Adrian Heath knows how difficult it will be for Minnesota United to break down Real Salt Lake, but he remains confident the Loons are “more than a match for anybody” at Allianz Field.
Minnesota have endured a testing 2022 season to date, losing four consecutive matches in all competitions before winning at the LA Galaxy last week.
Coach Heath said the team’s mood was “better than it has been the previous two games,” while opposite number Pablo Mastroeni expected the Loons to have “a lot of confidence as a group” after a “tough run of games.”
That schedule scarcely gets any easier now, though, with Mastroeni’s RSL impressing in third place in the Western Conference.
“Since Pablo took over, they have done particularly well,” Heath said. “They are a very, very solid MLS outfit. They are like Colorado last year.
“They have started well, and they have kept that momentum going. The games against them are always very tight. I don’t expect anything different, especially with the few injury situations we are dealing with.
“I’m always glad to get back home. I know this year has been a bit challenging for us. At home we are more than a match for anybody.”
Both coaches focused on Minnesota playmaker Emanuel Reynoso as the key to this match, even if Heath suggested this was “a bit disrespectful” to his teammates.
“They have, for me, one of the best individual playmakers in the league in Reynoso,” Mastroeni told ESPN 700.
“So, our ability to win this game is really denying him the opportunity to score goals or set goals up. I feel like if we can do that, we have enough firepower, even away from home, to be able to come away with a good result.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Minnesota United – Emanuel Reynoso
It would surely be foolish to disagree with the two coaches about the player to watch in this match. Reynoso scored twice against the Galaxy, but Heath spoke of the importance of him performing on a more consistent basis, with his seven goal involvements for the year half of Jesus Ferreira’s league-leading 14.
Real Salt Lake – Zac MacMath
If Reynoso does deliver, it will be up to goalkeeper MacMath to stop him. Having won the starting spot for RSL this season, the former Colorado Rapids man has impressed, preventing 2.7 goals according to expected goals on target data – albeit Minnesota’s Dayne St. Clair (6.0 goals prevented) leads by that metric.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Minnesota United won their first four home MLS matches against Real Salt Lake, scoring at least three goals in each match. RSL are unbeaten in their two visits to Minnesota since (W1 D1), holding the Loons to one total goal over the two games.
– Minnesota United ended a three-match losing streak with a 3-2 win at the Galaxy on Wednesday. The Loons, however, have failed to win any of their past three home matches (D1 L2), last going longer without a home win in a single season in their expansion 2017 campaign (four straight in June-July).
– Real Salt Lake have won only one of their past seven away matches (D2 L4) dating back to mid-March. RSL are unbeaten in their seven home matches in that time (W5 D2), collecting 17 points at home compared to just five on the road.
– Reynoso scored his second career MLS brace on Wednesday in Minnesota United’s win over the Galaxy. His first two-goal performance also came against the Galaxy, in a 3-0 home win last September.
– Nine of the 19 goals (47.4 per cent) Real Salt Lake have conceded this season have come from set plays, tied with Nashville (also nine of 19) for the highest percentage in MLS this season.