The Houston Dynamo should feel like they left points on the table in their last outing against the LA Galaxy, but now have to move on to keep their playoff hopes alive as they welcome Minnesota United FC to BBVA Compass Stadium for the third and final meeting between the two sides.
In our preview of the match we discussed the previous fixtures between the Loons and the Dynamo, but we wanted to know more about the MLS newcomers and their inaugural season so we spoke with Nate Siems at E Pluribus Loonum to discuss the match and next season.
Dynamo Theory: Do Minnesota United FC fans think that they’ve lived up to preseason exceptations and what is the next step for the club moving into next season?
E Pluribus Loonum: Honestly, I don't know. I think for the majority of Loons fans, yes they have exceeded expectations. I was in the Grant Wahl school of thought in that I expected at most 5 wins. The team made some very smart moves - adding Cronin, Finlay for two - that turned things around. I'm sure there is a faction of Loons fans that thought this ragtag bunch of players could make the playoffs, but that is unrealistic. For next season, the Loons NEED to address depth and the midfield. Right now, the team has some great pieces in place, but not enough of them. The team has strength in the attack, but lack the consistent ability to play through the midfield. If they could add a playmaking CM and maybe some more depth at the backline, they could surprise some people.
DT: MNUFC have had one of the leakiest defenses in MLS, but they’ve actually held up pretty well against the Dynamo who have been among the best goal scoring teams. What can you expect in our third fixture of the year to try and slow a very motivated side?
EPL: Houston had the misfortune to play MNUFC after they added Sam Cronin and after Jerome Thiesson adjusted to MLS. Since the dismal month of March, MNUFC has actually had a very competitive goal differential. This third fixture may be tough though as Cronin likely will be out. I would expect to see a Loons defense that will not take many risks and sit back. I don't think they will park the bus per se, but they won't be likely to be caught out of position. You still will probably see Thiesson, Burch, and Calvo push into the offensive third, though. Can't keep them sitting back for very long.
DT: Christian Ramirez has been a joy to watch and develop. How do you see him among top strikers today, and where do you think he’ll be next year in the golden boot race?
EPL: He's easily the best striker in the World right now. On par or better than Lukaku.
. . .But seriously, Ramirez is showing to the country what Loons fans have known for three years. He has to be considered in the top 5-10 of MLS strikers right now. In his last two games he has 2 goals and 2 assists. There are very few strikers in the league that I would choose over him (Bruce, you listening, yet?) I think Superman will likely be on the preseason shortlist for the Golden Boot next season, and if he stays healthy (and MNUFC can get a true playmaker behind him) he will be right at the top.
For my answers to Nate’s excellent questions check them out at E Pluribus Loonum!