Minnesota United vs Columbus Crew: Match Preview

After defeating Atlanta United in their season opener at home, the Crew head to their first road journey of the season to play against Minnesota United on Saturday afternoon.

Atlanta United FC v Columbus Crew
Atlanta United FC v Columbus Crew / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

Minnesota United will host the Columbus Crew at the Allianz Arena in the MLS on Saturday, aiming to capitalize on their opening-day triumph. Minnesota secured a 2-1 victory over Austin in Texas last weekend, with Robin Lod and Alejandro Bran each finding the net, while Guilhermo Biro scored a consolation goal for the home side in stoppage time. Similarly, Columbus also experienced success on the opening day, defeating Atlanta 1-0 at home. Cucho Hernandez secured the victory with the only goal of the game in the 27th minute for the reigning MLS Cup champions.

The last encounter between these teams took place last August during the knockout stages of the first ever Leagues Cup tournament. The Columbus Crew and the Minnesota United played to a thrilling 3-3 draw at Lower.com Field, leading to a penalty shootout, where the visitors prevailed 4-3. In terms of league competition, the Crew haven't played Minnesota since 2020, where the Columbus won 2-1 at the Historic Crew Stadium.

A look at the hosts

Minnesota United faced a challenging 2023 season, failing to meet expectations and missing out on the playoffs, leaving them with the task of regaining pride in the upcoming season. Despite this, they kicked off the season positively, securing a 2-1 victory over Austin as visitors. However, the team lacks big-name stars, with Finnish striker Teemu Puki, who had a stint in the Premier League, standing out as their most prominent player. Argentine midfielder, and star player Emanuel Reynoso also brings quality to the squad, but picked up an injury some weeks back and will be unavailable for selection. The rest of the team consists of determined players eager to prove themselves at the highest level or seeking to revive their careers.

A managerial debut

The appointment of Eric Ramsay as head coach of Minnesota United signals a fresh start for the team after a disappointing 2023. Ramsay joins the club after serving as an assistant coach for the renowned Premier League side Manchester United under Erik ten Hag. At just 32 years old, Ramsay becomes the youngest head coach in Major League Soccer. Praised for his coaching abilities, Ramsay faces a significant challenge against Wilfried Nancy's Columbus Crew. Nancy, who guided Columbus to MLS Cup glory last season, aims to sustain the team's success and add further woes to Minnesota’s dreadful home form from last season. The upcoming match promises to be a tactical battle between Ramsay's innovative approach and Nancy's established strategies.

Injury news

Both Minnesota and Columbus are facing some injury challenges leading up to the match. Minnesota United will be without Emanuel Reynoso and possibly Kevin Arriaga, affecting their midfield options. Meanwhile, Columbus Crew will continue to miss Will Sands due to a long-term injury, although he is expected to return soon. Mo Farsi suffered a minor knock last weekend but is not as seriously injured as initially thought, according to Nancy. Despite these setbacks, both teams are expected to field strong lineups, with key players like Cucho Hernandez for Columbus Crew and Robin Lod and Teemu Pukki for Minnesota United anticipated to make significant impacts on the game.

A possible statement win

As the reigning champions of the league, the Columbus Crew are under pressure to defend their title in 2024, especially since they have retained their championship core. A victory would send a powerful message to the league that the Crew are determined to maintain their dominance, with rivals constantly looking up to them, and trying to find ways to knock down the giants. Momentum is crucial in sports, so a strong start to the season is essential. Their opening match resulted in a 1-0 home win against the formidable Atlanta United, with Cucho Hernandez scoring the decisive goal. Hernandez, a standout player who could easily compete in European leagues, opted to remain in MLS after an impressive season, where he was named MVP of the final against LAFC. Alongside Hernandez, Uruguayan midfielder Diego Rossi adds to the team's star power, who’s playing his first full season with the black and golds. Under Nancy's leadership, the Crew are determined to prove that "impossible is only an opinion," motivating everyone to give their best on the field.

This match is more than just a game; it's a test of how well both teams can adjust and plan. Minnesota United, under Ramsay, wants to impress, but they're up against the best team in the league. The Crew are seen as the favorites but Minnesota is determined to make up for past mistakes, and finally make their home a fortress. This game will be a lot closer than many expect.

What are your predictions?