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

Minnesota United vs. Portland Timbers

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Allianz Field
Stream: Apple TV Season Pass
Radio: KSTP-AM 1500 ESPN
Weather: 76 degrees, sunny, 10 mph east wind
Betting line: MNUFC plus-135; draw plus-300; Portland plus-295

Form: MNUFC (6-2-3, 21 points) ran its unbeaten stretch to four straight with a 2-2 draw with Galaxy on Wednesday. Portland (3-6-4, 13 points) ended a nine-match winless skid with a 4-2 win over San Jose on Wednesday. Timbers scored three goals after the Earthquakes’ Bruno Wilson received a red card in the 71st minute.

Quote: “I don’t want to be in any way lulled into complacency against them because obviously they are not on a good run at all,” Loons manager Eric Ramsay said Friday. “… I want to try to look behind the table (Timbers are 11th in West) … and encourage the players to do so. They’ve got some very good players.”

Absences: Emanuel Reynoso (return-to-play protocol), Hugo Bacharach (knee), Jordan Adebayo-Smith (ankle) and Moses Nyeman (tight) are out. Kervin Arriaga (hamstring) did not train Friday and is questionable. Hassani Dotson (hamstring) trained Friday but after missing three matches, it’s too soon for the midfielder to be involved Saturday.

Connection: Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair hung out with Portland Timbers’ Kamal Miller and Eryk Williamson on Thursday night. St. Clair grew up and played at a youth level with Miller in Canada, and St. Clair played with Williamson at the University of Maryland.

Rumor: Reynoso has been linked in a move to Mexican club Juarez this week. The Loons are exploring a potential offloading of their prodigal Designated Player to Liga MX or elsewhere this summer.

Projected XI: In a 5-2-3 formation, LW Sang Bin Jeong, CF Tani Oluwaseyi, RW Bongi Hlongewane; CM Robin Lod, CM Wil Trapp; LB Joseph Ropsales, CB Devin Padelford, CB Micky Tapias, CB Michael Boxall, CB DJ Taylor; GK Dayne St. Clair.

Player to watch: Portland’s Evander. The one-named Brazilian midfielder has five goals and four primary assists this season, including a penalty kick goal, an assist and six shot-creating actions on Wednesday.

Context: Ramsay said he would look at “micro” details that went into Loons losing control of the Galaxy draw. On Friday, he was asked for an example and pointed to how MNUFC defended the goal kick that led to Riqui Puig being able to go on a long 60-yard run to set up the go-ahead goal in the 68th minute. It appeared, for one element that Robin Lod was caught on the left half-space, opening up the middle for Puig to sprint forward.

Tidbit: A large contingent of MNUFC players and staff were at Target Center for Wolves’ Game 6 win over Denver. Boxall, Lod, Oluwaseyi, Tapias and more. Ramsay was there, too. The Welshman said he has watched YouTube videos to learn some basics of the sport and was intrigued to know what coaches said during the first-quarter timeout before the Wolves’ 20-0 run.

Prediction: The Timbers have allowed 27 goals this season — second-worst in MLS — and MNUFC will add a pair to that total. Here’s to Teemu Pukki ending his 420-minute scoring drought since early March. Minnesota wins 2-1.

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