On Thursday night, Orlando City and Minnesota United meet in the second of the MLS is Back semi-finals. Here are three things to watch for.
Just what everybody expected: an Orlando City vs. Minnesota United semi-final. Both teams have navigated their way through the group stage and knockout rounds in interesting fashion. Orlando churned out much more silky play than people are used to, and it seems like Oscar Pareja’s successful return to MLS is finally coming to fruition.
Minnesota, on the other hand, drew three of their five matches, but finally clicked in a 4-1 quarter-final win over the San Jose Earthquakes, proving that they can be a real contender as the MLS is Back Tournament reaches its climax.
Here are three things to watch for when these two sides clash in the second MLS is Back semi-final on Thursday night.
3. The Robin Lod Show
Minnesota United have always lacked that true creative force in their attacking play. There were glimpses with Darwin Quintero and Christian Ramirez. The young DP Thomas Chacon has not made a name for himself yet. Kevin Molino is set to inherit this role but has missed recent matches through injury.
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That gap between midfield and attack has been glaring for some time, with Minnesota relying on set-pieces and fast counter-attacks to create chances. But come 2020 and Finnish international Robin Lod has finally squeezed himself into that role, and he is performing it rather well indeed.
Arriving last year, Lod only made 10 appearances and failed to produce any kind of goal involvement. Through all seven competitive matches Minnesota has played in 2020 though, Lod has four goals and an assist. Those contributions do not tell his whole story. Just by the way he creates space through the middle, the team plays much more confidently.