Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (2-2-2, 8 points) and Minnesota United (3-1-2, 11 points) at Allianz Field (8:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+) in St. Paul, MN. It’s just the fifth meeting between the two sides (fourth in MLS regular-season play) and the only one scheduled in 2023 for these teams from opposite conferences.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
The Lions have yet to taste victory in the regular season against the Loons, who are led by ex-Orlando City gaffer Adrian Heath. The only Orlando win in the series came in the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament semifinals. Orlando is 0-2-1 against Heath’s Minnesota side in the regular season and 1-2-1 in all competitions.
The last meeting saw Orlando City defeat Minnesota 3-1 to advance to the MLS is Back Tournament final against Portland — ultimately won by the Timbers, 2-1. Nani scored a first-half brace to put the Lions up 2-0 at the half. Despite Mason Toye pulling one back late, Benji Michel’s goal deep in stoppage time sealed Orlando’s first trip to a competition final since joining Major League Soccer.
That tournament semifinal win was Orlando’s second consecutive result against Minnesota United. The Lions’ last trip to St. Paul yielded a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field on Aug. 17, 2019. That game kind of felt like a loss, honestly. Orlando City struck first on a 70th-minute Nani penalty. The Lions had a second penalty awarded but it was overturned by video review as Tesho Akindele was ruled offside in the buildup. Abu Danladi scored in the 92nd minute with the Lions just seconds from their first win in the series.
Minnesota won this fixture 1-0 in Minnesota in 2017 on a Christian Ramirez goal, then won in Orlando in 2018, 2-1. Ethan Finlay scored both Minnesota goals in the second meeting to offset Yoshimar Yotún’s penalty kick goal. So, Orlando has yet to score on Minnesota in the run of play in regular-season play, with only two penalty kick strikes to show for three MLS matches.
The Lions were off last week and had to sit for an extra seven days with their 2-0 home loss to Nashville SC in their last match back on April 1. Orlando controlled much of that match and generated some good chances but simply didn’t finish them, with the most notable being Ramiro Enrique’s opportunity in front of goal that he hit straight at the goalkeeper. City is 1-0-1 away from Exploria Stadium on the young season with a draw at D.C. United and a win at Philadelphia.
Minnesota enters tonight fresh off its first loss of 2023. The Loons were bested 2-1 at Chicago last Saturday on a pair of Kei Kamara goals in the first half. Minnesota United is 0-0-2 at Allianz Field in 2023 with draws against the New York Red Bulls and Vancouver Whitecaps. Both matches finished with 1-1 scorelines.
Obviously, the major story line is still that Heath was Orlando City’s first manager, guiding the team through a successful run in the USL before leading the Lions for one year and part of a second before being let go in 2016.
Minnesota assistant coach Ian Fuller held that same role with Orlando City and played with the club in the USL days, while goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr served with the Lions in 2016.
Minnesota is content to give up possession and hit on the counter attack, as has been their style for some time. The club is effective in doing so, as shown by its record and having conceded only five goals in six games, with two of those coming last week. Only two teams in the Western Conference and just four in all of MLS have conceded fewer — Nashville (2), Seattle (3), LAFC (3), and FC Cincinnati (4). The Loons don’t precisely bunker per se, but they do stay organized, win the ball, and try to score in transition.
The back line has played well in front of excellent young goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair and midfielders Wil Trapp and Kervin Arriaga have done well to shield the back four (plus St. Clair) and the central midfield pairing of Michael Boxall and Miguel Tapias have quickly developed a good chemistry.
On the other end, as the inexplicable absence of Designated Player Emanuel Reynoso continues, Minnesota has struggled to score goals almost as much as Orlando City has, with just seven goals in six matches. Luis Amarilla and Mender Garcia have bagged two goals apiece to account for the majority of that output. Robin Lod has been playing more as a No. 10 this season with Reynoso out, which has affected his scoring. However, the Loons have help on the way with South Korean attacker Sang Bin Jeong starting to get minutes and looking lively against Chicago last weekend. Franco Fragapane can be a set piece threat as well.
“Minnesota is a team that has a structure we know. We faced them in the preseason, but every game the story is going to be written based on what we as the coaches prepare,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said earlier this week. “I have a good relationship with Adrian as well that I know from his experience in the league. They know us. We know (Heath). What we’re looking at is obviously just to use that knowledge in terms to apply it on the pitch and try to get what we need first, a victory, and the most important thing is that our chemistry and our system can be getting more mature.”
Orlando City will be missing Michael Halliday (thigh), but Ercan Kara is completely off the availability report. Minnesota will be without Reynoso (suspended), Bakaye Dibassy (thigh), and Ryen Jiba (knee).
- Our Intelligence Report provides more background on the Loons by Alan Van Wyk from the independent Minnesota United blog, Northland Soccer Journal.
- Our latest episode of The Mane Land PawedCast features our key match-ups and score predictions for tonight’s match and we talked to Van Wyk about the game.
- David Rohe wrote about his three keys to Orlando City finally getting a regular-season win over the Loons.
Orlando City (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Rodrigo Schlegel.
Midfielders: Gaston Gonzalez, Cesar Araujo, Mauricio Pereyra, Ivan Angulo.
Forwards: Facundo Torres, Ramiro Enrique Martin Ojeda.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Luca Petrasso, Kyle Smith, Rafael Santos, Wilder Cartagena, Felipe, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Ercan Kara, Duncan McGuire.
Minnesota United FC (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Dayne St. Clair.
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence, Miguel Tapias, Michael Boxall, DJ Taylor.
Defensive Midfielders: Kervin Arriaga, Hassani Dotson.
Attacking Midfielders: Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Jeong Sang Bin, Robin Lod.
Forward: Mender Garcia.
Bench: Clint Irwin, Brent Kallman, Zarek Valentin, Mikael Marques, Wil Trapp, Joseph Rosales, Franco Fragapane, Luis Amarilla, Cameron Dunbar.
REF: Pierre-Luc Lauziere.
AR1: Jeremy Kieso.
AR2: Lyes Arfa.
4TH: Fotis Bazakos.
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
AVAR: Gjovalin Bori.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8:30 p.m.
Venue: Allianz Field — St. Paul, MN.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match! Go City!