Minnesota United FC host Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a huge Decision Day showdown at Allianz Field with an MLS Cup Playoffs spot on the line.
The Loons are in possession of the seventh and final post-season berth heading into the crunch clash, with opponents Vancouver two points and two places further back.
Whereas the Whitecaps are on the up thanks to three wins in a row, Minnesota have taken just one point from their past six matches to leave them under immense pressure.
“Our form has not been good enough and we’ve dug ourselves into a hole now,” United head coach Adrian Heath said.
“We’ve got ourselves in a position where ten of 11 other clubs would like to be at. We still have an opportunity. We’re playing at home and it’s in our own hands.
“When you start playing football, you play for these moments. I know our supporters are going to be ready, we have to make sure that we are as well.”
That the visiting side even have a shot at reaching the playoffs is an incredible achievement in itself as they were well adrift of the top seven just three games ago.
Wins over LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Austin FC by a combined 7-1 scoreline has changed all that, though, and Vanni Sartini is now desperate for one more win.
“That we are still alive, (compared to) what we were two weeks ago, three weeks ago, it’s got to be a miracle,” Sartini said.
“In Italy, we say when you do 30, the only way to have a reason for why you’re doing 30, let’s do 31. Let’s try to win. We’ll try to do everything we can and finish at 46 (points).”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Minnesota United – Emanuel Reynoso
Reynoso has 10 goals and 10 assists for the MLS campaign, making him one of three players in the division to hit double figures in both categories. The former Boca Juniors attacker is four games without a goal, which has coincided with Minnesota’s disappointing run of form.
Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld
Attacking midfielder Gauld has played a huge part in the Caps’ strong end to the regular season, with at least one goal involvement in each of his side’s past three games. Going further back, the 26-year-old has 14 goal contributions in his past 14 MLS appearances and could single-handedly drag Vancouver over the dotted line on current form.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Minnesota picked up a 3-1 win at Vancouver in the first meeting between the sides this season on July 8. Neither team has defeated the other twice in a single season, while Minnesota are unbeaten in four home matches against the Whitecaps (W2 D2).
– United’s 2-0 loss at San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday was their fifth loss in their past six games (D1). This is just the second time in Minnesota’s MLS history they have collected one point in a span of six matches, also doing so in July-September 2018.
– The Whitecaps have won three straight matches for the first time since a four-match run in August-September 2021, but all three of those wins came at home. Vancouver are winless in their past seven road games (D4 L3) – only Colorado Rapids and San Jose (seven each) have fewer away points than the Whitecaps (10) in 2022.
– Reynoso (10 goals, 10 assists) is one of three players with double-digit goals and assists this season (Hany Mukhtar, Carlos Vela). Reynoso is the second Minnesota player to achieve the feat, joining Darwin Quintero, who did so in 2018 (11 goals, 15 assists).
– Including his goal and assist last Saturday, Gauld has been involved in seven of Vancouver’s past 11 goals (four goals, three assists). Gauld has 12 goals and 15 assists since making his MLS debut in August 2021, with those 27 goal contributions seven more than any other Whitecaps player in that time.