{{US-PD}}

News

Match Preview: Minnesota United FC vs. FC Dallas

by on 22 September 2017

Minnesota stunned fans twice against Montreal. The first stunner came when the club trotted out a lineup that essentially mirrored what objective reality suggested they should have — with strugglers sitting on the bench and just about the best available 11 players starting. The second stunner came when it worked. Despite an embarrassing opening 15 minutes, the Loons rallied back twice and then earned the win on a Goal of the Week nominee from Abu Danladi. Minnesota has earned two recent road wins against teams down on their luck. What good fortune: there are few teams as down on their luck as FC Dallas.

Recent form

Minnesota W L D W L +2
GD
1.40
PPG
Dallas D L D L D -4
GD
0.60
PPG

Previous meetings

This season’s previous match between Dallas and Minnesota is perhaps most notable for being the first match for then-new signings Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. The duo was brought in from Colorado to shore up a team that was on a staggeringly poor defensive pace, and their impact was felt. Though the Loons fell 2-0, Minnesota turned a tough first half into solid possession and build up in the second half, and was only kept off the score sheet by a team-of-the-week performance from young Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.

Officials

Referee Alex Chilowicz
Assistant Mike Rottersman
Assistant Jeremy Hanson
Fourth Kevin Stott
VAR Katya Koroleva

Alex Chilowicz will be making his second-ever MLS assignment on Saturday. His only other appearance was the Colorado-D.C. United match in August. He has spent more time working in NASL and USL this year, appearing as head referee nine times and fourth official many more. In those 10 combined appearances across various tiers of North American soccer, has given four red cards total. Two of those games ran to seven yellow cards. It is challenging to draw conclusions from a small sample size, but players on each side may be willing to challenge the young referee and it will be on Chilowicz to control the match.

Roster report

Minnesota United
M Bernardo Añor (hamstring injury) – Out
D Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles) – Out
M Sam Cronin (head injury) – Out
D Jermaine Taylor (head injury) – Out

FC Dallas
D Matt Hedges (yellow card accumulation) – Out

Tactical outlook

Dallas’ recent form guide doesn’t do their slide justice. This is a club that began the year as one of the best teams in MLS, had a skid in May before returning to form in June, and then fell right off the planet. FC Dallas is winless in nine games, dating back to July 22. The team that once seemed poised to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield is now on the outside looking in on the playoff race.

The reasons for its poor performance can be tough to pin down exactly. There isn’t a silver bullet statistic that reveals what has happened. But the diagnosis has to start in the offense. In its current nine game winless streak, Dallas has scored more than one goal only twice and has been shut out five of those nine games. Players the team was relying on to carry the scoring load have not stepped up. Cristian Colmán is using up an international and Designated Player slot to be a super sub who has only scored twice this year. Michael Barrios has assisted on 13 goals but has only netted twice. Kellyn Acosta’s USMNT attention belies the fact that he is off his 2016 pace in almost every category except shots taken; he is doing less with more.

On Minnesota’s side, the exhilarating win against Montreal also covers up the fact that the Loons can’t expect to win too many games with that recipe. Another goal allowed in the first 10 minutes and another costly mental error that resulted in a penalty that, if it had been converted, would likely have been a death knell. Seeing Collin Martin getting time as a No. 6 was the right experiment to make late in a lost season, but the experiment was not a success. Martin took a while to settle into the game and is not the destroyer this team needs. Miguel Ibarra was also the right experiment to deploy, but he did not make the most of his opportunity.

So knowing where Dallas stands and what opportunities Minnesota still suffers from, how should they approach this game? First, Maxi Urruti and Michael Barrios have been about the only two consistent bright spots for the team this year and man marking them from start to finish is key. Shut them down, and the team forces Dallas’ other men to step up in ways the simply haven’t this year. Next, Minnesota needs to double down on its own strengths. Ibson needs to continue to play in a more advanced position as he did against Montreal, when he had arguably his best game in MLS. If Ibarra plays, he needs to be cut loose, allowed to roam, and to make direct runs at the defense either to get on the end of a through-ball or just to make defensive players make a tough decision quickly on positioning.

Finally, the Kevin-Molino-is-a-No.-10 fairy tale needs to be over. It can be easy to forget how effective Molino could be when deployed as a right winger with the freedom to wander a bit, come centrally to facilitate some playmaking, and use Jérôme Thiesson’s runs up the right side to create greater width. But injuries and other poor performers created the need to duct tape other holes on the pitch. Molino has not been allowed to return to his home since. The tough question becomes how to put Molino, Ethan Finlay, and Ibarra all on the pitch at the same time in a position that suits their individual strengths. It may not be possible without sacrificing a defensive midfielder or attacking midfielder and radically changing the formation.

Minnesota does not have the talent or depth to adjust its tactics based on each week’s opponent. Rather, it just needs to do what it does best. Play quickly and directly. Don’t try to outfox the other team with plodding possession. Don’t rely on crosses from out wide; Minnesota cannot reliably hit crosses accurately, and is even less likely to win balls in the air. The club is playing at home against a team on its heels. There is no reason the Loons can’t be successful playing its own game this week.

How will it play out?

FC Dallas will have the bulk of possession so long as the score is roughly level. Minnesota should start with the same lineup it did against Montreal, save the addition of Francisco Calvo and whoever is starting at defensive midfielder this week. Those players should be good enough to give the Loons plenty of chances.

Dallas will win if…

Minnesota still has only won once this year when conceding the first goal. If Dallas can play on the front foot and get finishing from its key team members, this is a very winnable game on the road to help right their season.

Minnesota will win if…

Just play to the strengths the team has. The preferred lineup of the club is actually surprisingly competent. It just needs the coaching to put its best feet forward and to avoid the empty-headed mistakes that often give it a mountain to climb from the early minutes.


FiftyFive.One is now on Patreon. Do you like the independent coverage of soccer news from Minnesota and beyond that FiftyFive.One offers? Please consider becoming a patron.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • nomadic loon

    What an awesome TORO photo!… and fine preview. And now the history brief:
    Lamar Hunt started the Dallas Tornado in 1967 in the United Soccer Association, which merged into the new NASL a year later. They were the longest surving franchise in the NASL (in the same city) going 14 years from 1968-1981, and won the NASL Championship in 1971. The Kicks had an 9-7 record against the Tornado, which included two playoff losses in 1980. One of the strangest games was a 2-1 win in July, 1977. In that game, Dallas scored all three goals!!! That’s right – two own goal gifts to the Kicks. The smallest attendance was 3,084 fans at Texas Stadium in 1981 (Kicks won 2-1 with Ron Futcher scoring both Minnesota goals). The largest attendance was 36,057 fans at Met Stadium 7 May 1978 (Kicks won 2-1 with Tim Twellman and Ace Ntsoelengoe getting the Kicks’ goals; Kyle Rote Jr for Tornado).
    Indoors, the Strikers had a good rivalry against the Sidekicks, who never played outdoors.
    In 1994 the Dallas Rockets and Dallas-Fort Worth Toros were in the same USISL league as the Thunder but never played each other. Two years later, Dallas Burn entered MLS. They played (and beat) the Thunder in a US Open Cup game in 2000 at NSC in front of 3,110. Was this the first MLS team at NSC?
    Now the Burn is known as FC Dallas. USOC champs in 1997 and 2016, the same year they took the Supporter Shield coming close to trifecta.
    The Loons lost in April, so that makes our all-time record against Dallas an even 9-9. Go Loons!

  • Troy Kadlec

    The Ibarra experiment really isn’t an experiment. Ibarra has many starts and underperformed in most. I think he can be an effective sub, but he’s not been effective as a starter. I far prefer Nicholson in that role as he can actually take on defenders with things other than a straight line run. Nicholson also has a much better touch and seems to be gelling with the other players well.

    It’s not how you get your preferred winger fleet on the field. It’s how you get Danladi and Ramirez on the field with any selection of players behind them that won’t give up goals. I know the preference is a 4-2-3-1, but I think the Loons should be thinking 3-5-2. Your outside wingers need to play up and down the field and you will use at least one of your subs to spell one of them. Keep a defensive back sub in your pocket and someone to spell the defensive mid. Even if you stick with a 4-2-3-1, put either Danladi or Ramirez in the middle and bring Ibson up to distribute. (I’d suggest a 4-4-2, but that’s been a disaster every time we’ve tried it.)

    I’d love to see this (I won’t, but I can dream).

    Ramirez – Danladi
    Nicholson – Ibson – Warner – Molino – Finlay
    Calvo – Boxall – Theisson

    Shuttleworth

    I expect to see this:

    Ramirez
    Nicholson – Molino – Finlay
    Ibson – Warner
    Burch – Calvo – Boxall – Theisson
    Shuttleworth