Minnesota United were one of the teams most frustrated by the coronavirus in the MLS. While everyone wants to be on the pitch, the Loons looked primed to build off a breakout 2019 campaign. They finished runner-up to Atlanta United in the US Open Cup last season, and they made their first trip to the postseason after finishing fourth in the Western Conference. The Loons smashed their first two opponents of 2020, going on the road to hammer Portland and San Jose by a combined score of 8-3, and they looked to be even better this year. In fact, the only team that was more competitive through the first two weeks of the season was Sunday’s opponent, Sporting Kansas City.
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MLS Betting Odds at BookMaker.eu
Minnesota United FC +163
Sporting Kansas City +152
Sporting Kansas City were the best team in the Western Conference in 2018, but they completely fell apart last season. Sporting KC finished 11th in the conference as injuries ruined their reliable back line, yet the back four looked solid once more through the club’s first two matches.
This club was one of three to win its first two matches. Sporting Kansas City knocked off the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 away from home in their season opener, and they followed that up with a dominant 4-0 home victory against Houston in early March. Manager Peter Vermes has said the club is in rhythm, and newcomers Gadi Kinda and Alan Pulido were superb with a goal in both of those chances. In the back line, Luis Martins is one of the best at pushing the attack, while Matt Besler leads the league in successful challenges.
The Loons were fantastic on the counterattack in their first two matches. They were outshot by both the Timbers and Earthquakes, but they excelled at pushing the pace and making the most of their opportunities on the other end. To demonstrate this, they lead the MLS in shot conversion rate, but they are dead last in the league in possession percentage at 40.2 percent.
If you are going to play this style, you need excellent midfielders and a back line that quickly looks to make the most of opportunities on the other end. Minnesota leads the league in interceptions with 41, and Michael Boxall is tops on the team with 15.
Minnesota United won’t have the reigning MLS Defender of the Year for the entirety of the MLS is Back Tournament. Ike Opara has shared that he won’t be taking part in the competition as he has a pre-existing condition, and that puts a huge hole in the Loons’ back line. Opara is the key to so much for this team, and he was the best at springing his teammates on the counter. Captain Ozzie Alonso is seen as probable despite being held out of a scrimmage earlier this week due to a tight hamstring.
Andreu Fontas won’t play in this tournament for Sporting KC as he is recovering from Achilles’ surgery, while Felipe Gutierrez underwent major knee surgery last month. Gutierrez was the club’s MVP last season, so he will be missed.
Player to Watch
Khiry Shelton joined Sporting Kansas City from SC Paderborn 07 in the winter, and he was superb through his first two matches with his new club. Shelton scored the club’s last goal to put the finishing touches on its beatdown of Houston, but he has really made a name for himself as a playmaker. He leads the league with seven chances created from open play and leads all forwards in duels won.
Free Soccer Betting Pick
While both teams will be without one of their best players, the loss of Opara is humongous for the Loons. Sporting Kansas City will take advantage of his absence with Shelton creating multiple chances.
Major League Soccer Odds: Sporting Kansas City 2, Minnesota United FC 1
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