New York City Football Club host Minnesota United at Citi Field on Sunday.
Hi Jeff, how long have you been covering American soccer?
I first got my break in 2015 co-hosting a second-division fan podcast called Two United Fans. From there, I freelanced for outlets like FiftyFive.One, ESPN, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, and MLS's website. I began covering national soccer with The Athletic in 2018, and have since taken an international role as an analyst.
What's been your highlight in that time?
Getting to talk about the game with peers and fans the world over is vital to both enhancing my view of the game and making those crucial human interactions to keep it from getting too stale. Last year's MLS Cup was truly unforgettable with Gareth Bale's late equalizer, and I had the misfortune of covering that bitterly cold World Cup qualifier in Saint Paul from an open-air tent. Fortunately, I've found that the job keeps providing new highlights around every corner. I'm truly, incredibly lucky to do what I do for a living.
How would you evaluate Minnesota's 2023 season so far?
The first 40% of the season felt like the team was stuck in second gear. Since Emanuel Reynoso's return from his family-related absence, however, the team has been far closer to the side which made a run to the 2020 conference final. Paired with Teemu Pukki and Bongi Hlongwane, the team is incredibly dangerous on the break. It still hasn't all come together, as their tenth-place standing suggests. Still, they've finally begun to turn the corner in the Leagues Cup and will be determined to make up ground in a wide-open West.
What are your hopes for the team with the remaining games?
Personally, I just hope everyone has a good time. Fans will undoubtedly expect them to kick it into gear and not just crest the playoff picture, but finish in the top 6 or 7 to avoid the play-in round. From there, they may actually be better equipped to play away from home given their propensity to punish opponents in transition.
What do you think will be the deciding factor in Sunday's game?
Simply, Minnesota's best chance to get a point or three is to keep its defensive resolve and prepare to capitalize on the counter. Reynoso's long distribution has been vital to getting more out of Hlongwane and plays directly into Pukki's strengths. The narrow confines of Citi Field will limit the amount of space Minnesota needs to cover on the break; that said, it'll also give New York City FC less ground to make up when they turn it over. It's still an uphill task for the Loons, but could be set up to nick a goal in a hurry.
For any fans that might be in Minnesota in the near future soon, are there any spots you'd suggest they check out?
Matt's has the original Jucy Lucy (sic), so start there if you want the Twin Cities' hallowed stuffed cheeseburger. Runyon's has the best wings in town. The Stone Arch Bridge makes for a lovely walk with a coffee or a sunset, and there are some great concert venues that pull in most major tours given the cavernous state of the Midwest's metropolitan areas. It isn't all lutefisk and hotdish, I promise.
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