Kevin Molino - Minnesota United - Celebrates Goal
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Minnesota United FC vs. Real Salt Lake | 2017 MLS Match Preview

Minnesota United FC vs. Real Salt Lake
2017 MLS Regular Season
TCF Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Saturday, April 1 – 8 pm ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE

The bottom of the Western Conference is an uncomfortable place to be, and that's where both Minnesota United FC (11th place) and Real Salt Lake (ninth place) find themselves entering Saturday evening's contest. And as such, both teams are in a state of crisis.

For RSL that meant replacing manager Jeff Cassar last week and officially appointing Mike Petke as his replacement this week, while for Minnesota it's meant a constantly shifting cast of characters at every line from the forwards to the goalkeeper, and making a pair of pretty significant acquisitions on Friday. By some measures, this game – their second as a home team in MLS, and first that won't be played in a blizzard – is one of the most important in team history.

Minnesota United FC

The defense has been ugly thus far for the Loons, who are off to the worst start on that side of the ball of any team in MLS history. They've toggled between a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-4-2 and last weekend tried a 5-3-2 in the second half against the New England Revolution. That showed some promise, but the truth is that the only thing that's worked has been when NASL holdover Brent Kallman has paired in central defense with Costa Rican international Francisco Calvo, who will return to the fold after missing the Revs game while on duty with the Ticos.

The midfield has been gappy and turnover prone, which has exacerbated the issues in defense, but they've also been reliably creative going forward. They should get a little added discipline with Sam Cronin now in the fold, but the former Rapids man likely won't be available on Saturday after only being acquired by the Loons late on Friday afternoon. The frontline, meanwhile, has been the team's lone bright spot, and Christian Ramirez has solidified himself as an every-game starter.

  • Suspended: none
  • International duty: none
  • Injury report: OUT: M - Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury); GK - John Alvbage (left knee injury); GK - Patrick McLain (concussion); D - Joseph Greenspan (concussion)
  • Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Bobby Shuttleworth – Jerome Thiesson, Brent Kallman, Francisco Calvo, Justin Davis – Collen Warner, Rasmus Schuller – Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas, Miguel Ibarra – Christian Ramirez

Note: Minnesota have yet to be shut out this season, and have scored multiple goals in each of their last two games... United have conceded five or more goals in three of their first four games. MLS teams last season combined to do so in seven regular season games.

Real Salt Lake

RSL's big change felt like it was a long time coming, and last week they put in a credible performance in a scoreless road draw at New York under interim head coach Daryl Shore. Once again they'll be helmed by him rather than Petke, who managed the Red Bulls to the 2013 Supporters' Shield and a place in the Eastern Conference Championship back in 2014.

Petke's teams generally played out of a 4-2-3-1, which is a shape familiar to RSL and their fans even if it hasn't always flattered the talent on the team, and Shore trotted out something similar last week. Regardless of the formation, the Claret-and-Cobalt will need more production than they've gotten thus far, as through 360 minutes they've managed just one goal.

  • Suspended: none
  • International duty: none
  • Injury report: OUT: F - Chad Barrett (knee injury); QUESTIONABLE: F - Joao Plata (hip contusion); M - Jordan Allen (right quad strain); D - Justen Glad (knee injury); D - David Horst (knee injury); D - Tony Beltran (back injury)
  • Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Nick Rimando – Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund, Chris Schuler, Demar Phillips – Kyle Beckerman, Sunday Stephen – Brooks Lennon, Albert Rusnak, Sebastian Saucedo – Yura Movsisyan

Note: Rimando returns from international duty with the US, while Rusnak returns from Slovakia... Real Salt Lake’s 0-0 draw at New York Red Bulls snapped a six-game road losing streak, though they have now failed to score in four of their last seven road games.

All-Time Series

This is the first meeting between the two teams.

Officials

  • REF: ARMANDO VILLARREAL
  • AR1: Jeremy Hanson
  • AR2: Richard Gamache
  • 4TH: Daniel Radford