Vancouver Whitecaps FC are set to play their first mid-week game of the season this Wednesday, May 12 away to fellow Western Conference side Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field.
We break down three things you need to know about the Loons of Minnesota.
ONE TO WATCH
It’s been nowhere near the ideal start to the 2021 MLS regular season for MNUFC, as last year’s Western Conference playoff finalists have gone 0W-4L-0D to start the season.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t players the ‘Caps should watch out for.
Having arrived mid-way through the season last year as a Designated Player, Emanuel “Bebelo” Reynoso has been one of the most exciting creative attacking mids to watch in MLS over the past six months. The former Boca Juniors man finished his debut season as a Loon with an incredible two goals and 14 assists in only 16 appearances, including playoffs.
Similar to most number tens, Reynoso likes to roam across the pitch, in and around the penalty area to create opportunities for his teammates, while also attracting opposing defenders to his position to give his teammates more space to get towards goal.
The 25-year-old Argentine isn’t afraid to have a go from distance or bring out a couple quick skills either, as he showed this past weekend against Colorado with a thunderous free kick golazo from 30 yards out.
The key to the Loons offensive game is Reynoso, so expect Minnesota to build up through the midfield through MLS veterans Wil Trapp and Ozzie Alonso, as well as Designated Player Jan Gregus, to find the Argentine in tight pockets so he can help put in dynamic striker Robin Lod in behind.
After the departure of leading goalscorer Kevin Molino during the offseason, Minnesota continues to search for their clear identity to start the season. Head coach Adrian Heath has brought in two true number nines in former Boca Juniors striker Ramon Abila and MLS veteran Juan Agudelo but has mostly opted to play natural winger Robin Lod up top. Heath has also preferred to play versatile right back/midfielder Hassani Dotson out on the wing instead of starting former Columbus Crew SC winger Ethan Finlay.
One main attribute the Loons have been consistent with to start the year is the play of their overlapping fullbacks in LB Chase Gasper and RB Romain Metanire.
As mentioned before, Minnesota’s options up top this season are still getting familiarized with their look, so once Reynoso has enough space on the attack, there’s only a couple tasty runs being made in behind for the creative midfielder to try to pick out.
However, once Gasper and Metanire get forward from their respective fullback positions, it gives Reynoso those extra options out wide and in turn allows both fullbacks to get crosses into the middle.
Minnesota is second in MLS with 17 completed crosses into the 18-yard-box (not including set pieces) so expect Gasper and Metanire to continue whipping crosses into the middle this Wednesday.
As explained in the last couple points, Minnesota loves getting bodies forward, but it’s also been one of their big frailties this season.
Of the league-high 10 goals the Loons have conceded, four of those have come on the transition and three of those resulted in the side dropping points at home.
We’ve seen so far this season the ‘Caps have looked dangerous in transition with the combinations of Lucas Cavallini, Cristian Dájome and Deiber Caicedo up front, so the trio could once again have plenty more opportunities to hit on the break if the ‘Caps time those transitions perfectly on Wednesday night.
In addition, Minnesota conceded two goals this past weekend against Colorado from dead ball situations.
Combine that with the ‘Caps league leading expected goals per game off of set pieces with 0.78 and league leading headed goals with three, Whitecaps FC hope to create even more set piece chances against the Loons.
You can catch the match live tonight at 6:00 p.m. PT on TSN 1/4 and AM730 radio.