Minnesota United at Charlotte FC: Keys to the match, projected starting XI and a prediction

Minnesota United at Charlotte FC

When: 5 p.m. CDT Sunday
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
TV/Stream: FS1 and MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Radio: KSTP-AM 1500
Weather: 58 degrees, cloudy, 6 mph southwest wind
Betting line: MNUFC plus-260; draw plus-255; Charlotte minus-105

Series history: This is the first regular-season meeting between the two clubs; Charlotte joined the Eastern Conference as an MLS expansion franchise in 2022. They played to a scoreless draw in a preseason friendly in February.

Form: MNUFC (3-2-2, 11 points) has garnered one point across its last three games. After averaging two goals per game across its first four contests, the Loons are putting up a paltry 0.67 goals over their last three. Charlotte (3-3-2, 11 points) netted a season-high three goals in a 3-2 win over Toronto FC last Saturday.

Storyline: The Loons have fallen into first-half funks in the previous two matches but have busted out of them after halftime. Head coach Eric Ramsay has to find a way for his squad to start fresher and faster and not leave themselves with another mountain to climb.

Context: Under Ramsay at halftime, players will speak among themselves in the dressing room while the coaching staff separately review and tinker with the tactics and consult analytics for possible adjustments. Then Ramsay will speak to the group and individual coaches will instruct certain players.

Quote: “That is always the approach from my perspective — that you gave a window whereby you can really help the players, if you are constructive enough, if you feel like you’ve picked up on key details that need to be passed on, you have a very limited window to do that,” Ramsay said Tuesday. “… That has stood us in good stead.”

Absences: Emanuel Reynoso (unexcused absence) has remained in Argentina for one month after missing his U.S. green card appointment. Sang Bin Jeong (international duty) is with South Korean Under-23 team for Olympic qualifying. Micky Tapias (hamstring) and Zarek Valentin (thigh) trained fully Friday and will be available to play Sunday.

News: Coming off his MLS debut in the 2-1 loss to Houston, rookie center back Hugo Bacharach (knee) had an operation this week and is expected to be out an estimated 4-8 weeks, Ramsay said Friday.

Idea: Bongi Hlongwane moved from the right wing to the left this season. While he logged two goals in his first two appearances, he hasn’t even taken a shot in two of his last three matches. He could benefit from a switch back to the side where he had so much success (17 goals in all competitions) a season ago. Franco Fragapane, who scored his first goal this season, could come into the starting XI on the left.

Wishful starting XI: In a 4-3-3 formation, LW Franco Fragapane, CF Teemu Pukki, RW Bongi Hlongwane; CM Robin Lod, CM Hassani Dotson, CM Wil Trapp; LB Joseph Rosales, CB Devin Padelford, CB Michael Boxall, RB DJ Taylor; GK Dayne St. Clair.

Scouting report: Eight different players have scored Charlotte’s nine goals this season. Patrick Agyemang leads with two, while lone Designated Player Enzo Copetti has not opened his scoring account in 2024. Ramsay knows of Charlotte coach Dean Smith from their time spent together in English football. Ramsay views Smith’s teams as “direct, but in a detailed way.”

Prediction: Charlotte has some quality home results — including a win over Columbus and a draw with Cincinnati — but they don’t strike much fear in foes. MNUFC can go on the road and get a point. A 2-2 draw.