Match Preview: MNUFC at Charlotte FC

Minnesota United FC will look to change their fortune on Sunday evening in a cross-conference meeting with Charlotte FC. It is the Loons’ first visit to the Queen City but it won’t be the first meeting between the clubs’ two new gaffers, Eric Ramsay and Dean Smith. The Premier League coaching veterans have had similar seasons thus far but Smith’s Charlotte side is looking for their first win streak while Ramsay’s Loons hope to reverse a winless skid in which they’ve taken one point from three matches.

Form (W-L-D)

MIN: 8th in West (11 pts), 3-2-2, GD +1. Last 5: L-D-L-W-W

CLT: 7th in East (11 pts), 3-2-3, GD +1. Last 5: W-L-D-W-L


MIN: OUT: H. Bacharach (Knee), J. Sang Bin (International Duty), E. Reynoso (Not due to injury). Questionable: Z. Valentin (Thigh)

CLT: Unavailable at time of writing

Training Notes and Quotes – Head Coach Eric Ramsay

The club announced on Friday that Hugo Bacharach underwent surgery for a meniscus tear suffered in training on Monday — Mere days after he made his club and league debut in Saturday’s home match against Houston Dynamo FC. The defender is expected to be out for six to eight weeks but head coach Eric Ramsay remains optimistic:

“It’s really unfortunate on the back of what was his MLS debut. And he had some really nice moments, had some difficulties, but I think largely it was a really positive day for him. So for this to have come on the back of that so soon is a real shame for him, but he’s a really strong character, very stoic, very pragmatic, and I’m sure he’ll come back stronger.”

On Friday, Sam Spencer told us about the energy head coach Dean Smith has brought to Charlotte FC since joining in December of 2023. (Read the Q&A here.) Smith came to MLS from an extensive career in England, which included stints at Aston Villa, Brentford, Norwich and Leicester City, so he and Ramsay crossed paths a few times. Ramsay spoke highly of Smith’s style and Charlotte’s trajectory thus far in 2024:

“First they are a very difficult team to play against at home, and I think their home record speaks for itself over the course of well over a year, I would say. So yeah, they’re a difficult team to play against in ways that you would probably associate with previous Dean Smith teams that I’ve watched in England. They’re that very difficult to beat. They don’t give many chances away. They’re hard to counter attack. They’re relatively direct; they’ve got good power and good pace at the front of the pitch. So it [is] not completely dissimilar to the Philadelphia game that we faced when we went away. And obviously we’re dealing with the turf pitch and what is probably a significantly hotter climate than we’re experiencing today [35º F with light snow flakes at NSC]. So I think there’s a little bit of that that comes into it as well as the Dean Smith being very well organized, direct but direct in a very detailed way. So there’s a lot for us to deal with there.”

While Ramsay’s time in Minnesota is short, he has had ample opportunity to discuss possession versus chances, often favoring the latter when speaking on style of play. However, the possession game is drawing more of his focus after a few very slow matches, disconnected matches:

“I think we’ve been close to 60% of the ball in sort of three of the four games I’ve had so far without really us making that a number one priority of ours. I think it’s to do with the connections the players have, partly to do with the system and the structure, partly to do with hopefully a level of confidence on the pitch, but I don’t want to be a team that has 60% of the ball every week and comes out with nothing. We have to be a team that uses our possession well. So we have to turn that into either really good quality chances, or we have to start, particularly in the first half of the games, we have to be slightly more direct. We have to play forward more quickly. We have to find a way of making sure that the second half feel that we’ve had in the last two games is found far earlier in games. And that doesn’t often come by having 60% of the ball in your own half. It’s about playing through the opposition quickly, but hopefully in our case, doing so with enough control that the team can stay together as it moves up the pitch.”

While the former lynch pin of Minnesota’s attack remains AWOL in Argentina, Ramsay’s 4-3-3 – and his general tactical style – relies far more heavily on the collective. The last time Emanuel Reynoso pulled a no-show, Adrian Heath attempted to shoe horn other players into the 10 spot to cover his absence without changing his tactics. His predecessor, however, has the advantage of fresh eyes. Reynoso may be absent but there are a couple dozen other players to work with, who are increasingly working together:

“I think you’ll sort of seen that we will have to be and we are much more of a group, that the strength of us will be the collective, and it won’t be one, two, or three particular individuals. I think you’ve seen that with the way subs have contributed. You’ve seen it with the way we’ve used the squad, the way I’ve probably spoken around how we want to develop players. So I think it will always be more of a collective message. But ultimately, if in the two home games, you take those two as an example where we have created an awful lot of chances, we spent a lot of time around the opposition’s box — we do have to get to a point where we are being much more decisive. And we can start to rely on individuals to really take the game by the scruff of the neck and make something of a possession in the territory that we have. So that’s, obviously it’s an ongoing conversation, but it won’t fall squarely on the shoulders of any one individual, and it will be hopefully a collective thing. And we’ll have a set of front players that can really contribute and have clean moments.”

Key players

For two mid-table clubs with a goal differential of plus-one, this may well be a game of full squad efforts highlighted by individual match-ups.

Minnesota’s Finnish front men, Teemu Pukki and Robin Lod, will have to contend with another Finnish international in Charlotte’s back line: Jere Uronen. The veteran leftback has contributed to a tight defense in 2024. The Loons’ own backline should be intact again with Mickey Tapias no longer listed on the injury report (and Bacharach once again in his place) but Michael Boxall and Wil Trapp will need to tidy the transition into the midfield to make the most of their own defensive efforts.

Young DP Liel Abada, signed from Celtic FC in March, has already taken charge of Charlotte’s attack, keeping the momentum going late in games (a frequent problem for Minnesota). Abada is joined by forward Patrick Agyemang. The rising star of Charlotte FC has already contributed two goals this season. According to Sam Spencer, “The reason he’s competing with a DP like Enzo Copetti for playing time is that he’s young and talented, big without sacrificing too much speed, and tough to defend inside the area.” Sound familiar?

Tani Oluwaseyi continues to be the Loons’ not-so-secret weapon. Though he was unable to find the back of the net against Houston, he created some of the best chances in the frantic final ten minutes. Whether he starts or checks in as a super sub, Oluwaseyi will be even more driven to score following last week’s loss.

Loons Miscellany (but make it MLS)

Three rule changes have gone into effect this weekend. The Off-Field Treatment Rule, Timed Substitutions, and in-stadium VAR explanations, were announced in the offseason but the PRO/PRSA contract negotiations delayed their implementation.

The match kicks off at 5 PM CT from Bank of America Stadium.


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