After a big win on the road Sunday night the Houston Dynamo return home to PNC Stadium tomorrow night to take on Minnesota United. We talked to Bridget McDowell from E Pluribus Loonum to get some insight on the Loons.
Dynamo Theory (DT): Minnesota United beat English Premier League side Everton in a friendly Wednesday night. Are there any fitness concerns on any players for Saturday or should we see a “first choice” lineup from the Loons?
E Pluribus Loonum (EPL): Adrian Heath started his best XI against Everton (with Joseph Rosales in for Wil Trapp who was injured last weekend) and the same players are expected to start in Houston. Emanuel Reynoso is a question as he was subbed in the 23rd with an ankle injury. He seemed to be walking comfortably after the game but (as of this response) is said to be day-to-day. Jacori Hayes, who replaced him, also had to be subbed off after a shin-to-shin challenge. With Lod already playing defensive mid, there could be some more shifting through the midfield. Like the rest of MLS, this is a squad with tired legs but they’ve been through it before so I would be surprised to see any changes other than Reynoso.
DT: Emanuel Reynoso is having another amazing season this year. For Dynamo fans who have not seen him a lot, what makes him such a special player and what should we be on the lookout for this weekend?
EPL: Even if he plays through a knock, Reynoso is known for his footwork and creating space. He’s a box-to-box mid and can be dangerous from either end of the pitch, on or off the ball, but his skill on the ball is the reason so many defenders target his ankles. Now that he’s scoring consistently (he’s had three two-goal games out of the last five MLS games), Reynoso has gained confidence in front of goal and with Franco Fragapane, Luis Amarilla, and Bongokuhle “Bongi” Hlongwane gaining confidence of their own (with the latter two adding goals and assists through this winning streak),. The quartet has been mixing things up and taking chances that we didn’t see them take in May and June. He follows up on their plays, they follow up on his.
DT: Another star for Minnesota this year has been goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair. What can you tell us about St. Clair and how he has become one of the top keepers in Major League Soccer?
EPL: Dayne St. Clair’s substitute appearances in 2021 impressed fans because of his stone-cold penalty saves and gutsy blocks. He has kept that up this season with some massive reflexive saves that preserved results. While DSC’s distribution isn’t great (it is improving though), four clean sheets in 19 games is impressive and he has performed well in situations where the odds were very much not in Minnesota’s favor. As Heath says frequently, St. Clair simply does his job when needed, exactly what’s expected of him. That job has been a lot more impactful though in this low-scoring season.
DT: With Minnesota performing so well this season, who are some other “under the radar” players that have contributed to their success this season that we may not know about?
EPL: With the resurgence of the attacking four, we’re seeing more overlapping runs and interplay with the wingbacks - Kemar Lawrence on the left and DJ Taylor on the right are dangerous on the counter. Even if they can’t spring the front four, Taylor and Lawrence will make runs to find space in the final third (see the Lawrence goal assisted by Taylor in Vancouver). We saw similar play from Alan Benitez in his debut v. Everton, the new right back signing who’s expected to challenge Taylor for the starting role. And despite playing center mid, Robin Lod is still a wild card in the Loons’ attack. (He led the squad in scoring with 6 goals until Reynoso’s July surge put him ahead with 9.)
We want to thank Bridget and our friends at E Pluribus Loonum for giving us some information about Minnesota United.