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In the new Apertura season of Liga MX, Toluca may have gotten off to a shaky start, but they have played with nothing but conviction in the 2023 Leagues Cup. The club is scoring goals for fun and has enjoyed playing against the American sides.
In the group stage, Toluca nabbed two wins over MLS sides Nashville SC and Colorado Rapids. After confirming qualification for the knockouts, the Mexican outfit breezed past Sporting Kansas City in the Round of 32 clash. Now, they are aiming for a fourth straight win over an MLS side to inch closer to another trophy.
The Leagues Cup campaign started extremely well for Minnesota United as they thumped Liga MX side Puebla 4-0 in their first fixture of the competition. However, they failed to build on it and lost the next game 3-2 against Chicago Fire FC. Since Puebla lost both their group-stage games, Minnesota United advanced to the knockout phase, where they were pitted against Columbus Crew. After an invigorating 3-3 draw in regulation time, Minnesota United kept calm in the penalty shootout and clinched a crucial win.
While the odds are backing the MLS outfit in this fixture, the current form backs the Liga MX giants. Minnesota United’s performances this season have been quite inconsistent. Meanwhile, Toluca are one of the deadliest sides in front of goal in this year’s edition of the Leagues Cup.
The game will be played in Minnesota United’s backyard, but the club is unlikely to capitalize on that, as Toluca may turn out to be too hot to handle for the American side.
These two clubs have never faced each other in a competitive fixture in the past. The maiden meeting between the two strong sides is expected to be a high-octane clash as a precious quarterfinal spot is at stake.
The tournament will get tougher from this stage. The winner of this encounter will take on either Club America or Nashville SC in the quarterfinal. However, the focus will remain on the next step. Both sides are expected to field their strongest lineup in the next game.
Irrespective of the competition, Toluca are always categorized as one of the strongest teams. This season, after a shaky start in the Apertura season, many experts thought that the team would not be able to advance much further in the 2023 Leagues Cup.
The Apertura season for the ten-time Liga MX champions started with a disappointing goalless draw against Necaxa. Toluca bounced back in the second game with a 2-0 win against former Leagues Cup champions Cruz Azul.
But they lost the final Liga MX game before the Leagues Cup against FC Juarez – who were eliminated in the previous round after losing against Los Angeles FC. Since that loss, Toluca have been in scintillating form, showing a lot of resilience and scoring for fun.
Convincing wins in the last couple of games has changed the opinions of the ones who initially thought the Mexican club would not progress much further in the competition. Now, Toluca have established themselves as one of the top favorites to win the 2023 Leagues Cup
In their first game of the 2023 Leagues Cup, Toluca showed true resilience in a seven-goal thriller against Nashville SC. The game ended 4-3 in favor of Toluca, and their opponents finished with ten men after Teal Bunbury’s 86th-minute dismissal.
After a tough and tightly contested encounter, Toluca have been dominant in the last two games. They managed to score four in both matches and ended up losing their clean sheet due to complacency in defense. Still, the Mexican club has now scored 12 goals in three games.
Less than a month ago, Toluca signed Robert Morales from Cerro Porteno to bolster their attack. The gamble seems to have paid off, as the striker is off the mark in the domestic league and the Leagues Cup too.
Concerns were on the rise in the first two Apertura games, where the Paraguayan was ineffective, but he ended the short-term slump with a goal against FC Juarez right before the break. In the Leagues Cup, Morales has nabbed two goals and two assists in three appearances.
After winning seven out of 22 games in the MLS this season, Minnesota United are ranked tenth in the Western Conference table. The last time the club was in the Round of 16 of a competitive club competition, they were thrashed 4-0.
That unfortunate result came against Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup in May this year as another trophy slipped away from Minnesota United. After winning the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 2011, the club has failed to snatch a single piece of silverware.
The Leagues Cup provided a glorious opportunity for Minnesota to end their trophy drought, but the club is not one of the top competitors in the competition. Toluca are in fiery form, and the chances of Minnesota United shielding each attack are very low.
In the attacking department, the American club may not be facing any concerns, but the defensive woes continue to bother the side that has managed just two shutouts in the past ten games across all competitions.
Minnesota United are still trying to cope without two important players on the pitch. Robin Log was ruled out for at least four months due to a Meniscus injury in May this year. The defensive midfielder has been a solid anchor for the club this year, and Minnesota United will be eager to get him back.
Another major absentee is Franco Fragapane, who suffered a thigh injury towards the end of June. The 30-year-old only made 17 appearances in the domestic league this season and provided one assist. He is expected to be back in the squad in just a few weeks.
Despite being inconsistent in recent games, Minnesota United’s striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane has been in fine form in the 2023 Leagues Cup. In the domestic league, the South African has scored six goals and nabbed an assist in 21 appearances.
It has taken the 23-year-old just three Leagues Cup matches to match his MLS goal tally. Hlongwane has bagged a brace in each of Minnesota United’s last three games and will certainly look for more against Toluca in the next match..
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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