After a big loss last week to the New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas has to pick its self up off the mat to face Minnesota United. Minnesota comes into the game having won one in there last six games. After losing 2-3 to Colorado last week, Minnesota sit in 9th place in the Western Conference with 16 points total and the second worst goal differential in the league at -10.
Dallas comes into the game with their four game win streak snapped in a 3-0 loss to New York. The Hoops now sit in second in the West with 29 points, a full three points behind SKC and with Los Angeles FC breathing down their necks just two points behind. After the three goals allowed, Dallas is now third in goals allowed with 17 shots hitting the back of the net. Both SKC and NYRB have only allowed 16.
Well…what a week. You’ll forgive me, I hope, with a little indulgence of the past week before moving onto Minnesota. Between the loss to New York and now, FC Dallas has jumpstarted a possible major renovation to their squad. First out with everyone’s favorite Bulgarian, which was shocking enough. Then, out with (almost) everyone’s favorite magician. The loss of Nedyalkov was disappointing, but not too hard since we only had him for less than a half season. The loss of Mauro Diaz will take some time to get over. After a few days to digest, I understand the why and how, but it’s going to take some time to really come to grips with losing one of the best players in MLS.
Ok, Minnesota – where to start? In their now second season, the Loons seem to have not moved the needle forward or backward. Sure, they are no longer the worst defensive team in MLS history, but they aren’t exactly a steel curtain either. Yes, they signed a great player in Darwin Quintero who has definitely aided their attack along with another season from Christian Ramirez and Miguel Ibarra. At first glance, you say to yourself they have no depth. And that’s true, but with a caveat. Injuries have not been kind to Minnesota. One forgets they have Kevin Molino and Ethan Finely, but each are out with ACL injuries. Last year’s first overall pick, Abu Danladi is out injured, as are three defenders, one of which, Jerome Thiesson, is a starter. So yes, depth is an issue, but in an alternate universe, maybe Minnesota has a dangerous attacking side that paper’s over it’s defensive issues, like Houston.
But in this universe, that is not the case. Minnesota plays a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation most of the time looking to the attacking triangle of Ramirez-Ibarra-Quintero to generate almost all the opportunities. They will look to generate most pressure down the wings before cutting or passing to the middle, not so much with crosses, but back to Quintero or Ramirez to finish the attack in the oppositions box. Of course also missing this game will be Miguel Ibarra, serving a red card suspension, so that whole strategy may be out the window. Frankly, it’s hard to know what will be best for FC Dallas, so many missing players for Minnesota, or no clear direction with how to play. Coach Adrien Heath appears to be losing his command on the team, at least according to the fans, so a strict game plan may or may not help.
For Dallas, this game will be the first of the transition. With Ziegler out serving a suspension and no more Anton, we will once again see some combination of Figueroa, Hollingshead, and maybe even Acosta, serving in the back line. A shift to a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 may also be in the cards, depending on Mosquera’s ability to fill the Diaz position, or indeed if Coach Pareja plans on using him there. Rumors about who we may bring in (hello Cyle Larin) don’t help us this week, so expect to see all the usual suspects up front. The question here is if we play with a three or two man midfield. Gruezo plus a combination of Hayes, Ulloa, or Acosta will suffice. I don’t expect a lot of counter attacking against Minnesota, if only because we may very well have the bulk of possession and Minnesota will in fact be worried about a counter attack. The key here will be to create chances through the middle with solid buildup play, and being careful not to let Ramirez or Quintero get out on a counter themselves.
Key Matchup: Urruti vs Boxall
Getting a goal in this game shouldn’t be the issue for FC Dallas, so making sure Maxi keeps chugging along is, in my opinion, a good goal to have. We all know Maxi is streaky, if he was more consistent, he would be one of the best in the league. But as is, he tends to have long empty stretches which can really hurt the offense. Keeping his confidence high against a middling (to be kind) defense will help keep the wheels greased.
1. Mentality Shift - After losing possibly the most technically gifted player in club history and one of the fan favorites, Dallas has set course in a new direction. In selling Mauro Diaz, Dallas has signaled it’s intent to refresh the roster and move into the next era. That begins with players moving forward, excited at the fresh chance to be part of a strong team and making their position more solid in it.
2. Formation Change – Dallas most likely was not going to start Diaz here, even without the transfer rumors. The turf in Minnesota usually gets a few visiting players a spot on the bench to save them from wear and tear. A 4-4-2 is my best guess with Gruezo and Acosta/Hayes in the middle.
3. Forecasting the Future – My hope in this Diaz/Nedyalkov transition is that some of our younger players pick up more minutes. Hopefully this game offers us some clues about what our teams future may hold
Changes happen in professional sports, it’s part of life. I expect Dallas to come out with the same hunger as always and look to take three points from the hosts. Final call is 2-0 for the Hoops.