Match Preview: MNUFC vs SKC

Forward Teemu Pukki tries to control the ball while Minnesota United and Sporting Kansas City play in an MLS match at Allianz Field in St Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, September 16, 2023 (photo by Tim McLaughlin)

Following a 3-0 fortune in a first foray into Charlotte, Minnesota United FC face a familiar foe on Saturday night: Sporting Kansas City. In 2005 U.S. Open Cup, the 2nd-division Minnesota Thunder beat the Kansas City Wizards on their amazing run of upsets of MLS teams.

Fast forward to 25 matches and 19 seasons (and two leagues) later, Kansas City has dominated Minnesota with rare exception. To end the the 2023 season, Minnesota paid a visit to Children’s Mercy Park in which the hosts showed no mercy. Johnny Russell scored a brace and SKC won 3-1.

With less than 500 miles from Children’s Mercy Park to Allianz Field, this rivalry always seems to have some extra hype. Eric Ramsay remarked, “We’ve got a really good week as you’d expect post victory. Generally, everyone comes in really excited for the next game, full of energy, enthusiasm.”

Form (W-L-D)

MIN: 5th in West (14 pts), 4-2-2, GD +4, Last 5: W-L-D-L-W

SKC: 10th in West (11 pts), 2-2-5, GD +1, Last 5: D-L-D-W-L

The Western Conference table is tight. While MNUFC and SKC are separated by five places, the table can be deceptive. Three of the four teams between today’s combatants are tied at 12 points. Only 8 points separate the LA Galaxy in 1st place and the Portland Timbers in 11th place.

Kansas City finds themselves in a similar spot to the Loons last week: winless in their last three matches. Expect Peter Vermes and Company to come to the table hungry. “It’s going to be a difficult game because Kansas City is pretty good,” said Kervin Arriaga in Spanish through Marleine Calderon. “So it’s gonna be a challenge.”

Series Record – MNUFC (W-L-D)

MLS Regular Season: 4-11-4 (includes MLS Is Back group stage)

MLS Cup Playoffs: 1-0-0

USOC (MLS era): 1-1-0

USOC (pre-MLS): 1-3-0



Out: Adebayo-Smith (ankle), Bacharach (knee), Reynoso (not due to injury)
Questionable: Dotson (leg)


Out: Ndenbe (knee)
Questionable: Afrifa (thigh)

Training Notes and Tactics

Sporting Kansas City will most likely play in their 4-2-3-1 with a dynamic front four of Sallói, Pulido, Thommy, and Agada. Ramsay said of their attack: “They’re very good on the counter attack. Relatively not dissimilar to Charlotte, in the sense that they’ll play into the front players quite quickly. Both of the front players down the middle can hurt you. Players on the sides [are] very quick, very athletic, carry the ball really well. So there won’t be any surprises in that sense. We’ve done our homework, and we know in principle what we need to do to stop it.”

Minnesota United have played in several formations this season: 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, and last week we saw 5-4-1 which morphed into a 3-4-3 at times. MNUFC writer Kyle Hayward wrote more in depth about this.

Key to this system was Kervin Arriaga who NSJ caught up with this week. Through PR manager and Spanish translator, Marleine Calderon, Arriaga said his knee injury “was a little longer than I expected, … but I’m currently working on my way, and I’m feeling better than before.”

When asked about his role against Charlotte as defensive midfielder and extra centerback, Arriaga said (paraphrased by Calderon), “It’s a difficult position to actually play in, the role that I was in. I was not unfamiliar with it. While I was at Honduras, I played a few games in that role.”

Ramsay said of Arriaga’s performance:

“Well, I always thought with Kervin, even prior to being here and doing my research on the squad, that he looked a player that could could do multiple things based upon quite a unique set of skills […] He’s got the qualities on the ball of a midfield player, and he’s got the physical qualities and profile of a centerback. So that in itself is a pretty unique combination that we got to find a way to make sure we get the best out of.”

When asked if we will see a shape on Saturday similar to the Loons’ formation against Charlotte, Ramsay kept his cards close: “I don’t want to give too much away in that sense.” However, he later added, “We will base our shape on who is available, who best meets the conditions of this particular game. But at home, we’re always going to be, or try to be at least, the team that controls the game both with and without the ball. We want to be a team that’s on the front foot. We want to be aggressive and proactive.”

Loons Miscellany

  • Sang Bin scored a goal and PK in the AFC Asian Cup U23 quarterfinals. However, South Korea lost to Indonesia 11-10 in a penalty shootout after playing to a 2-2 draw. South Korea are out of the U23 tournament and cannot qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
  • On Saturday morning, MNUFC announced that MNUFC2 goalkeeper Alec Smir has been signed to a Short-Term Agreement to be available for tonight’s game.
  • MNUFC hosts Sporting Kansas City tonight, Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 pm at Allianz Field.

You can stream the game on Apple’s MLS Season Pass. Which is the better predictor of tonight’s result: SKC’s dominance in this rivalry or the sides’ 2024 form? In this match-up, neither seem better. You’ll just have to watch.


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