Union set to kick-off US Open Cup Run at Minnesota United on Tuesday night

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Just one week after Philadelphia Union saw their hopes of advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League Finals come crashing to the ground, the blue and gold will kick off in another tournament Tuesday as they continue their pursuit to add silverware to Subaru Park’s trophy cabinet.  Although a quick turnaround, Union will be coming off the back of a 1-0 road win against regional rivals New York Red Bulls on Saturday night which fans hope will give their team a spark heading into the US Open Cup on Tuesday night where they’ll take on MLS side Minnesota United.

The US Open Cup is getting down to the nitty-gritty. 32 teams left, and only 8 of those teams are from leagues outside of MLS, and with most teams not having the depth to put out their best squad for a midweek matchup without sacrificing their play in MLS, Union fans might look at US Open Cup and the congested schedule as an opportunity for Jim Curtin to prove his trust and utilize in the depth of the entire squad like he’s been so vocal about this season.  Union’s first hurdle on the road to lifting the US Open Cup is Minnesota United. 

The draw that determines the matchups in the Open Cup is supposed to be based on locality, though not promised, which is showcased perfectly by Union somehow having drawn Orlando City and Minnesota United on the road in their last two Cup appearances.  Nonetheless, the 1,300+ mile trip for the U might actually work out from a logistical standpoint, as they have to continue West to take on Colorado Rapids on Saturday night.  

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

2023 MLS Season

Minnesota United, currently sitting in 8th place in the West, has had quite a bizarre start to the 2023 season when you really take a look at things.  First and foremost, their star playmaker and MVP candidate Emanuel Reynoso failed to show up for pre-season with little to no communication with the club.  That ‘s surely taken a toll on things in Minnesota, especially in the attacking department, as they currently sit in the bottom half of the league in a majority of attacking statistics. 

While Minnesota did beat USL’s Detroit City in their first matchup of the US Open Cup, the Loons’ form recently has been pretty bad otherwise in MLS play.  Just 1 point in their last 5 games, with a 0-0 draw against Dallas FC, and a loss in the other 4 matches.  What was probably most surprising to me about Minnesota United’s 2023 season so far, was the fact that all 3 of their wins have come on the road.  Though they do have 3 draws at home, Minnesota is still looking for their first win at Allianz Field this season. 

As I said previously, Minnesota is struggling to put the ball in the net without Reynoso. 3 players share the team high in goals this season with Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Mender Garcia, and Luis Amarilla having 2 a piece.  Minnesota only has one player with more than a single assist, and that’s Robin Lod coming in with 2. 

The Loons are pretty low in total shots taken, shots on target, shots per 90 minutes, and pretty much every other attacking metric.  The one place I noticed Minnesota might be a bit of a threat, is that they are tied for 3rd best in MLS in shots created from free kicks.  The Union will have to be on their A-Game defending set pieces.  

Defensively speaking, Minnesota actually isn’t too bad.  They’re tied for 4th best in the MLS in Goals Allowed with just 11 conceded across 10 matches played, and are 3rd best in the league in shots allowed, with only Red Bulls and Philadelphia being better in that category.  They rank pretty low in Total saves because of the low shots-allowed total, and subsequently have a low Save % as well at just 64.5%, 3rd lowest in the league. 

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union


While Reynoso has finally returned to Minnesota, he’s still working on getting re-integrated with the team and isn’t ready to go yet.  And because of the continued absence of Emanuel Reynoso, it’s hard to pick a game-changer in this Minnesota team currently, but I think I’ve got to go with Bongokuhle Hlongwane.  Hlongwane has been one of the bright spots for Minnesota this year, being one of the 3 players that have scored 2 goals, and he leads the team in total shots, shots on target, shots on target %, Shots on target per 90 minutes, Expected Goals, and non-penalty expected goals. 

He ranks highly in progressive passes, passes into the penalty area, Expected Assists, and expected assisted goals.  Hlongwane didn’t play a full 90 over the weekend, and I’d expect that’s in preparation for him getting the start against Union on Tuesday night. 

For the Union, I think the X-factor is also going to be someone on the attacking side of things.  Minnesota’s strong point isn’t in the attack right now, and their defense is what’s keeping them afloat in MLS play, so breaking down that defense on the road is going to be the key to Union’s success in this game, in my opinion.  Someone who’s a regular starter but saw some rotation on the weekend which I assume is to prepare for Tuesday’s Open Cup game is DP forward Mikael Uhre. 

Mikael Uhre hasn’t quite got off to the start he was hoping to this season, but neither has Union as a whole.  Things have started to pick up for Mikael however, bagging a hat-trick against Toronto and having a number of good looks against LAFC.  Mikael should be ready to go for the weekend and hopefully, the rest will allow him to stretch the Minnesota backline with those runs behind and balls being played in from deep. 

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union


Jim Curtin received a lot of criticism after Union lost to LAFC by an aggregate score of 4-1 in the Champions League semi-finals for not using the team’s depth as promised.  But Curtin was quick to promise that would change, and we did see a bit of rotation on Saturday at Red Bulls with Quinn Sullivan, Damion Lowe, and Nate Harriel entering the Starting XI. 

Those changes should allow for Jack Elliot, Mikael Uhre, and Olivier Mbaizo to be fully rested and ready to go on Tuesday against Minnesota, should Curtin see those as the right group of players to throw out. 

Curtin also said in his press conference directly after the Red Bulls match that Jesus Beuno’s positive cameo would earn him a start against Minnesota United on Tuesday.  If I had to guess, I’d say Union is going to line up in their favorite Diamond Formation, With Uhre and Donovan up top, Gazdag at the 10, McGlynn and Perea as the shuttlers, Bueno stepping in for an Injured Martinez, and a backline that consists of Matt Real, Elliot, Damion Lowe, and Mbaizo, but I could be totally off on a fair few of those. 

Minnesota has struggled at home, and Union is coming off a positive performance at Red Bulls, so I’m leaning towards Union pulling out the Win in this one and advancing onto the next round of the US Open Cup.  I’ll say Union goes on to win 1-0 with Mikael Uhre being the goal scorer.  Don’t miss Union in the US Open Cup on Tuesday at 8:30 pm est on Bleacher Report.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union