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Football v Futbol in Sporting KC v Minnesota United Pitch Pit

French center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla feature at Allianz Field.

SOCCER: JUN 19 MLS - Minnesota United at New England Revolution Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In Football or Futbol, classic battles often pitch strikers versus center backs. Who can wrong foot whom? Who can throw whom off-balance? Who can intimidate whom? Who can lead his side to victory in this all-important battle?

When Sporting Kansas City kicks off at Minnesota United’s Allianz Field at 7:08pm on ESPN tonight, two like-sized MLS imports critical to their side’s success will go head-to-head: Frenchman Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Paraguayan Luis Amarilla.

Pitch Pit is back after a hiatus. As always... a disclaimer: I can’t know who each manager will put in the starting eleven. I’m playing the odds here...


Vitals Ht Wt Age MLS Seas Base Salary
Vitals Ht Wt Age MLS Seas Base Salary
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin 6'2" 181 30 2nd 950,000
Luis Amarilla 6'0" 161 26 2nd 650,000

Wheres and What They Gots

Isimat-Mirin lines up at right center-back in Sporting’s usual 4-3-3. The experienced center back has all the tools of a gifted and talented center back. Tactically, the once PSV Eindhoven mainstay can struggle.

Amarilla is the lone striker in Adrian Heath’s 4-2-3-1 formation. When the Paraguayan international (four appearances) first arrived in MLS, he boldly promised Heath 25 goals in 2020. Confidence is a great trait for a striker. Being confident without delivering, not so much. Amarilla finished two in the COVID shortened season.

Telling Stats

Telling Stats Int Duel % KP Pass% xG G g+
Telling Stats Int Duel % KP Pass% xG G g+
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin 14 55.3 6 87.2 0.56 0 -0.16
Luis Amarilla 3 45.2 11 73.7 4.18 5 -1.91

Isimat-Mirin, “Easy”, is 3rd in pass percentage for Sporting and 2nd in duel percentage.

In the attack for Minnesota United, Amarilla has strong competition in #10 Emmanuel Reynoso, midfielder Robin Lod, and fellow forward Franco Fragapane. However, Amarilla leads his squad in goals per 90 minutes.


Defenders often are showered in blame when goals are allowed. And Isimat-Mirin has not been immune. For example, in last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Montreal Impact, the right center back was called out for his role in the Impact’s only goal. I would call it 40-60 in combo with young right back Kayden Pierre.

Last Friday, awarded Amarilla with the highest player rating in a 3-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps. There is much to a strong striker’s game. But production rules the day. Amarilla has three goals and an assist in his last four matches.

Ink Links

Isimat-Mirin needs some ink...

Loons forward Luis Amarilla continues to grind for goals - InForum | Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo news, weather and sports


Minnesota uses width well with wingers getting paint on their shoes, and they push their fullbacks high. Both can result in pulling center backs out of position to help defend the flanks/wider channels. Isimat-Mirin must stay disciplined and help guide his right back and hope for strong support from the midfield. Otherwise, Reynoso and Lod could find Amarilla in dangerous spaces often. Amarilla and Reynoso often occupy the same spaces, or, perhaps more accurately, run from the same spaces, which could mean further confusion for Sporting’s defense.