Preview: Strikers look to bring Loons crashing to earth
Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Minnesota United FC
– Minnesota sit 5 points off the Fall Season title, on a eight game unbeaten streak (including 3 draws) with what should be a fairly forgiving run of games left to go: Strikers (twice), Rowdies, Indy, Atlanta and San Antonio. Fall leaders Ottawa have a similarly low level of difficulty ahead but Minnesota coach Manny Lagos knows all too well how a fall title can be lost by a late run of poor form. In 2014 the Loons dropped points in all of their last 6 games to allow San Antonio to sneak into first place. Lagos will want to make sure Minnesota don’t needlessly drop points for the rest of the season so they can emulate the ’14 Scorpions.
– Unfortunately the Strikers have recently shown themselves as experts at providing Minnesota with banana peel moments in big games. They beat the Loons on penalties in the 2014 Championship semi-final and then came back to the NSC in the Spring to steal a win in Miguel Ibarra’s final game with Minnesota. That former game was probably coach Gunter Kronsteiner’s shining moment in charge of the Strikers and he’ll want to show it wasn’t a one time event. Adding to his motivation will be the fact that Strikers sit only 2 points outside the playoffs. Minnesota are by far the Strikers’ toughest opponents left to face this Fall. A win here would go a long way towards ensuring the have the points to capitalize on a mistake by the Rowdies who currently sit in 4th place in the Combined table.
In the last game:
The Strikers spoil Minnesota’s spring season finale with two late goals.
Keep An Eye On:
– The race for the Golden Boot – 2014’s Golden Boot Christian Ramirez is just 3 goals shy of 2015 wunderkind Stefano Pinho’s 12 goals. Both players have fall off the pace of late. Stefano has not put one in the net since his hat trick against Indy on August 30th while Ramirez has scored only once since August 15th.
– Alejandro Vela (MNU) – The Mexican made a strong statement in his short debut as a substitute last weekend. He showed that he had the pace, technical ability and strength to power through New York’s midfield. This game will show whether that was a fluke or whether Minnesota’s decision to load up on yet another attacking midfielder was a prudent one.
You Won’t Notice:
– PC (FTL) – The high powered processor to the Strikers’ attacking mainframe will be suspended for this game after earning two yellow cards in Fort Lauderdale’s last game. He’s started every single match for the Strikers in 2015 so it’s hard to overstate the impact his absence will have.
You Probably Won’t See:
– A well behaved game – These two teams have a contentious recent history. Many of the returning Loons from 2014 will remember all too well the crushing feeling from the semi-final. Players like Tiago and Ibson have shown that they do allow their tempers to flare occasionally. The Strikers’ propensity to go down easily (much like Minnesota’s own Yago) will provide some fuel to the fire. The nice thing is that with so many Brazilians on the pitch for both teams, any possible insults thrown or any calming instructions necessary will be perfectly comprehended. No word on if Canadian referee Mathieu Bordeau speaks Portugese.
– Jordan Graye (FTL) – The Strikers’ centerback broke his nose playing Ottawa last weekend and remains a question mark for this match.