The latest American soccer cathedral will make its Major League Soccer debut Saturday night.
From all of the pictures and videos posted on social media, Minnesota’s Allianz Field looks like one of the best stadiums ever seen in MLS.
This Saturday #MNUFC opens @allianzfield. $250 million & 19,400 seats. The Beer Hall has 96 taps…and the stadium glows. The #Loons finally have their nest. That's 14 new soccer-specific stadia in @MLS since 2005. 🇺🇸⚽️ pic.twitter.com/RGazQFhF6O
— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) April 11, 2019
— Ian Thomas (@byIanThomas) April 12, 2019
After two years at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota United has a permanent home, which the Loons will immediately try to make a fortress.
Unlike the past two years, real promise has been displayed by the Loons in the opening weeks of the regular season, especially on the road.
After capturing four road wins in their first two years of MLS existence, the Loons reeled off three victories on their travels, including Week 6’s triumph over the New York Red Bulls.
Now the Loons have an opportunity to enjoy the spoils of their new home stadium, no matter how cold it will be Saturday for the match against New York City FC.
Adrian Heath’s Minnesota side has a chance to instill itself as one of the top seven teams in the Western Conference — if it produces results at home, where it plays four of its next five games.
New York City FC may be the weakest of the first four opponents to come to Allianz Field, with the LA Galaxy, D.C. United and Seattle Sounders ahead on the docket.
But the Loons aren’t the only team to celebrate a home opener in Week 7. The Montreal Impact are back at Stade Saputo on Saturday to face the Columbus Crew after a six-game road trip to start the season. Remi Garde’s team hasn’t received much national attention, but it deserves plenty of credit for entering Week 7 with a 2-2-2 mark that includes a scoreless draw at Audi Field on Tuesday.
What is even more impressive about the Impact is they rebounded from the 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Sporting Kansas City to record back-to-back clean sheets and earned those results without Ignacio Piatti in the lineup.
Unlike the Loons, the Impact still have a handful of road games in the near future, with four road contests in the next six games after Saturday’s home opener.
The key stretch for the Impact to assert themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference will come in June and July, when they play six of their eight games in Quebec.
While the home openers are the marquee events on the Week 7 schedule, there are plenty of intriguing battles ahead on Saturday and Sunday, including a renewal of one of the league’s top recent rivalries.
Week 7 Schedule
Friday, April 12
Vancouver Whitecaps at Chicago Fire (8:30 p.m. ET, TSN 1/3/4, ESPN+)
Saturday, April 13
Columbus Crew at Montreal Impact (1 p.m. ET, TVASport, ESPN+)
San Jose Earthquakes at Houston Dynamo (3 p.m. ET, Univision)
Toronto FC at Seattle Sounders (4 p.m. ET, TSN2, ESPN+)
New York City FC at Minnesota United (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Atlanta United at New England Revolution (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Portland Timbers at FC Dallas (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Orlando City at Real Salt Lake (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
D.C. United at Colorado Rapids (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Philadelphia Union at LA Galaxy (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
FC Cincinnati at Los Angeles FC (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Sunday, April 14
New York Red Bulls at Sporting Kansas City (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
Player to Watch
Romario Ibarra, M, Minnesota United
Expect Minnesota United to be playing with an extra dose of confidence and motivation in front of its boisterous supporters at Allianz Field.
Romario Ibarra is one of the many talented attackers who should benefit from the increase in scoring opportunities on home soil.
As a second-half substitute at Red Bull Arena in Week 6, Ibarra produced one of the two Loons goals.
In each of his three starts, the 24-year-old has attempted three shots, and he’s placed six of his 10 attempted shots on target in 2019.
With the Loons inspired to open Allianz Field with a victory and New York City FC struggling to produce a string of positive results, Ibarra and the rest of the Loons attackers should have a field day in the final third.
Matchup to Watch
Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders vs. Marky Delgado, Toronto FC
Cristian Roldan and Marky Delgado aren’t the first players you point out when breaking down the Seattle and Toronto FC rosters, but they are two of the most important players who will step on the field at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon.
Roldan and Delgado are both versatile midfielders who have performed well enough in a variety of roles to earn U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups in the last 12 months.
While Nicolas Lodeiro and Alejandro Pozuelo will take up most of the midfield spotlight, Roldan and Delgado will be busy doing all the dirty work in the middle of the field.
Both players can play centrally, or out on the flanks, and are trusted by their respective managers to be difference-makers turning defense into attacking chances.
If the Sounders or TFC break down the field in transition over 90 minutes, it is likely one of these two players played a role in kick starting the surge forward.
Fantasy Player to Watch
Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo
This section has turned into more of a jinx that a predictor of what will actually occur through the first six weeks of the season. Hopefully that changes by suggesting Alberth Elis to achieve plenty of success in front of goal for the Houston Dynamo against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Honduran forward is coming off a bye week, so he should be more than rested to follow up on two dominant performances against Colorado and Vancouver.
Although San Jose is coming off a 3-0 win at home over struggling Portland, the Quakes have still given up 14 goals in five matches and haven’t been tested much on the road.
Elis’ ability to break down the flanks with his pace and find the back of the net will cause all sorts of trouble for aq Quakes back line that has to deal with Elis, Memo Rodriguez, Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas.