Welcome to your match thread for a Thursday night MLS is Back semifinal match-up between Orlando City (2-1-2, 8 points in league play, 3-0-2 in MLS is Back) and Minnesota United (3-0-2, 11 points in league play, 2-0-3 in MLS is Back) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports (8 p.m., ESPN 2). It’s just the fourth meeting between the two sides and likely the only one in 2020 for these teams from opposite conferences.
The Lions are coming off an emotional penalty shootout win over LAFC on Friday, following a 1-1 draw that needed a 90th-minute header from Joao Moutinho to produce. Minnesota, meanwhile, cruised to an easy 4-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes without former Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino or star right back Romain Metanire in the lineup.
Whoever comes out on top tonight will face the Portland Timbers in the tournament final next Tuesday.
The Lions have yet to beat the Loons, who are led by ex-Orlando City gaffer Adrian Heath. Orlando is 0-2-1 against Heath’s Minnesota side, with the team finally getting a result last year on the road in a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field on Aug. 17, 2019. That game kind of felt like a loss, honestly. Orlando City struck first on a 70th-minute Nani penalty. The Lions had a second penalty awarded but it was overturned by video review as Tesho Akindele was ruled offside in the buildup. Abu Danladi scored in the 92nd minute with the Lions just seconds from their first win in the series.
Minnesota won this fixture 1-0 in Minnesota in 2017 on a Christian Ramirez goal, then won in Orlando in 2018, 2-1. Ethan Finlay scored both Minnesota goals in the second meeting to offset Yoshimar Yotún’s penalty kick goal. So, Orlando has yet to score on Minnesota in the run of play, with only two penalty kick strikes to show for three matches. The Lions will need to do better than that if they are going to reach their first final in the team’s MLS era.
Obviously there are story lines. Heath and Molino are the Minnesota headliners from an Orlando standpoint, but let’s not forget defender Jose Aja — who has two assists in this tournament — and backup goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh are former Lions players, and Minnesota assistant coaches Ian Fuller and Mark Watson both held that role with Orlando City (and Fuller played with the club in the USL days).
While Orlando was winning Group A, the Loons were busy finishing second to Sporting Kansas City in Group D. Minnesota United opened the tournament with a dramatic late 2-1 win over SKC in the opening round, then drew Real Salt Lake (0-0) and the Colorado Rapids (2-2). If you’re looking for common opponents in 2020, Orlando City opened the season with a 0-0 draw against RSL and lost at Colorado 2-1 at the death. So, theoretically, these teams should be very close.
Minnesota is content to give up possession and hit on the counter attack. The Loons don’t precisely bunker per se, but they do stay organized, win the ball, and try to score in transition. With Osvaldo Alonso shielding a solid back line and goalkeeper Tyler Miller — who is having a Best XI-type performance in MLS is Back so far — Minnesota is difficult to break down. That means Orlando City will have to be more clinical than in the three most recent games, in which the Lions have managed only one goal in each.
If you’re looking for an advantage, well, the Lions got one more day of rest.
Orlando City will be missing Dom Dwyer (knee surgery), while Chris Mueller (shoulder) is questionable. The good news is that Robin Jansson seems to be OK and neither he nor Junior Urso are on the injury report. Ike Opara is out for the entire tournament, while Molino is returning from injury for Minnesota and should be available. Metanire is questionable
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more background on the Loons by Ashle Norling from SB Nation’s Minnesota United blog, E Pluribus Loonum.
- This week's PawedCast features our key match-ups and score predictions for tonight’s match and we talked to Eli Hoff from E Pluribus Loonum about the game.
- Scott Carnevale wrote about his three keys to Orlando City finally getting a win over the Loons.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell.
Attacking Midfielders: Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller.
Forward: Tesho Akindele.
Minnesota United FC (4-1-4-1)
Goalkeeper: Tyler Miller.
Defenders: Chase Gasper, Michael Boxall, Jose Aja, Hassani Dotson.
Defensive Midfielder: Osvaldo Alonso.
Midfielders: Robin Lod, Jacori Hayes, Jan Gregus, Ethan Finlay.
Forward: Luis Amarilla.
REF: Drew Fischer.
AR1: Micheal Barwegen.
AR2: Logan Brown.
4TH: Joe Dickerson.
VAR: Ramy Touchan.
AVAR: Jeremy Hanson.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
TV: ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: WatchESPN, FuboTV.
Enjoy the match! Go City!
The Mane Land has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though The Mane Land and SB Nation may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.