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Know the Enemy: Minnesota United

[Loon Noises]

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at the Caps’ next opponent, Minnesota United, who Vancouver has not seen since the first week of the season.

Head-to-Head

The Caps generally get two looks at the Loons each season and the aforementioned first meeting didn’t go Vancouver’s way. Despite an Erik Godoy headed goal just eight minutes in, Minnesota scored three straight goals (a Darwin Quintero PK, as well as open play goals from Francisco Calvo and Romario Ibarra) to take the match 3-2. Things are a little better historically for the Caps: they are 2-1-1 all-time prior to that meeting, including a 4-2 win almost a year ago exactly. It should be noted, however, that Minnesota’s historically bad defense has improved significantly this year.

Recent Form

The Caps are running up against Minnesota United at basically the worse time. Adrian Heath is steadily piloting his side towards what would be its first ever playoff appearance and the Loons are unbeaten in their past eight matches, with seven wins in a row before last Saturday’s draw with Real Salt Lake (including three Open Cup tilts). Moreover, they’re outscored their opponents by 18 goals in that time frame, meaning the Caps will need to figure out their defensive woes quickly or else.

Strategy

Some of the Caps’ strategy will likely hinge on whether Angelo Rodriguez and Ozzie Alonso, one of the Loons’ top attacking players and their defensive midfield metronome, are available to play. Regardless, the Loons are on pace to concede at least a dozen goals fewer than their historically leaky defense from last year let in, meaning the game is likely to be less open than past meetings between the two sides have been. In order to be successful, the Caps need to harken back to when they were able to successfully organize their defense, maintain their shape, and limit quality offensive chances for the opponent. Otherwise, it stands to reason the Loons will blow through the Caps’ lines like New England and LAFC have before.

Three Questions

We (virtually) sat down with Jacob of E Pluribus Loonum for the inside scoop on the Loons:

1.) It has been awhile since Caps fans have gotten a look at the Loons. What has Adrian Heath done differently this year to steer them towards a playoff berth?

Well, Adrian Heath has finally won over the locker room I think. The chemistry this team has, is something we haven’t seen in the past two years. They’re playing cohesive and collective footy; it’s absolutely delightful to watch. Heath picked his formation and stuck with it. He slotted a few players around and found the best XI this team can produce at the moment. This years Superdraft selections have been so important to this team, with all 3 of our highest picks making the gameday 18 consistently.

Heath is finally proving why he was chosen for this job. even if there are some things that he does wrong, like subbing (cough cough), he has really turned a lot of heads this year. He deserves a lot of credit.

2.) After 70+ goals against the past two seasons, things appear to be going much better on the defensive end. What has changed? Has Ike Opara been the revelation fans hoped he’d be or has it been other guys?

Ike Opara, Romain Metanire and Hassani Dotson.

Those three players are in contention for midseason MVP on the team. They’ve been absolutely stellar all year; Metanire, in my opinion, has been the best fullback in the league. Dotson is a candidate for rookie of the year and Opara is such a solid defender/leader. They’ve changed this team so much - all for the better. The collective organization they provide on the back line has been incredible to watch, especially Dotson’s rise. Nobody expected the Loons 2nd round pick to be this good.

3.) Mason Toye has been a revelation in the second half of the season, bagging all of his four goals in the past six matches despite starting the season in USL League One. What does he bring to the table that might be difficult for the Caps to stop?

Toye brings the “want” to a soccer game. Nobody wants it more than him. He tries so hard out on the pitch; his effort is a 10 in every match. He may not have the entirety of the game down yet, but he has height and pace. He’s dangerous in the box, dangerous in the air and dangerous in a breakaway. Teams have to be wary of his second half heroics and what he can bring off the bench.

He has such a bright future ahead of himself.