after 25 minutes. Minnesota brought one back in the 66th minute from Christian Ramirez before Jordy Delem scored his first MLS goal in the dying seconds of the match to end the visitors’ comeback bid.

For the second-straight week Alex Roldan got the start as Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Clint Dempsey both started on the bench before coming on as substitutes. Roldan brought a needed energy to the lineup and made great off-ball runs to create space for his teammates. “I always liked Alex,” said coach Brian Schmetzer after the match. “I thought he was very, very good [at Seattle U]… I just think it’s a great storyline because Alex is becoming not just Cristian’s brother but he’s becoming his own man and I enjoy that.” While he didn’t show up on the stat sheet this week, he outperformed both Dempsey and Eikrem his 60 minutes on the pitch and made a solid case for his continued inclusion in the lineup.

Osvaldo Alonso was healthy enough to make his first start for Seattle since August 27th of last year when he suffered the right quad strain that kept him out of the 2017 MLS Cup. With Alonso in the lineup Seattle are able to control the midfield and organize their attack and that was on display against Minnesota. When Eikrem replaced Alonso in the 75th minute for a planned substitution, Minnesota was able to find more attacking chances due to not having Alonso’s defensive presence in the centre of the pitch.

It was also a great game for Cristian Roldan, recording assists on the first two goals of the match. Playing much of the match in an attacking midfield position, Roldan coordinated the attack, ran at defenders, and drew the attention of the Minnesota defense which opened the field for his teammates.

He and Alonso would get the assists on the first goal of the match as Roldan, playing just in front of United’s back four, draws two defenders as the pass comes from Alonso and makes a first touch pass to Svensson in the now vacated space. Svensson then unleashes a rocket of a ball into the top left corner of the goal with one of the better strikes we’ll see this season.

The second assist for Roldan is the more impressive if not the flashier of the two as he makes a smart run into space on the left wing to stretch the defense before hitting a first time cross into the box. His cross is low and well hit but most impressively it splits two defenders from 20 yards away to find Bruin open at the top of the six-yard-box.

The biggest concern for Seattle though, as they look towards LAFC next week, is how their pace and aggression dropped off after the first 30 minutes of the match. “It was a good [opening] 30 minutes. The key is that we need to watch the film and figure out why, after 30 minutes, the team didn’t perform as well as they should have,” said Schmetzer. “I challenged them at halftime a little bit. ‘You want to be a championship team? Championship teams are able to finish games out, close games out, get that third goal and make sure that the game becomes a little easier.’ After the game, my opinion changed a little bit and I said, ‘Well, championship teams actually kind of win ugly sometimes, and you’ve got to gut things through.’ That’s another character trait of championship teams. In October, nobody’s going to remember that this was a hard game. They’re just going to say, 3-1 scoreline and that’s three points.”

Seattle Sounders next match sees them opening up Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles as they face LAFC. They’ll be looking to get revenge on the league’s newest team after losing 1-0 in the opening game of the season as they kick off at 6 PM PT (1 AM GMT) on Sunday April 29th.

Check out exclusive photos of Sunday’s game, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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2018 Key Transfers: Minnesota United

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the main ins and outs for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Minnesota United and their key signings ahead of their second MLS campaign in 2018…

Minnesota’s inaugural season in MLS was average. They did relatively well with what they had at their disposal, finishing 9th in a very competitive Western Conference. But the points gap between them making the playoffs was as many as ten. Their aim for 2018 has to be to improve on last season, however as you’d expect all the sides who will be gunning for the playoffs will have also improved their squads. Signing just six players so far doesn’t suggest Minnesota are going to be automatic favourites for the playoffs, but they should be able to grow and with each passing game more experience will come. 2017 wasn’t good. But it wasn’t terrible either, given how tough it is for expansion sides.

Key Signings

Tyrone Mears: Having conceded a league high of 70 goals last season it is no surprise to see Minnesota bring in some defensive experience. At 34, Tyrone Mears has an MLS Cup to his name and will bring plenty to the squad both on and off the field.

Matt Lampson: Another defensive signing and this time in the goalkeeping department. Matt Lampson has been playing in MLS since 2012, however he has made just 51 appearances in that time. He may well be selected as the new number one for Minnesota, although last season regular Sammy Ndjock is still at the club. Lampson will be able to provide another experienced head at the club, even through just being part of squad as he heads into his sixth MLS year.

Harrison Heath: At 21, Harrison Heath is another solid signing for Minnesota. He is yet to really make a name for himself but this season may be his chance. His family connection with head coach Adrian Heath will see plenty expected from him and the pressure will be on him to deliver even more so when selected. One to watch…

Mason Toye: Picked up in the SuperDraft, there will not be a huge amount expected from Mason Toye in his first professional season. At 19 the forward comes in with a college soccer record of 10 goals in 25 games last season. He is 6ft 3 and will be hoping to get chances to prove himself.

Notable Departures

Kevin Venegas: While Minnesota’s defence struggled to cope with the pressures of MLS in their debut campaign there were some players who would have enjoyed a second shot at it in the coming season. Kevin Venegas is one of those faces but the club he decided he is not in their plans for the coming season.

Jermaine Taylor: While Jermaine Taylor only featured 14 times last season for Minnesota he is a notable departure in the respect that he has plenty of experience. Despite nearing 150 MLS appearances, he is one of those that the club have decided to part company with in their bid to find more defensive solidarity in the 2018 campaign.

Johan Venegas: Minnesota have loaned out Johan Venegas after he made 22 appearances in 2017. They clearly see the value in looking to keep him in part of their long-term plans, with his departure not a permanent one as of yet.

Gallery: Seattle Sounders 2-1 Minnesota United – Last-gasp Dempsey penalty breaks Loons hearts

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Minnesota United – Minnesota were seconds away from picking up an impressive away draw at Seattle on Sunday. But then the referee pointed to the spot. Clint Dempsey stepped up, and converted to complete the hosts’ comeback victory.

Minnesota have still yet to win an away game in MLS. But they must have fancied their chances when new arrival Ethan Finlay scored on his Loons debut. The former Columbus man put the visitors 1-0 up against the odds. But their lead didn’t last long.

Set-pieces have hurt Minnesota so often this season and Sunday was no different. Chad Marshall headed home from Nicolas Lodeiro’s cross in the 31st minute to tie the game up. But the Sounders struggled to kick on.

Minnesota stood firm and created chances themselves, with rookie striker Abu Danladi missing a couple of golden opportunities. The scores were level heading into the final few seconds. But then Seattle got the penalty.

Jermaine Taylor was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area. Dempsey stepped up and coolly slotted past Bobby Shuttleworth to give the hosts their third-straight win. The Sounders are top of the West. The Loons stay bottom.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Minnesota United – Gallery:

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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.

MLS Preview and Prediction: New York City FC vs Minnesota United

Competition: Major League Soccer – New York City FC vs. Minnesota United
Venue: Yankee Stadium – Thursday, June 29 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)
Match Odds: NYCFC 2/5 – Draw 15/4 – Minnesota 11/2

Match Preview

New York City welcome Minnesota United to Yankee Stadium on Thursday night as Week 18 gets started with a first-ever MLS clash between the two sides.

NYCFC will be in high spirits after picking up a first win at Red Bull Arena in Saturday’s 2-0 derby win. That result kept them in third place in the East and just five behind Toronto at the top of the standings.

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Patrick Vieira’s men have looked strong all season but they are particularly good at home. They are unbeaten in four at Yankee Stadium and have won three of those.

That will sound ominous for a Minnesota side that have struggled massively on their travels in their inaugural season so far.

The Loons have lost four in a row away from home in all competitions and have picked up just two points from eight away games in MLS this term.

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They come into the game off the back of Saturday’s hard-fought 2-2 home draw with Vancouver, in which they came back from two goals to earn a point. But they know they will need to put in a special performance if they are to halt NYCFC on Thursday.

This will be the first clash between the two sides in history, so it should be an exciting matchup between two sides with plenty of dangerous attacking players at their disposal.

Team News

New York City FC will be without attacking duo Khiry Shelton and Maxi Moralez once again, with both still sidelined through injury. Ronald Matarrita is in line to start after coming off the bench in Saturday’s win at Red Bull Arena.

Minnesota United’s injury list is still worrying long as Bernardo Anor, Thomas de Villardi, Joseph Greenspan, Abu Danladi, Marc Burch, Vadim Demidov and Brent Kallman are all set to miss out.

Key Points

NYCFC’s form: L/D/W/W/W

Minnesota United’s form: W/L/L/W/D

Key Stat: Minnesota United haven’t won away from home since joining MLS. In fact, they haven’t won a single away game of any kind since beating FC Edmonton in April 2016.

Key Player: Jack Harrison – The young English attacker has been in great form this season and added his seventh goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-0 win at the Red Bulls with a fine strike into the top corner. He has three goals and two assists in his last six MLS outings and will look to hurt the Loons here.

Score Prediction

New York City FC 3-0 Minnesota United – It’s difficult to see anything other than an NYCFC win in this one. Minnesota are decimated by injuries and haven’t looked like winning away from home this season. New York City have hit stride at a crucial stage of the season and should continue to put pressure on Toronto FC at the top of the East with a routine home victory.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Minnesota United vs LA Galaxy

Competition: Major League Soccer – Minnesota United vs. LA Galaxy
Venue: TCF Bank Stadium – Sunday, May 21 – 17:00 ET (22:00 GMT) 
Match Odds: Minnesota United 18/8 – Draw 13/5 – LA Galaxy 7/5

Match Preview

Minnesota United welcome Western Conference rivals LA Galaxy to TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon with the sides locked level on points.

The home side have conceded an MLS high 28 goals already in their first 11 games since their inauguration, however things are starting to look a little better for them as they have picked up seven points in their last five.

Minnesota come into this one having lost 3-2 away at Toronto. They looked good value for a 2-2 result until the latter stages of the game and they will eventually pick up more points with those types of performances once the team become more familiarised.

LA Galaxy have been underwhelming so far this season. They look well off the pace and are already 11 points behind the Western Conference leaders.

Key players were not replaced after departing in the off-season and they are desperate for their remaining DP’s like Giovani dos Santos to show the form they did last season.

LA come into this one having put their winless streak to bed. It had been four games since they picked up a win but an impressive performance away at Red Bull quickly reminded everyone what they are capable of. Curt Onalfo will be expecting his side to take points this weekend.

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Team News

Minnesota United are expecting to be without two this weekend as Bernardo Anor and Thomas de Villardi are out.

LA Galaxy have four players still recovering from injury, Robbie Rogers, Sebastian Lletget, Clement Diop and Jermaine Jones are all expected to miss out

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

La Galaxy’s last five: L/L/D/D/W

Key Stat: Minnesota have conceded 28 goals already this season, which is only 11 less than Galaxy did during the whole of the 2016 regular season.

Key Player: Romain Alessandrini – The forward has been LA Galaxy’s standout player since joining this season. He has netted six times and has three assists.

Score Prediction

Minnesota United 1-3 LA Galaxy – Minnesota United to suffer their 6th defeat of this season. LA Galaxy are desperately in need of three points to close the gap on the top six and they will be expected to do so by their fans.

MLS Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs Minnesota United

Competition: Major League Soccer – New England Revolution vs. Minnesota United
Venue: Gillette Stadium – Saturday, March 25 – 14:00 ET (18:00 GMT)
Match Odds: New England Revolution 2/5 – Draw 100/30 – Minnesota United 13/2

Match Preview

New England play their first home match of the season on Saturday night, with Minnesota United making the trip to Gillette Stadium with both sides still looking for their first win of 2017.

Having lost both games so far, the Revolution are already off the pace in the race for the playoffs. Of course they are only two games in, but points on the board will be essential come crunch time and the Revs need to pick up quickly as a result.

Their home game with Orlando City was postponed two weeks ago due to bad weather but New England will now hope that playing in front of their own fans will see their fortunes improve.

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Failing to win here would put serious questions on the direction of the franchise after two seasons which have seen the side underperform after reaching the 2014 MLS Cup Final. It cannot be long before Jay  Heaps’ position is put under scrutiny if things don’t turn around.

On the flip side, Adrian Heath will be in charge for only his fourth competitive match as Minnesota manager. However, his disappointing time in Orlando has left his critics with a lot to mull over and a quick turnaround after a slow start would do both Heath, and the team the world of good.

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As Minnesota still search for a debut win in MLS, they will have to dismantle a run of four-straight home wins in MLS for the Revolution stretching back to last season. They will also need to try and shut the flood gates at the back, which have seen them concede 13 goals in only three games thus far.

Like we mentioned before, this game is an interesting one. Both sides are desperately craving three points and so we are expecting an open affair. Minnesota will have to prove their squad depth with so many players away on international duty or on the sidelines with injuries.

Team News

New England Revolution will be without goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who misses out with a concussion. Zachary Herivaux is listed as questionable with a right ankle sprain. The Revs are fortunate to have no international call-ups to contend with as they look for their first points of the season.

Minnesota United are missing eight for the trip to Boston and are set to only be able to name a 17-man squad as a result. Bernardo Anor and John Alvbage are out with leg injuries, while Patrick McLain and Joseph Greenspan are both out with concussions.Thomas de Villardi has suffered a serious injury and is expected to be out for some time. On the international front, Kevin Molino (Trinidad), Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica) and Rasmus Schuller (Finland) are all away and won’t be involved. Justin Davis is suspended after picking up a red card last weekend.

Key Points

New England Revolution’s form: L/L

Minnesota United’s form: L/L/D

Key Stat: Minnesota United have conceded a total of 13 goals in their opening three fixtures – an average of 4.3 per game.

Key Player: Lee Nguyen – The Revolution’s maestro should be the most creative player on the park come Saturday and could see plenty of the ball to cause trouble against a Minnesota defence that has proven to be the most vulnerable in the league through the first month of the new season.

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Score Prediction

New England Revolution 2-1 Minnesota United – Both sides are out of form and struggling to adapt to the most competitive MLS season to date. Minnesota have the excuse of being the new guys but will likely struggle with so many players absent for their trip to Boston. This is a big game for the home side and we see the Revolution edging it, just.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Minnesota United vs Atlanta United

Competition: Major League Soccer – Minnesota United vs. Atlanta United
Venue: TCF Bank Stadium – Sunday, March 12 – 17:00 ET (21:00 GMT) 
Match Odds: Minnesota 6/4 – Draw 2/1 – Atlanta 7/4

Match Preview

Minnesota United take on fellow expansion side Atlanta United on Sunday evening in what will be another historic occasion for the league’s two newest members, with at least one of them set for their first MLS points in their only meeting of the year.

Minnesota have sold over 30,000 season tickets ahead of their first ever home game in the league and an incredible atmosphere is expected at what will be a freezing cold TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday.

The Loons have a lot to improve on following last Friday’s 5-1 defeat at Portland, in which they conceded two goals in stoppage time after a late collapse. Adrian Heath has had a lot to work on this week, but the defensive acquisition of Swiss full-back Jerome Thiesson should help ease some of the problems at the back.

 

Minnesota look set for a long and challenging season. They don’t have the financial muscle that other clubs in the league have and are relying on grit and determination to get them through their inaugural season. They still have enough experience to rack up wins and will be hoping they can see that here.

But Atlanta United will be out to spoil the party, a painful feeling they know too well after losing two late goals to the Red Bulls in last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat in their first ever MLS clash.

Atlanta showed a lot of positive signs but were ultimately undone by one of the league’s best teams. That’s nothing to be ashamed about but Tata Martino knows his side have enough quality to cause the Minnesota backline a ton of problems.

 

The South-American attack will likely find a lot more joy than they did against the Red Bulls and if they can get in behind Minnesota as a result of their high press, there could be an endless stream of chances for the visitors.

Both sides are still developing and still learning about themselves and the league. This is the perfect fixture for both these teams in Week 2 and all eyes will be on TCF Bank Stadium as we look to learn more about the two newest members of Major League Soccer.

Team News

Minnesota have just the one injury concern ahead of their first ever home game in MLS, with Bernardo Anor ruled out with a hamstring problem. Adrian Heath has added defensive depth this week, with the addition of Swiss full-back Jerome Thiesson, who is expected to slot straight into the starting lineup as the Loons look to address their early defensive problems from last week’s heavy defeat in Portland.

Atlanta United have just the one injury concern themselves, with Zach Loyd ruled out with a groin problem. However, Tata Martino will have to change his lineup after Carlos Carmona picked up a needless red card last Sunday. The experienced Jeff Larentowicz will likely fill in for Carmona here.

Key Points

Minnesota’s form: L

Atlanta’s form: L

Key Stat: Threat – Only four MLS teams had more shots than the 14 Atlanta United registered on opening weekend. That will be a concern for a Minnesota United team that conceded 25% of the total goals scored on opening weekend.

Key Player: Kevin Molino – The home crowd will be dreaming of a historic victory on what will be a special day for the city and they can look to Molino to provide the attacking spark needed to break down Atlanta here. If Molino rises to the occasion, he will be able to have fans off their seats throughout the contest.

Score Prediction

Minnesota United 1-3 Atlanta United – This should be one of the season’s most memorable games for all the stories surrounding the game. The action on the field should be entertaining too, with neither side set up to defend, so that should lead to an open and attacking game. Atlanta have much more quality in the final third and should prove that.

Narrow margins and expansion struggles: What did we learn from MLS Opening Weekend?

Week 1 of the 2017 MLS season is already in the book. After weeks of expectation and excitement, we now have some sort of form to look at – although as many questions if not more than we had before the first ball was kicked. Expansion sides Minnesota and Atlanta both suffered reality checks in their inaugural games, while there were early-season struggles in front of goal for a number of teams. So what have we learned after the first round of games?

MLS is not an easy league to come into…

Minnesota United and Atlanta United both suffered defeats in their MLS debuts. But things look a lot more promising for Atlanta than they do for the Loons after the first week’s performances. Minnesota were thumped 5-1 in Portland in Friday’s season opener, conceding twice in stoppage time to make the scoreline look a lot more concerning than it perhaps was. Although the biggest worry for Adrian Heath will be the fact Portland looked miles better than the expansion side. Yes, that’s hardly surprising given the Loons have literally just entered the league, but the fact is they’ve had a long time to build a competitive squad and we didn’t see enough from to them to quash fears that 2017 could be a long and tough season for them.

For Atlanta, things look a lot more encouraging. They might have let a one-goal lead go late on at home to the Red Bulls on Sunday night, but they played an entertaining style of play that caused New York problems throughout. They will be a tough side to face for anyone because of Tata Martino’s high-pressing style of play. Atlanta just need to ensure they have the fitness to play that way from start to finish to avoid any more late slip-ups.

It’s going to take some time for the goals to start flying in…

Last season’s opening weekend saw 36 goals scored in the ten games – a league record on opening weekend – so it was always going to be tricky to repeat that average of 3.6 goals-per-game. This year that goal rate was halved on opening weekend as there were 20 goals in the 11 games – an average of 1.8 per match. That could be down to better defending, which was certainly the case with Orlando City as 2016’s worst defensive unit started 2017 with a shutout against a wasteful NYCFC in front of a raucous crowd at the brand new Orlando City Stadium.

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New York City were one of nine sides to fire a blank in Week 1. Toronto FC and DC United missed penalties in their 0-0 draws against Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, which proved to be costly misses from 12 yards. Montreal Impact failed to register a single shot on target in their 1-0 loss at San Jose, while Vancouver failed to score in their season opener for the first time in MLS history.

The goals will be easier to come by as the season finds its feet. Early season games are tense and teams take a while to get back into the swing of competitive league football in front of expectant crowds, it’s the same with any league in world football. Don’t be surprised if the floodgates open as early as Week 2.

It could be a long season for LA Galaxy…

We all knew that 2017 was going to be a transitional year for LA Galaxy, and they showed very little to suggest otherwise in Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to FC Dallas. Curt Onalfo is trying to get used to his squad, who themselves look a completely different unit to the one that finished third in the West last season. Jermaine Jones and Joao Pedro seemed to spend more time kicking Dallas players than creating chances from deep in midfield. They did have a tough job against arguably the league’s best team but that’s a tag we usually associate with LA. Somehow, it doesn’t feel like we’ll be saying that again any time soon.

Are the Houston Dynamo this year’s Colorado Rapids?

Many people have the Dynamo down to finish at the bottom of the West once again this season. But they sent out an early statement with their 2-1 win over reigning MLS Cup Champions Seattle on Saturday night. Few people took Colorado seriously until they were top of the Western Conference for a run of weeks and challenging for the Supporters’ Shield into the final weeks of the campaign. That’s not to say the Dynamo will do that this year, but early signs suggest they will be a better team than they were in 2016.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United
Venue: Providence Park – Friday, March 3 – 21:30 ET (02:30 GMT) 
Match Odds: Portland 3/5 – Draw 3/1 – Minnesota 4/1

Match Preview

It’s here. The 2017 MLS season kicks off on Friday night as the Portland Timbers welcome Minnesota United to Providence Park in what is an extremely daunting MLS bow for the expansion side.

Portland come into the new season knowing they must improve on last year’s campaign. The 2015 MLS Cup Champions failed to even make the playoffs, let alone get close to defending their title, and Caleb Porter knows his side must bounce back now.

The Western Conference is just as competitive as it was last season, with the addition of Minnesota only making it tougher to seal a top six spot, and Portland’s talented squad will be expected to at least make the top six in 2017.

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Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Adi should continue to make Portland a real threat in the final third, while the addition of new DP Sebastian Blanco should only make them more dynamic this year.

That doesn’t bode well for a Minnesota side that failed to win any of its five preseason games in preparation for what is expected to be a long and challenging season.

They did however earn a draw at Portland three weeks ago, playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Providence Park. Johan Venegas scored twice to put Minnesota 2-0 up at halftime, before Jack McInerney and Fanendo Adi fired in to see the game end in a tie.

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In Adrian Heath, the Loons have a head coach who has been in this position before. Only two years ago, he was in charge of Orlando City as an expansion franchise, although he did have a world-class star in Kaka on hand to help deliver week-by-week.

United don’t have any real stars heading into their debut campaign. The club have not filled a single DP slot while building their squad, with any spending likely to come later on in the summer once the club know a bit more about their identity.

Over 150 Minnesota fans are travelling 1,400 miles to Portland for their first ever game and they will be dreaming of leaving with at least a point ahead of their home opener against fellow newcomers Atlanta United next weekend.

Minnesota United Fans

Only one of last 11 expansion sides have made the playoffs in their first season. Some have suggested this Minnesota team could be one of the ‘worst in MLS history’, but that is unlikely to be true. It’s now up to the players to prove they belong in MLS.

This will be the 11th time these two sides have ever faced off competitively but the first in Major League Soccer. They played 10 times in the USL and NASL between 2008 and 2010, with the Timbers winning four and United taking just the one victory in that time.

Key Points

Portland’s preseason form: L/L/D/D/D/W/W

Minnesota’s preseason form: D/D/D/D/D/L

Key Stat: Portland have never lost their their first home game of an MLS season. They have won three and drawn three of their home openers since joining the league in 2011.

Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Timbers playmaker is one of the league’s finest players and will be looking to start as he did last year, by scoring Portland’s first goal of the season in front of the home fans. Valeri is heading into his fifth MLS season and will be hoping to build on last season’s goal tally of 14, which was a career high for the Argentine DP.

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Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 3-1 Minnesota United – On paper, this looks set to be an excellent season opener as both sides have plenty of weapons in attack to cause both defensive units problems. Minnesota couldn’t have picked a much tougher away game for their first ever match in Major League Soccer and they will do well to leave Providence Park with anything, as the Timbers should be out to prove that last year was indeed just a blip. Portland have enough quality to cause the Loons backline endless problems, so it’s hard to look past three points for the home side here.