Member of the Pride Motorcycle Club of Dallas - Photo by Elvert Barnes

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Match Preview: Minnesota United FC vs. FC Dallas

by on 29 June 2018

Your best value for a Scotch whisky that is approachable and still refined might be The Glenlivet 18 Speyside scotch, which has sweeter tones of vanilla and honey to balance the wood and spice notes. If you need a more affordable entry-level scotch, you may want to bump down to the 12-year version of Glenfidditch’s comparable single-malt. If you prefer to go ambitious, spring the several hundred for Talisker’s 25-year expression from the island of Skye to get some more of that smoke and peat flavor.

What I’m trying to say is that Minnesota is about to start playing the good teams, with FC Dallas bringing its second-best in the West record to TCF Bank Stadium on a rare Friday night match. Stock up.

Previous meetings

The Loons have actually been far from out of their league against the Hoops over the last year. Minnesota lost 2-0 to Dallas on the road in April of 2017, a result that looks worse than the play on the field. Only the heroics of goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, which landed him on the Team of the Week, kept Minnesota from escaping with their share of points. The Loons exacted revenge later that year with a 4-1 win at home in the midst of Dallas’ record-breaking late season collapse.

Officials

Referee Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Felisha Mariscal
Assistant Gianni Facchini
Fourth Daniel Radford
VAR Jon Freemon

Roster report

Minnesota United
D Marc Burch (left knee) – Out
M Sam Cronin (head) – Out
M Kevin Molino (torn ACL) – Out
M Ethan Finlay (torn ACL) – Out
D Francisco Calvo (international duty) – Out
M Miguel Ibarra (suspended) – Out
GK Matt Lampson (right knee injury) – Out
F Abu Danladi (left leg injury) – Out
D Eric Miller (left hamstring injury) – Questionable
D Jérôme Thiesson (right leg injury) – Questionable

FC Dallas
D Kris Reaves (sports hernia surgery) – Out
F Cristian Colman (high-ankle sprain) – Out
M Santiago Mosquera (left hamstring injury) – Out
D Reto Ziegler (suspended) – Out

Tactical outlook

On paper, this looks like a game Minnesota should be afraid of. The Loons are, once again, under the weight of a midseason injury list that looks like something out of War and Peace in terms of its gruesomeness, extreme length, and ability to make one question the very nature of existence. Minnesota corrodes near the bottom of the Western Conference while Dallas sits in second place and tied for fourth in the Supporter’s Shield race on points per game.

Dallas has allowed the third-fewest goals in MLS while only one team in the league has scored fewer than Minnesota. Adrian Heath’s men must also be feeling some anxiety after two consecutive losses in which the club shouldn’t have had to trudge off the pitch at the end.

But let’s all cancel that trip to the rope store for now. While Minnesota was surrendering a game it should have won against Colorado, Dallas was running away with the “it is inexplicable that we managed to give that one away” award, losing 3-0 to the Red Bulls despite being up a man for a full hour. The Hoops have now been unconvincing in a couple straight games and are often prone to a summer swoon. Couple that with Minnesota’s respectable 4-2-1 home record, and there are plenty of reasons to still show up for Friday’s Pride Night bout.

I will spare everyone a word-for-word rehashing of my insistence last week that Minnesota play with its wingers more centrally and instead suggest it showed results against Colorado. Minnesota’s second goal was a great example: a good pass finds Miguel Ibarra cutting in toward the box rather than out toward the touch line. Most other weeks Ibarra would be running unmarked down the flank, taking in a diagonal ball but left with little to do but cross it; against Colorado, he takes it into the box and has an easy layoff to Christian Ramirez to regain the lead.

The first goal was less an example than the second, but it still had Darwin Quintero getting on the end of a pass and deciding to make the aggressive move to cut in toward the goal rather than the much safer route out to the sideline and away from his marker. More centrally located play reduces Minnesota’s reliance on crosses (which they are relatively poor with), creates shorter passes for better creative buildup, and makes it easier to find the gaps between defenders.

If someone offered you two goals scored every game for the rest of the season, you probably should take it. But if the Loons continue to run a defensive sieve, it would be for naught. Both of Minnesota’s goals allowed against Colorado from open play can be chalked up as much to a lack of midfield pressure as to any specific defender error.

Sure, it stinks that Brent Kallman slips and lets his mark past him on the Rapids’ second goal, but that says little about the Colorado center back who dribbled thirty yards unimpeded up the middle of the field before passing to an advanced midfielder who similarly, left with enough space to open a new Amazon headquarters, was able to advance the ball with a simple pass. Ibson at least tries to close down, but the coverage needs to be closer, and the man on the ball needs to be harried.

What’s the use in just rehashing the Colorado game to preview the Dallas game? Because it would be wise not to throw the baby out with the bathwater after a tough loss to the Rapids. Offensively there were some things that were working well.

Even defensively, there were many more instances of the Loons closing things down fairly quickly and winning the ball back after they lost it. Minnesota’s players should feel good about plenty of what happened. If the club did the same work against Dallas on Friday, it could stand a very good chance of leaving with points.

But the individual moments of mistakes are punished so consistently and thoroughly. There aren’t any white-knuckle, “that-was-close” moments for Minnesota. There is only the wake of a deluge of goals that increasingly feel inevitable. One key tactical move would be to have a consistent, defensively minded defensive midfielder on the field at all times.

That second goal against Colorado probably doesn’t happen if there is a deeper lying midfielder cleaning up messes, but instead all three central midfielders for the Loons are in basically the same place at the same time. If that player is Maximiano, play him. If it’s Warner, play him and tell him to stay at home.

If the team doesn’t have a player talented enough to do it, sign one. The club needs a master fixer to bail things out. If only the punishment for mistakes weren’t so severe, so often, the standings might start to look more like the play on the field.

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