Minnesota United vs. Houston Dynamo: Keys to the match, projected starting XI and a prediction

Minnesota United vs. Houston Dynamo

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Allianz Field

Stream: Apple TV Season Pass

Radio: KSTP-AM 1500 ESPN

Weather: 77 degrees, partly cloudy, 12 mph north wind

Betting line: MNUFC plus-110; draw plus-230; Houston plus-235

Series history: The Loons are unbeaten in their past nine matches against Houston and are 9-4-4 against the Dynamo since joining MLS in 2017.

Form: MNUFC (3-1-2, 11 points) bounced back from its first loss of the season to draw 1-1 with Real Salt Lake last Saturday. Houston (3-2-1, 10 points) had a three-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1 loss to Chicago Fire last Saturday. Houston is 0-3-1 away from home; Loons are unbeaten (1-0-2) in three matches at home.

Absences: Emanuel Reynoso is out after missing U.S. green card meeting and remaining in Argentina. Joseph Rosales is suspended after receiving two yellow cards vs. RSL. Micky Tapias (hamstring) and Zarek Valentin (thigh) are sidelined. But Kervin Arriaga (knee) and Hassani Dotson (hamstring) are available to play.

Key question: With Tapias and Rosales out, head coach Eric Ramsay will need to make decisions on who plays on the left side of the Loons’ back line. Does he start rookie Hugo Bacharach and give the Spaniard his MLS debut? Or does Ramsay give Victor Eriksson another shot after a shaky MLS debut off the bench in a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia on March 30?

Projected XI: In a 4-3-3 formation, LW Bongi Hlongawne, CF Teemu Pukki, RW Sang Bin Jeong; CM Alejandro Bran, CM Robin Lod, CM Wil Trapp; LB Devin Padelford, CB Hugo Bacharach, CB Michael Boxall, RB DJ Taylor; GK Dayne St. Clair.

Quote: Ramsay addressed what he sets out to do with inexperienced players thrust into bigger roles. “You’ve got to find that fine balance between them feeling like they have had that coaching, but they are also free enough to do what they have done that has got them to this point in their career and they can go and execute it,” Ramsay said. “And they don’t feel that they’ve got someone sort of puppeteering them from the side.”

Key stats: Houston is tied for third in MLS with only six goals allowed through seven games. When asked about their defense, Ramsay pointed to Houston’s possession numbers — a league-high 61 percent — as a key reason for lack of goals conceded. MNUFC, meanwhile, has allowed only seven goals this season.

Player to watch: Forward Aliyu Ibrahim has a team-high three goals and one assist in 529 minutes this season, which matches the Nigerian’s goal total across 1,205 minutes a year ago. The 22-year-old arrived in 2023 from Lokomotiva in Croatia.

Check-in: Former MNUFC academy coach Peter McDonnell led Philadelphia Union’s Under-17 team to win the highly competitive Generation Adidas Cup title on Sunday. MNUFC’s U17 side was bounced out of the GA Cup in an earlier round.

Prediction: With both MLS clubs allowing a scarce amount of goals this season, here’s a sneaking suspicion we get the dreaded 0-0 draw.

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