MLS

​Minnesota United FC v Portland Timbers: 'Proud' Neville hoping to build momentum

By Sports Desk May 18, 2024

Phil Neville is hoping Portland Timbers can build some momentum with back-to-back victories when they take on Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field on Saturday.

The Timbers recovered from two goals down at half-time to beat San Jose Earthquakes 4-2 in their most recent match, snapping a three-game losing run and a nine-match wait for three points.

Portland are now back up to 11th in the Western Conference, but Neville accepts there is plenty to do if his side are to challenge for a play-off spot.

"The spirit in that second half [against San Jose] was bigger than anything I've seen in football, and I've seen an awful lot in football," Neville said. 

"Those supporters willed the team, willed the ball into the back of the net and that’s what makes me proud to be the manager of this football club. We've got a hell of a lot of work to do. It's a big job and one we'll succeed in.”

Minnesota played out a 2-2 draw with LA Galaxy in their most recent match, as they let slip a half-time lead to trail 2-1 before hitting back late on.

The Loons have now won three and drawn one of their past four games and are second in the West after an impressive start to life under head coach Eric Ramsay.

The Welshman was particularly pleased with his side's first-half performance against Galaxy and is hoping for a full-90 performance when Portland visit.

"I think that's the most complete performance that we've had since I've been here," he told reporters. 

"We're really frustrated overall because it's a game you felt we had complete control of at half-time. I just felt we've taken our foot off their neck in the second half."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Minnesota United - Bongokuhle Hlongwane

Hlongwane opened the scoring for Minnesota in the four-goal draw with Galaxy and enjoys playing against next opponents Portland.

Indeed, the South Africa international has scored in his first three MLS matches against the Timers - the only player in MLS history to do so.

Portland Timbers - Maxime Crepeau

The Timbers may have defeated San Jose in midweek, but they conceded multiple goals for a ninth straight game, equalling the longest streak in a single season in MLS history.

While it is down to the whole defensive unit to keep the opposition out, goalkeeper Crepeau's save percentage of 62 is the second lowest in MLS this season, behind only St. Louis City SC's Roman Burki (61.9 per cent) 

MATCH PREDICTION: MINNESOTA UNITED WIN

Minnesota have won eight of their 13 regular-season meetings with the Timbers, averaging exactly two points per match in those games - the best of any Western Conference team against Portland since United joined MLS in 2017.

The Loons have lost only two of their opening 11 matches this season - never previously have they lost fewer than four games at this stage - and have scored multiple goals in each of their past four outings. 

Portland showed great spirit in fighting back against San Jose - it was the second latest a team has come from two goals down in an MLS match to win by multiple goals - but that is only one of three wins in 13 MLS games this term.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Minnesota United - 48.9%
Draw - 26.6%
Portland Timbers - 24.5%

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    Christian Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike and another assist as the United States opened their Copa America campaign with a 2-0 triumph over Bolivia on Sunday.

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    The Milan forward needed just three minutes to curl in a sublime opener before teeing up Folarin Balogun – who another strike ruled out after the interval – just moments before the break in a one-sided first half.

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    Pulisic was afforded the freedom of midfield yet again, dropping into space before offloading for Balogun to cannon a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner.

    That smart 44th-minute finish marked Balogun's first-ever goal at this tournament and the Monaco striker found the back of the net for a second time after the interval, only for his celebrations to be cut short.

    His routine tap-in from inside the six-yard area was ruled out for offside as Weah had rushed forward to capitalise on Weston McKennie's pass before sliding across for his attacking partner.

    Viscarra was equal to Pulisic's effort before the hour as the forward attempt to recreate his early heroics, while substitute Ricardo Pepi prodded wide from Antonee Robinson's pinpoint left-wing delivery.

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    Dan Ndoye had given Switzerland a first-half lead with his maiden international goal to become the nation's second-youngest goalscorer at the Euros (aged 23 years 242 days), but Switzerland could not hold on.

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