Minnesota United looks to knock off high-flying St. Louis City
The expansion club is off to a 5-0-0 start.
ST. PAUL — Last Wednesday was a big day for Minnesota United.
Once the main event ended — the Loons introducing South Korean attacker Sang Bin Jeong at Allianz Field — one conversation among club leaders turned to the play of St. Louis City.
The expansion club then improved on its perfect start, now 5-0-0 with a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake. The Loons (2-0-2) will get a crack at the surprising club leading the Western Conference at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Missouri.
MNUFC will look to knock off St. Louis before it can tie the MLS record for best start of any club in the post-shootout era, which was set by Sporting Kansas City (7-0-0) in 2012.
St. Louis has scored a MLS-high 15 goals in five games, with Joao Klauss leading the way with five goals. The Brazilian has scored three times on atrocious back passes he intercepted while pressing.
“When we go over the video later in the week, (Klauss’s habit is) something we will show (the players),” Heath said. “Maybe it’s not a coincidence.”
The FIFA international window not only affected the Loons’ 1-1 draw with Vancouver on Saturday, but how Heath approached the 2-1 win over Colorado on March 18 and who is available leading up to the St. Louis match.
The seven Loons players away with their national teams had yet to return to training as of Tuesday, but six are expected to return by Wednesday. That’s Robin Lod, Dayne St. Clair, Michael Boxall, Kemar Lawrence, Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales.
That’s everyone besides Bongi Hlongwane, who was a second-half sub in South Africa’s 2-1 win over Liberia in Monrovia on Tuesday. The hope is Hlongwane will be on the team charter to Missouri on Friday.
If Hlongwane doesn’t return in time or isn’t fit to play, Cam Dunbar and Jeong are two candidates to play on the wing. Jeong has had his immigration meetings to order to obtain his work visa in Calgary this week. The club planned for him to return to Minnesota on Tuesday or Wednesday. If that goes smoothly, he could make his Loons debut Saturday.
Dunbar vs. Jackson
When the Loons traded Aziel Jackson to St. Louis and brought in Dunbar from L.A. Galaxy last November, those two players became linked despite their movements coming in separate deals.
Dunbar made his debut in a 75-minute shift against the Whitecaps; Jackson has had only a five-minute spurt versus San Jose on March 18.
“(Dunbar’s) a good little football player we got,” Heath said. “We’ve got high hopes of him.”
Fullback Ryen Jiba, who was acquired from USL side Union Omaha, has been out with a knee injury since preseason, but Heath said the aim is for him to return to on-field rehab in the next couple of weeks. “It’s been a really frustrating time for the kid,” Heath said. … MNUFC2 player Leo Conneh, 18, was named MLS NEXT Pro performer of the week on Tuesday. The Loons’ Under-19 academy prospect from Champlin Park High School had a goal and an assist in his debut for the developmental team in its 3-0 win over Real Monarchs on Friday. Minnesota had five U19 products on the field for the first time, including Tamer Ibsais, Tommy Kniser, Cooper Lijewski and Kage Romanshyn.
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