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Massive Scouting Report: Minnesota United

Facing their second expansion team in as many weeks, can Crew SC finally break through?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday marks another quick turnaround for Columbus Crew SC, as the team heads north to take on Minnesota United for the first time. Last week, the Black & Gold faced Major League Soccer’s other expansion side and were quickly swept aside by Atlanta United, 2-0. Crew SC hope to attain a crucial three points, after the disappointment of the weekend.

Columbus will face off against a struggling team that comes into this match in pretty bad shape. The Loons only have one win in their last five matches and most recently fell victim to New York City FC 3-1 on Thursday.

MLS has taught us that despite a team’s record, it cannot be underestimated. Let’s take a look at Crew SC’s opponent this week.

Minnesota at a glance:

Record: 5-10-3 (1 point per game)

Form: L-W-D-L

Leading Goal Scorer: Christian Ramirez (10)

Assists Leader: Kevin Molino (5)

What to watch for:

As previously mentioned, Minnesota hasn’t enjoyed the ideal first season in MLS. The Loons have endured the struggles of a new team attempting to figure out the league for the first time. Much like with his time in Orlando, head coach Adrian Heath has struggled to get his tactics right.

With that said, United have a few bright spots on its roster and can definitely hurt Crew SC if the visitors aren’t careful.

Batman and Superman

Referred to as Superman by the Loons faithful, Ramirez is quite an asset for Minnesota. The forward is tied for third place in the Golden Boot race and tied for fifth in shots-on-goal in MLS.

Ramirez hasn’t done it alone this season. Like all good super heroes, he has needed the help of a sidekick. That’s where “Batman” comes in.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The other half of the dynamic duo for Minnesota United is 27-year-old midfielder, Miguel Ibarra. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Ibarra made waves for the U.S. Men’s National team when former boss Jurgen Klinsmann called up the upstart player from the then-NASL club.

Ibarra and Ramirez are two of the holdovers from the NASL days and the Loons faithful ought to be glad they kept them. Both are still young and once they adapt to the style of MLS, could be a force to be reckoned with.

Defensive woes

United received a very loud welcome to MLS in its first two matches, conceding 11 goals. This forced Minnesota into a trade with the Colorado Rapids that brought in Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. The two defenders immediately made an impact that saw the Loons go on four-match run in which the team grabbed seven of 12 possible points.

The backline isn’t the only area that needed some serious addressing for Minnesota. The club brought in goalkeeper John Alvbage on loan from Sweden expecting him to be the starter. His struggles in the opening two matches opened the door for the once-forgotten Bobby Shuttleworth to step in and take over.

Shuttleworth has been the starting goalkeeper in all five of United’s victories, all of which have all come at TCF Bank Stadium. While he’s an improvement over Alvbage, Shuttleworth has also had his struggles, posting a 2.00 goals against average, second worst in MLS.

How Crew SC win:

This may seem incredibly obvious, but for Crew SC to be successful they need to take more shots. Last week against Atlanta, Columbus only logged one shot on goal the entire match. That type of performance simply will not cut it going forward. Expect to see the forwards taking chances and looking to be creative.

This could be a turnaround game for Justin Meram who has openly acknowledged he needs to improve his performances. After setting a new career high in goals with eight over the first 15 matches, the winger has failed to score in the last four.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus need a better performance out of the entire backline. Jonathan Mensah admitted that he wasn’t at 100 percent focused on Saturday night and, with the quick turnaround, this could be a great opportunity for Nicolai Naess to break back into the starting lineup.

The Black & Gold must move the ball with purpose on Tuesday night. Too many times against Atlanta the players were slow on the buildup and it allowed the Five Stripes to counter quickly.

Minnesota won’t be easy to put away on Tuesday night. The Loons are 5-3-1 at home, but are missing a good amount of players due to international call ups and injuries. Perhaps Columbus will be able to capitalize and take six points into the Gold Cup break.