Matchday 35 Preview: MNUFC vs San Jose Earthquakes

Matchday 35
MIN vs. SJ
AppleTV | 1500 ESPN

After coming off a loss sending them further below the playoff, Adrian Heath’s side hopes to recover in their penultimate home match of 2023. The Earthquakes meanwhile are above the playoff line but come to St. Paul with an abysmal away record, something that should favour Minnesota. But the Loons own home record with 3 wins in 15 matches shows them to be a much better team away from home. All factors considered and the playoff implications on the line, it makes match this an intriguing one to watch.


MIN: 11th in West, 37 pts; 9-11-10, 3-4-8 at home; 38 GF, 40 GA

Last match: 1-2 loss to STL, extends losing streak to 3 matches

SJ: 8th in West, 41 pts; 10-10-11, 2-8-5 away; 36 GF, 40 GA

Last match: 1-1 draw with NSH

Key Performers and Moments

After a tough start to his time in Minnesota, Teemu Pukki has finally found his stride up top for the Loons. With goals in the last two games and four of the last six, Pukki has become a major threat for Minnesota. Winger Bongokuhle Hlongwane has been instrumental in the teams success this season, scoring eight goals across all competitions and having scored a brace against LA Galaxy just 10 days ago. Ján Greguš return to Minnesota from Nashville has given the midfield some added stability and allowed assists leader Hassani Dotson to float to wing more, as needed.

“It’s going to be a battle against San Jose [Earthquakes]. They have a good team and they’re pushing for the playoffs as well,” said Zarek Valentin. “Everything is to play for and as long as we take care of the business at home and pinch some results away and put in good performances, I think that’s the most we can do.”

The Earthquakes Cristian Espinoza leads the team in goals with 12 through 31 games. He sits just outside the top 10 in the league rankings as he has been shut down as of late. Espinoza’s last goal coming back in August against Vancouver. Jeremy Ebobisse started at forward last week for San Jose and comes in second on the team with 9 goals in 31 appearances. Ebobisse did not score in San Jose’s last two games against Nashville and Portland. On the back line, Carlos Akapo  made Team of the Week, for Matchday 34 after an outstanding showing against Nashville that saw him also tally an assist.

Playoff Picture

San Jose has found their footing this season under new manager Luchi Gonzalez, rebounding massively from 2023. After finishing last year in dead last in the West under the stewardship of Alex Covelo, Gonzalez took over the role he had been appointed to in August. Under Luchi the ‘Quakes are 10-10-11 in league play with 41 points and hold a one point lead over FC Dallas for 8th place and the first Wild Card spot in the west. Struggling away from home this season, a win would be massive for San Jose and could put them tied on points with LAFC and Seattle who occupy 2nd/3rd place.

Following San Jose’s draw with Nashville, Luchi Gonzalez said. “We are still in a position to control our destiny, as much as possible. We’ve got to find a way to get more points on the road against Minnesota [United FC]. I know their home form is different than their away but they area a very good team and they have very good players. We have to be ready to show our best. We’ve put ourselves in a position to do this, and now home or away it is up to us to get it done, with no regrets. We’ve got to rest now and build momentum in the week to do better.”

After three consecutive losses Minnesota drop is now on the outside looking in at the playoff race with four matches to play. The Loons struggles at home this season have hurt them, having only played won three times at Allianz Field so far in 2023. A loss so San Jose would tie for the least home wins (4 in 2013 during NASL era) in club history. MNUFC finds themselves three points back with four matches and 12 possible points left. A few weeks ago Adrian Heath stated his side needed to win at least two of the final six to make the playoffs and so far they lack even a single win. Minnesota United will round out the season with clashes away to LAFC, hosting LA Galaxy, and ending the season away against Sporting Kansas City. The challenge of the final month of the campaign puts the Loons into a do or die situation where they need to win immediately to keep the hopes alive.

“Luchi [Gonzalez] has given them [San Jose Earthquakes] more of an identity. I think we’re pretty certain of what’s coming here this weekend,” Adrian Heath said. “We played them a couple of times in the preseason as well and the games have been tight. I don’t expect anything different because it’s huge for them as well this weekend. We’re all playing each other in the next three or four weeks. Every point and every performance is crucial.”



Questionable: None.

Out: Brent Kallman (knee), Joseph Rosales (thigh), Robin Lod (SEI – knee), Ryan Jiba (SEI – knee)


Not available at time of writing.