Austin FC will look to follow up their historic first win in Colorado, with a result away to Minnesota United FC. The Verde continues their seven game road stretch at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, on Saturday.
Note on the Opposition
Minnesota United has finished fourth in the Western Conference the past two seasons, including a run to the Western Conference Final last season. On their way to barely missing out on an MLS Cup Final to Seattle in a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat, they posted a couple of 3-0 playoff victories against Colorado and Kansas City.
Despite coming off their best season in club history, Minnesota has started very slowly out of the gate — dropping their opening two matches and sitting bottom of the Western Conference with 0 points.
In their season opener they were trounced 4-0 by Seattle, then they fell to Real Salt Lake 2-1 at home. They made three changes between the two losses, trying out Jukka Raitala in defense and Juan Agudelo up front against RSL.
Ramón Ábila, the striker on-loan from Boca Juniors, has been out with a nagging hip problem and has yet to start this season. Veteran center back Ike Opara has been out for nearly a year with a concussion.
Like Colorado, the Loons play a 4-2-3-1. Minnesota has a strong team on paper and it is only a matter of time before they get going. Their key players are midfielders, Emanuel Reynoso, Robin Lod and Ján Greguš. They also have decent MLS veteran midfielders in Osvaldo Alonso, Will Trapp and Ethan Finlay, as well as Agudelo up top.
Keys for Austin FC
Depth: Austin has a wealth of options off the bench, and they will have to rely on that depth if they are to play explosive soccer at the end of the match — as they did against Colorado. Depending who starts on the bench, they will look to make an impact later on, as the Minnesota defense tires.
Solidity at the back: Austin has not kept a clean sheet in either of their opening two matches, nor their two preseason matches against MLS oppositions. Between those 4 games, they have conceded 13 goals. Their back four will look a little different than it did in Denver, with Ben Sweat out with a torn ACL and Besler potentially returning to the side after the birth of his child.
On the bright side, Brad Stuver has played well so far this season, and has shown to be competent with his feet. Also, Žan Kolmanič is an exciting prospect, who is capable of going forward and taking set pieces. If Besler or Romaña don’t start, Julio Cascante looked surprisingly composed against Colorado.
Put away their chances: While Austin put 3 on the board in Colorado, either Danny Hoesen or Jon Gallagher has to make the starting striker position their own. Also, Rodney Redes, Jared Stroud or Kekutah Manneh needs to lock down that right wing spot with a strong performance. Tomás Pochettino could also play on the wing, if head coach Josh Wolff is to accommodate Austin’s first-ever goal scorer Diego Fagundez. If any of them can open their MLS scoring account and get going, they will look dangerous alongside Cecilio Dominguez and Pochettino.
Austin FC vs. Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field, Saturday 5/1, 7 p.m. (CT). Televised regionally on CW Austin, Unimas Austin, and live-streamed on the Austin FC app.
4-3-3; GK: Brad Stuver; LB: Žan Kolmanič, LCB: Matt Besler, RCB: Jhohan Romaña, RB: Nick Lima; CDM: Alex Ring (C), CM: Dani Pereira, CM: Diego Fagundez; LW: Cecilio Dominguez, ST: Danny Hoesen, RW: Tomás Pochettino
OUT: Forward Aaron Schoenfeld (Left Knee), Midfielder UlisesSegura (Left Knee), Ben Sweat (Left Knee)