Double gameweek for MNUFC

MNUFC striker Tani Oluwaseyi
Image credit: Daniel Mick

For the first time this year, Minnesota United is playing two games in a week, with the LA Galaxy Wednesday and the Portland Timbers on Saturday. And so it’s been rather a busy week for me, with covering both games, and trying to write some setup articles as well, for the Star Tribune.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Tuesday: Minnesota United’s designated players have the talent to match the LA Galaxy - but not the production - For once, Minnesota’s designated players are perhaps even bigger names than those in Los Angeles. Their production - especially the AWOL Emanuel Reynoso - can’t match up, though.

Wednesday: Late header by Kervin Arriaga earns Minnesota United 2-2 draw with LA Galaxy - The Loons played a great first half, but still had to come from behind in the second half to rescue a draw.

Thursday: Minnesota United’s draw with the LA Galaxy was a tale of two halves - The analysis from Wednesday night’s game, including a ton of quotes about how the Loons defended Riqui Puig, and why they’re so good on set pieces.

Friday: Much like Ted Lasso, new Minnesota United coach Eric Ramsay doesn’t talk about winning - “I’m genuinely not a coach that’s going to talk about winning all that often.” You don’t see a lot of coaches talking like this - well, one fictional coach, and one Minnesota manager, at least.

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Inside the numbers with MNUFC

I’ve been writing articles like this one about Minnesota United for a long time, because I’m endlessly fascinated by numbers in sports, and how they can help explain what we’re seeing, and whether they match up with what we’re seeing.

One of the best things about right now is that now I can not only dig into the numbers, but also I can go and ask the people involved about them, too.

We can see from the numbers that the Loons go long from goal kicks a lot, more than the average team. Why? What are they hoping to gain? What are they aiming for?

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Star Tribune MNUFC coverage: Reasons to watch, Reynoso, SKC, Atlanta, and more

First of all, I would like to thank the Minnesota Timberwolves, for dispatching the Phoenix Suns - not just because it was great to see the Wolves win a playoff series for the first time in a couple of decades, but because it’s extending out my run covering Minnesota United for the Star Tribune.

It’s also been a couple of weeks since I sent out a post here with all of what I’ve been writing, which is a nice chance to sort of look back on a couple of weeks of coverage. So here are some links:

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Getting fans to cheer again would be Emanuel Reynoso's hardest task

MNUFC number 10 Emanuel Reynoso
Image credit: Daniel Mick

On the field, Emanuel Reynoso is a magician. He sees spaces that others don’t see, and the ball appears in those spaces seemingly without being touched. Faced with impossible situations against defenders, he’ll pull a trick or two - a dip of the shoulder here, a fake cross there, a turn to the left and then back to the right - and somehow shimmy through a space that doesn’t seem to actually exist.

He provokes delight, on the field, the same way as watching a card or coin or person be produced from thin air on a Las Vegas stage provokes delight.

After his latest unscheduled absence, though, his most difficult trick of all would be getting Minnesota United fans to love him again.

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Back in the MNUFC game

MNUFC number 10 Emanuel Reynoso
Image credit: Daniel Mick

I’m delighted to say that I’m back in the MNUFC coverage game, subbing in* for the Star Tribune’s Loons beat as they ramp up their Timberwolves coverage.

*I made a joke about substitute teachers in front of Loons head coach Eric Ramsay; it turns out they do not have the game “heads up, seven up” in Wales.

I started the day with a look back at last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake, looking at four things about the game that affected the result - and will affect the team going forward.

I figured I had better show my face at team training, too, if I’m going to start being around more, and so I went up to the National Sports Center today for the first time in a decade or so. When I got there, I found out that the team was about to release a statement regarding Emanuel Reynoso’s absence for the team, and so I also got to rush home afterwards and dash together a story about the statement, with a bit more context.

If this is the kind of excitement I’m going to get every day, I don’t know what I’ll do.

For the readers of this blog, thank you in advance for putting up with me as I talk Loons over the coming weeks. And thank you in advance for clicking on every link I send out and reading all of this coverage. It would mean a lot to me.

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MNUFC2 in the US Open Cup: I get what MLS is doing, but it's so unnecessary

MNUFC2 takes on the Michigan Stars
Image credit: Minnesota United FC

I covered last night’s US Open Cup game at Allianz Field. Minnesota United 2, the Doubloons*, lost 2-0 in extra time to the indy-league Michigan Stars.

*The team refers to itself as the “Twosies”; I will not do this for any team above U9 level. There have to be a half-dozen better nicknames, including the one above.

In the record books, it’ll go down as a third-division team losing to another third-division team; as far as US Soccer is concerned, both MLS NEXT Pro (the MLS reserve league) and NISA (the only sanctioned non-USL, non-MLS men’s professional league in the country) count as third-division teams. (And as anyone with a passing familiarity with American soccer knows, the divisions themselves are a fanciful construct anyway, since there’s no system of promotion and relegation between them.)

But there was so much more going on this year, after MLS fought to exclude its teams from playing in the Open Cup. Commissioner Don Garber called the competition a “poor reflection on what we’re trying to do” in 2023, and in December, the league announced that they were pulling all of their teams from the 2024 edition, and playing MLS NEXT Pro teams instead.

After predictable backlash, MLS and US Soccer reached a compromise. Eight MLS teams are in the tournament, along with 11 MLS NEXT Pro sides - and so MNUFC’s only entry was not their first team, but MNUFC2.

Having been at the game last night, I guess I get why MLS didn’t want to be there. But I also know that taking first teams out of the competition just seems completely unnecessary.

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