For whatever has ailed Minnesota United over past two seasons, FC Cincinnati has provided timely medicine.
When the Loons were struggling to score goals in MLS play in June 2019, they overwhelmed the expansion franchise with a 7-1 rout at Allianz Field. Songs celebrating goals made it seem like a continual playlist was airing that day in St. Paul.
When United was treading water in a four-game winless streak in September, they felt better about themselves after dispatching Cincinnati 2-0 to start October. Minnesota got goals from Kei Kamara and Kevin Molino.
Now, Minnesota is middling again — two draws and two coronavirus postponements in their past four schedule games — going into another game with Cincinnati at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Needing a boost in the Western Conference standing, the Loons hope the struggling second-year club will be a tonic — and they’re guarding against it being a placebo.
Cincinnati, the 13th-place team in the 14-team Eastern Conference, beat third-place Columbus 2-1 on Oct. 14, days after a hard-fought 1-0 loss to first-place Toronto FC and days before a humbling 2-1 loss to last-place D.C. United on Wednesday.
“We took our opportunities when they come, which is always vital,” United coach Adrian Heath said of playing Cincinnati. “I’ve watched their … last three games. Against Columbus, where they won, is never easy to do. They had a penalty appeal (against Toronto) turned down, which was virtually last kick of the game … and it was a last-minute goal in the week against D.C.”
The fifth-place Loons need at least a point out of Saturday’s game in Cincinnati, considering fourth-place Los Angeles FC on the verge of getting 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela back from injury, and FC Dallas and San Jose are sitting on the same number of points as Minnesota (24) but behind the Loons on goal differential.
The Loons could get standout central attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso back from his COVID-19 illness, but the Argentine playmaker has not trained with the club while in quarantine, so a role off the bench might be more likely with a home game against Colorado coming Wednesday.