It all comes down to this.
Atlanta United, already with the 2018 MLS Cup and this year’s Campeones Cup in its trophy cabinet, look to check a new competition off the list as it will play for the 2019 U.S. Open Cup in front of its own fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and attempt to book its place in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. At the other side of the pitch: its scrappy expansion partners from 2017, Minnesota United, who are in the midst of a playoff fight in the MLS Western Conference and hope that this evening sees them take its first piece of silverware back up north.
Jacob Schneider, from our sister site E Pluribus Loonum, took a few minutes to answer a few questions about the state of the Loons now, what a win tonight would mean to their organization, and how they match up against Atlanta United.
It’s been quite the year for Minnesota United: it’s opened a new stadium, have a shot at making the playoffs for the first time and now will play for its first trophy in club history on Tuesday. How has the club been able to capture the excitement of the Twin Cities community here in its third season?
Consistent play, if we’re being honest. Allianz Field is gorgeous - it draws in a sellout-crowd every time, however, the crowd is much more captivated when you play compelling, impressive and fun soccer. The team has found chemistry, found goals and addressed the concerns they had coming into the season. This year was a massive step forward and everyone in the organization should be so proud of what they’ve done. They’ve created a competitive team on the field, a fantastic stadium and they’re in a cup final.
Like Atlanta, Minnesota have been dealing with a bit of fixture congestion. How has that informed Adrian Heath’s lineup decisions leading into this final?
More than anything, I think the biggest question is who are Minnesota’s five internationals? You’re obviously going to see Gregus, Mannone, Boxall and Metanire...but who is the 5th? Is it Lod? Rodriguez? Chacón? There’s questions to be asked there. On congestion, however, Heath is betting on fresh legs. Both Ozzie Alonso and Angelo Rodriguez will have fresh legs coming into Tuesday as they didn’t feature against SKC. I think the team is going to be fine. Four days is short, but it’s do-able.
Where do you see things going for the Loons over the last portion of the season and beyond? Are they a team that can make a strong run in the playoffs if they are ultimately able to get a higher seed? How would a win on Tuesday buoy them over the last seven league matches?
Playoffs...playoffs...playoffs. It’s a tough one. In all honesty, I’m worried we may not qualify for the playoffs. That sounds crazy, but we still have to play LAFC twice (H/A) and we’re away to RSL and PTFC. That’s four tough matches, and I think you need 6 points out of those four matches to make the playoffs in the West. 8th-2nd are ALL quality teams; every single one of them could compete against a top team in the league on their best day. For Minnesota, though, their goal should be to not only qualify, but want to host a playoff game. They have the ability, and if they can overcome their troubles in the final third, there’s a good shot this team could present trouble come late October.
A win Tuesday would give the squad so much confidence - especially heading into a match against LAFC. A win would present opportunity to every player on the team; it would give them the ability to think that they can beat anyone in this league...that MLS cup is an option for them.