In the middle of a busy week for Columbus Crew SC, the Black & Gold welcome Minnesota United to MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday. Although it doesn’t show up in the standings, these two cross-divisional foes have already met once in 2020, in the Knockout Rounds of the MLS is Back Tournament, where Minnesota served the Crew with its first dish of disappointment this year, winning 5-3 in a penalty kick shootout.
More than a month later and the two teams meet again, this time on Columbus’ home soil and in a contest that won’t have any extra time and will count toward the standings. The Black & Gold continue to pace Major League Soccer, currently sitting at the top of the league’s table with 27 points through 12 games. United is in fourth in the Western Conference with 18 points through the same number of matches completed.
Questions for E Pluribus Loonum
Massive Report: Since these two teams last met in the Round of 16 at the MLS is Back Tournament, Minnesota has been a bit of an enigma, losing three games in a row, then climbing to the top of the Western Conference standings. Is this inconsistency or just MLS being MLS and where do you think the Loons will end the season in the West?
E Pluribus Loonum: It’s actually a combination of both. One thing I have to admit I like about MLS is the volatility of the league. The fact that teams can go up and down the standings so fast or have a massive uptick year to year is one of the most fun things of this league.
However the loss to Orlando in the knockout stage really kicked things back for Minnesota. Coming out of Orlando we ended up having Tyler Miller go out for the season, which threw our goalkeeping situation into disarray. I did a scouting report on Greg Ranjitsingh and how he did as starter. I thought he was an ok replacement and Dayne wasn’t ready to be a starter but I really proved to be wrong and I’m happy about that. Since Dayne took over in goal I think things have started to straighten out, I think Columbus will be by far our biggest test if that’s true. And how we perform Wednesday night, I think will show where we end up.
MR: Former Crew winger Ethan Finlay hasn’t played since the beginning of August with a knee injury. What’s the latest on him and how does Minnesota’s attack change with Finlay out of the lineup?
EPL: Honestly I don’t have a really good answer on that. MNUFC has been very quiet on the player injury front as of late, but it sounds like mid-October. I really don’t think the attacking style has changed much, we’ve always really been a team who plays and preys on counter-attacks. After Orlando it took sometime for the team to get its scoring legs back but I can’t say how much of that is due to Finlay being out. I can say with Finlay being out Robin Lod has really picked up his game and I would go out and say he’s most improved on the team year to year.
MR: The last time the Crew and United met, set pieces played a large part. What has made MNUFC dangerous on dead ball situations this year?
EPL: Jan Gregus. Prior to Reynoso coming in he took pretty much all of our set pieces, and is very VERY good at it. However that brings us to a problem as Gregus was red carded for, well I’ll let our colleague Bridget’s tweet explain it. So with Gregus out for Wednesday, Reynoso will probably end up taking the set pieces and this won’t be our first look at him taking them but it will be our first look at him without Gregus in the lineup.
MR: It was recently announced that Kei Kamara is headed to Minnesota. What impact can the former Black & Gold forward make for the Loons the rest of this season and beyond?
EPL: I did scouting report on Kamara the other day to see what we were getting in the deal. And as of that report he had only scored three goals this season (which in this messed up year I can understand). All three of his 2020 goals with Colorado were directly on or were the result of a set piece. So from what I see he’s as Adrian Heath put him, “A goal scoring Centre-Forward” which is something we could use right now. Another thing I’m hoping to see is the veteran Kamara mentoring and tutoring the younger Mason Toye. I know there’s a lot more to come from Toye and I’d love to see Kei help Mason reach his full potential as well as scoring goals.
To read Massive Report’s responses to E Pluribus Loonum’s questions, click here.