By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
After a devastating late tie against CF Montreal, the Union will travel farther west on Wednesday to face off against Minnesota United for the first time this season.
Some of the most positive news coming into this match is the fact that midfielder Jose Martinez and goalkeeper Andre Blake will be available for selection, which will bring a sense of familiarity back into a squad that Jim Curtin has been forced to rotate due to injuries and international break.
Defender Alvas Powell and striker Cory Burke are out and questionable for this game, but Curtin isn’t worried about having to fill those gaps against Minnesota.
“We have a good group of guys to choose from and we’ll put the strongest group on the field and try and get points,” Curtin said. “Everyone has to be ready when they are called upon to contribute to the team.”
Curtin also admitted that the scouting report on Minnesota, and any Western Conference teams for that matter, is not as thorough because the Union don’t play them as often.
“Both teams need points,” He emphasized. “It’s a little different playing a Western Conference team, but the points are still valuable. When you’re not playing the teams, there’s a lot less detail in the scouting. You’re not as tuned in to the Western Conference teams because the only time you meet them is in MLS Cup.”
Regardless of what team they’re playing, the Union are focused on one thing and one thing only—clinching a spot in the playoffs. With five games left in the season, every game is a must-win. A newfound trust in the current group of Homegrowns, finding a formation that has, for the most part, been infallible, and having a diverse group of goalscorers are just some of the advantages the Union have on their side as the postseason draws nearer.
Speaking on the offensive contributions of the defensive players in recent games, Curtin said, “We have found ways to to manufacture goals off of set pieces when you look at our last 10 goals as a team, a defender is contributing in one way or another in a lot of them. Whether it is scoring them directly themselves or getting an assist or leading to the goal. Kacper [Przybylko] is the one who hit double digits, but after that there is a pretty big drop off so we have to score by committee.”
Predicted Lineup: Andre Blake, Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, Daniel Gazdag, Kacper Przybyłko
- Blake is back between the goalposts, and Curtin’s preferred backline is fully intact now that Kai Wagner is returning from a red card suspension. Martinez will relieve Leon Flach of his defensive midfield duties (that he did exceptionally well in) so that Flach can return to his normal position of patrolling the wings of the field. Although Paxten Aaronson has been giving Monteiro a legitimate run for his money (and proving that he will be a worthy replacement when Monteiro almost inevitably leaves in the near future), Monteiro is fit to play, and he is the better option at the moment.
Score Prediction: The Union are in fine form right now, and with a Minnesota team that’s not exactly lighting the world on fire, a 2-0 win should be well within reach.