The Chicago Fire haven’t lost in three matches, but this weekend, they’ll be taking on an opponent who hasn’t lost all season. Minnesota United are next up on the agenda, and they’ll be looking to follow up their impressive road win in St. Louis last week with a strong performance at Soldier Field. We spoke with Will Hanson of MLS News to learn more about the Loons heading into this matchup.
In 2022, it was Minnesota United who put an abrupt end to the Fire’s encouraging start to the season. How have the Loons changed since last year?
This year’s team has a bit of a different look. Much of the depth from last year’s team was not brought back, meaning there were signings that needed to be made to replace that depth. The club brought in MLS veterans, goalkeeper Clint Irwin, and defender Zarek Valentin to help with that depth. The team also brought in Mexican center-back Miguel Tapias from Pachuca and he has fit in perfectly as Bakaye Dibassy recovers from a ruptured quad. There were also some younger signings like Swedish defender Mikael Marqués and the newest signing, South Korean attacker Sang-bin Jeong from Wolves.
Even without star player Emanuel Reynoso, Minnesota are unbeaten and sits in fourth place in the Western Conference. How have they looked in general this season?
Minnesota United have surprised a lot of people so far this season, including myself. Many thought this team would not be able to compete without the leader of the team, Emanuel Reynoso. It’s no secret that this team has run through Reynoso in the past seasons. They have found results hard to come by when Reynoso has been unavailable in the past. This season, Minnesota is finding ways to get results without their star, starting the season undefeated with three wins and two draws. Offensively, the team isn’t great at times, but the defensive play has been solid enough to get results.
Minnesota soaked up lots of pressure in last week’s 1-0 win against then-undefeated St. Louis CITY, before winning thanks to a second-half penalty. How will the Loons approach this weekend’s game?
I expect Adrian Heath to approach this game like he approaches most road games. Sit back and look for opportunities on the counter. It hasn’t always worked in the past, but it has worked so far this year. This team’s strong suit starts in the back.
Which players from Minnesota United should Fire fans keep a particularly close eye on?
There are two players to keep an eye on for the Loons this weekend. Striker Ménder García, and the most recent signing Sang-bin Jeong. García has been the main man for Minnesota United this season and looks to have claimed the starting striker spot when MNUFC eventually reverts back to the 4-2-3-1 formation. The Colombian has two goals this season and should have had another one against St. Louis last season. Another player to watch for the Loons this weekend is the South Korean international, Jeong. The 21-year-old joined Minnesota from Premier League side Wolves for a fee of $2.5m and could make his debut on Saturday.