Match Preview: MNUFC vs Real Salt Lake

Minnesota United FC returns home to Allianz Field to host Real Salt Lake on Matchday 8. With the two sides so close on the Western Conference table – a tie on points broken by goal differential – taking anything less than three points from this match could come back to haunt one of them.

Form (W-L-D)

MIN| 4th (10 pts.), 3-1-1. GD +2. Last 5: W-D-W-W-L

RSL| 3rd (10 pts.), 3-2-1. GD +3. Last 5: D-W-L-W-W

The Loons suffered their first loss of the season in Philadelphia [Chester] last Saturday, but to have made it through five matches with only one loss, with an international break and coaching changes a few weeks in, is an improvement on many previous seasons. No one was quite at their best last weekend and the loss may have swung the momentum around but head coach Eric Ramsay is not changing anything ahead of this match against Real Salt Lake.

“They are well organized team. Salt Lake is well organized as I’ve seen so far. They are a team that really likes to use a ball well, they’ve got quite an intricate way of building up, and they’ve got forwards that can hurt you. But as I say repeatedly, and we’ll say more often than not, I think in preparation for these games, we’re a team that focuses on us and our principles and our shape. And it’s only really the subtleties of the way in which the opposition play that I’m that bothered about. So it’s not that we’re going to be a different Minnesota because we’re playing against Real Salt Lake this week. That’s that’s the message the players get, and that’s what I’m big on.”


MIN| Out: K. Arriaga (Knee), E. Reynoso (Green Card), M. Tapias (Thigh), Z. Valentin (Thigh)

RSL| Out: K. Bonilla (Left Knee), E. Holt (Hamstring), P. Ruiz (Knee), M. Silva (Hamstring). Questionable: A Julio (Hamstring)

Training Notes

Head coach Eric Ramsay would not go so far as to blame the lost to Philadelphia on the strains of the international break but it was certainly a factor for the squad that had six starters return from international duty ahead of the match:

“In a situation like this, I think perhaps where ours was slightly unique is in that some of the guys who have traveled away, they’re a touch older; some of the distances are difficult to deal with. So I think when you add all that up that that amounts to a difficult set of circumstances. And I think last week in particular, with Boxy [Boxall] and Joe [Rosales] coming back a day later than expected, the group doesn’t come back until the day before the game. So that for a coach obviously isn’t ideal, but this week has been far different and it’s been nice to have a clean week, almost.”

Teemu Pukki, one of those older players, said the same: “You always take some take some time, and it was quite late as well when we got back here. But many trainings before the game [vs RSL], so [I] feel much better now.”

Pukki and fellow Finnish international, Robin Lod, have been an offensive highlight thus far. While Lod’s injury kept him off the pitch when Pukki arrived in Minnesota last season, both are now benefitting from a full preseason together with the squad and their friendship off the pitch. “Whenever he [Lod] gets the ball, he has an eye of what I’m doing,” Pukki said. “He’s trying to find me. We’ve played many years together. So it’s nice to nice to finally play with him because obviously last year he was injured so I couldn’t do that.”

They also benefit from the 4-3-3 formation in which Lod can more easily connect with Pukki from the wing.

“Pukki certainly has a good feel for the types of passes that he wants and the types of chances that he’s going to thrive off, and Robin is someone that can provide those,” Ramsay said on Friday. “But I think for all our front players, Robin is perfect to be positioned between the lines because he’s got a really good eye for a final pass. And he’s a really creative crafty player. So he’s great to be playing off the front, and I’m sure he gives teams lots of headaches.”

The squad is adjusting well to the new coaching staff – and the staff to the squad – which means no headaches in camp. Pukki praised Ramsay’s approach on Friday, noting that the coach’s young age isn’t a factor (“In the end it’s just a number, age,” he said when asked about being older than his coach) given Ramsay’s experience:

“Oh, he’s tactically really, really prepared. He speaks a lot, and his man management is I think really good. You can see he’s been assistant, so he’s maybe a bit closer to the players kind of, like it’s easier to talk with him than some managers. But yeah, I’ve been actually enjoying working with him a lot for the first first weeks.”

Key Players

Cristian Arango was voted Player of the Matchday for his hat trick against St. Louis on Matchday 7. It was Arango’s second career hat trick and the first by an RSL player since Damir Kreilach did it in September of 2018. That performance brought Arango’s 2024 goal tally to 5. Andrés Gómez has 2 goals and 2 assists. His brace – and an assist to Arango – highlighted the snowy season opener against LAFC, a 3-0 win. Arango and Gómez have everything they need to tear apart Minnesota’s defense.

Teemu Pukki and Robin Lod may be MNUFC’s best offensive answer, now rested from their international travels. With plenty of wingers to draw defenders and create space, the two Finns will certainly be looking for one another off the ball. The miles travelled by Michael Boxall just before the trip to Philadelphia certainly showed in that match but he should be sharp for Salt Lake. His composure will be needed to assist whichever young defender joins him as centerback in place of Tapias.

Loons Miscellany

  • Many first team players were seen watching the MNUFC2 vs Michigan Stars USOC match on Tuesday night – Ramsay spoke Friday on the significance of that:

“It was a club policy, but I think irrespective of that you’d find a lot of the players were there. I think there’s a really close connection between the first team and the second team players here. And it’s definitely something that the club’s trying to drive from top to bottom, that there’s a real connection between between our guys and the academy. And there’s a real common way of working, and a real sense of sense of commonality for the players across the two groups in how the coaches are and the language that’s used. And that’s one ingredient toward getting there.”

  • Teemu Pukki’s family flew back to Minnesota with him after his stint with the Finland squad: “They flew with me here for a couple of weeks. So I have a house full of kids now. Yeah, so it’s been nice to have them over.” Pukki’s friendship with Robin Lod has created a home away from home, beneficial when his family is back in Finland, but even better when the two families are together: “We spend the time a lot together. we knew each other for a long time. [Our] wives know each other and the kids as well. So, it’s nice to have them close, and we can spend time together.”


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