Preview: MN United vs Sporting KC

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (June 2, 2017) — This weekend, MNUFC heads down I-35 to face Sporting Kansas City for the second time this season after defeating them at home 2-0 on May 7. In that match, rookie forward Abu Danladi got both his first start and his first goal, forward Christian Ramirez notched his sixth goal of the season and Miguel Ibarra assisted on both. SKC forward Dom Dwyer failed to find the back of the net for the first time in five matches — and hasn’t found it since. But Sporting KC is undefeated at home this season, making for a tough battle that you can catch at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 3 on ESPN and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN. Pre-match coverage begins on the latter at 3:30 p.m.

One need look no further than the clubs’ respective home and away records to understand the magnitude of the task facing MNUFC: The Loons are winless on the road so far with an 0-4-2 record, while SKC have racked up a 5-0-1 record at Children’s Mercy Park.

“They’ve proven that they’re very difficult to beat in Kansas City,” said defender Brent Kallman. “They have a really good home atmosphere, and they play well on their home field. I’m expecting a lot different game than when they came up here. Different surface, different atmosphere and everything.”

Whether it’s the surface, the crowd or the travel, though, it’s always tough to get points on the road in MLS. Out of the 22 teams in the league, only FC Dallas, LA Galaxy and Toronto FC boast more wins than losses away from home, while LA and D.C. United are the only teams to have more losses than wins at home. Head Coach Adrian Heath doesn’t necessarily think that familiarity with SKC from the Loons’ victory in May will give them any kind of edge, even if the sides look much the same.

“I don’t think there is an awful lot that’s going to change,” he said. “They normally play 4-3-3. They’re very good at the way they play, so I don’t expect them to change. One of the issues you sometimes get is you get one or two things carrying over from the previous game, and hopefully that won’t be the case. However we approach the game, it’s going to be a difficult game for us.”

Some of that difficulty will stem from adjusting to international call-ups for captain and defender Francisco Calvo and midfielder Johan Venegas, who will both be playing with Costa Rica this weekend. Couple those absences with a suspension for midfielder Sam Cronin for a foul against Orlando City SC last week and a lingering groin injury for Danladi, and the Loons will be looking for some bench players to step up and carry the weight.

“One door shuts, another one opens for some people,” said Heath. “People have been knocking on my door, asking why they’re not on the team. Over the next couple of weeks, one or two people are going to get an opportunity. It’s up to them, then. Obviously it’s not ideal, certainly the way Calvo’s been playing, he’s been outstanding of late, so we’re going to miss him. It’s just a case now of moving on, compensate for him as best we can. We’ve got every confidence in the people who I expect to step up.”

Kallman echoed his coach, saying, “We’re kind of confident. We have a lot of guys on the bench that haven’t been playing much that have a lot of experience in MLS and abroad. I don’t think that it should be an issue for us. They’re going to be dealing with the same thing as well. They’re going to be missing a couple guys due to international duties, so not really an excuse.”

Sporting KC will be without defender Graham Zusi (for the USMNT) and midfielder Roger Espinoza (suspension). MNUFC is likely hoping Ramirez can capitalize on those absences after his eighth goal of the season gave the Loons a win over Orlando City last weekend and moved Ramirez into a tie for third in scoring in MLS.

“I thought he showed great composure,” said Heath, “because the previous week he hit it early against the Galaxy, and Ashley Cole cleared it off the line. I thought he’d obviously thought about that, so then he threaded it in and just cut it back. Really good, composed finish. Really pleased for him. He’s been working so hard. If we can keep getting him chances, he’s going to be towards the top of the goal scoring charts at the end of the season.”

Whatever the result, the Loons will find themselves back in Kansas City after a weekend off for their first match in U.S. Open Cup play. MNUFC will face SKC on Wednesday, June 14 at 7:30 p.m., the third time in the last three years that the sides have met in that competition. This, however, will be the first time they’ll meet as MLS teams.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United
OUT: M – Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury)
OUT: M/D – Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury)
OUT: F – Abu Danladi (right adductor injury)
OUT: D – Vadim Demidov (left knee injury)
QUESTIONABLE: M – Rasmus Schuller (left thigh injury)

Sporting KC
OUT: F – Diego Rubio (torn ACL)
QUESTIONABLE: F – Dom Dwyer (knee injury)

DISCIPLINARY REPORT

Minnesota United
Sam Cronin — Disciplinary Committee decision

Sporting KC
Roger Espinoza — Red card

FIRST TOUCHES

  • Prior to facing Minnesota in May, Sporting KC had conceded just three goals in eight matches. Since then, it has allowed seven goals in six matches.
  • Francisco Calvo was named to the Week 13 edition of MLS Team of the Week for his role in Minnesota’s 1-0 win over Orlando.
  • Bobby Shuttleworth earned his fourth win and third clean sheet of the year last weekend against Orlando. He made seven saves during the match, the second time he has reached that single match total this year.
  • Ramirez’s 19 shots on goal is fifth in the league rankings.
  • Sporting KC leads MLS with a 0.71 goals against average.
  • Sporting KC leads MLS with 202 total shots.
  • Both teams score a majority of their goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Minnesota has eight in that interval while Sporting KC has six.
  • Minnesota averages 1.5 goals per game on the road. Its nine road goals have it tied for fourth in MLS.
  • The Loons continue to lead the league with 14 second half goals.
  • Neither team has lost when scoring the opening goal of a match. However, Sporting KC has lost whenever it concedes first.
  • Ike Opara and Sam Cronin were teammates at Wake Forest in 2007 and 2008.
  • Kevin Ellis and Dom Dwyer were loaned from Sporting KC to Orlando City in 2013, where they played with Kevin Molino and were coached by Adrian Heath. Orlando won the USL Championship that season.
  • Peter Vermes and Manny Lagos were teammates on the New York/New Jersey Metrostars for the inaugural MLS season in 1996. Lagos played the 1997 season on the Metrostars with current Sporting KC Assistant Coach Kerry Zavagnin.
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