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FC Dallas vs Minnesota United: Preview and Scouting Report

Minnesota looks for their second road win of the season.

MLS: FC Dallas at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Talk of another FC Dallas summer swoon just won’t go away as Dallas has now lost two straight MLS games for the first time all season. The Hoops like to put things right against Minnesota this week as the Loons come to Texas.

Minnesota sits on 29 points, good for 9th overall in the Western Conference. They are coming off a poor three-game stretch of two losses and a draw and will be hoping for a better result than last time Dallas was in town when they lost 1-0.

A new look side saw Dallas fall to Seattle 2-1 this past Sunday. Dallas is still first in the West with 42 points, but the gap continues to narrow as both Sporting KC and LAFC are now just three points behind. On top of that, LA Galaxy and Portland or only five points behind, each with 37 points. Rounding out the final playoff spot is Real Salt Lake with 35 points.

Formation: 3-5-2

After losing to Dallas at the end of June, Minnesota went on a nice little run, winning 4 of their next five matches, including an epic beatdown of LAFC. In all those wins however, none came with a clean sheet. In fact, Minnesota has only two clean sheets in all of their MLS games this season. Now keep that in mind while also taking note that the Loons will be without their captain and defenseman Francisco Calvo and starting midfielder Collen Warner (due a double yellow and card accumulation, respectively) and well…there shouldn’t be a clean sheet this game either. However, another change since the Dallas game has seen Minnesota further solidify, sort of, around a new formation. Coach Adrian Heath had been using the standard 4-2-3-1 seen around the world for most of his time in Minnesota, with a 4-4-2 diamond thrown in for good measure on occasion. But the switch in formation was a catalyst of sorts for improved fortunes. Sister site E Pluribus Loonum has a great break down of the changes here, but I would sum it up as this – tremendous offensive efficiency and production paired with greater defensive stability. Due to packing the middle and conceding possession in places where teams can’t hurt them, the defensive statistics show greater stability. I suspect that part is more likely to stick mainly because Minnesota’s offensive production is unsustainable at some of its numbers during their winning streak.

But a look at how they now attack is also instructive in understanding what impact the formation change has had on the offense has created those numbers. Moving Darwin Quintero further up the field has allowed him greater influence in possession of the ball. Working with Christian Ramirez (now with LAFC) and new DP Angelo Rodriguez, Quintero now gets on the ball and attacks on the move. This has allowed him to get the ball into more dangerous areas more easily and set up better shots for himself and his teammates. More shots on target coupled with better looks at goal and ba-da-bing ba-da-boom – more goals, more wins.

Turning to Dallas now, I have a few things I want to see changed from the Seattle game that should have an impact on how this game plays out. First, I had a big long paragraph dedicated to Maxi and his performance last game, but I’m already wordy enough so I cut it. To summarize, Maxi’s pressing and work rate at wonderful – and entirely wasted as a number ten. It’s just not a good position for him to occupy for the team to have an effective attack. The good news is Pablo Aranguiz, the “Little Prince,” looks like Mauro 2.0. He has the stellar technique, the creative eye for the pass, and superb ball control plus(!) his work rate looked impressive on both offense and defense. He popped up all over the field in his brief substitute appearance and made some remarkable plays. I’m trying to not go overboard here, but if that sub appearance is what we can expect for 75+ minutes a game moving forward, we will be changing his name to “Little King” in no time.

Key Matchup: Matt Hedges & Co. vs Darwin Quintero

Once again, containing Darwin Quintero is the ultimate key in slowing down Minnesota. Of course, his move up the field has made that even harder as he now gets the ball closer to goal and is making plays left, right, and center. His new partner in crime Rodriguez is also getting rave reviews and the pair will make it a tough night on whoever is lined up next to Hedges this week.

Three Keys:

1. Aranguiz Time- I don’t know if he will start, or what formation Coach Pareja will play, but getting this guy on the field for a longer amount of time should be paramount. He played multiple passes in the attacking third that were just beautiful and if he gets more time on the field, he is going to get on the stat sheet very quickly.

2. Badji/Maxi Redo – Again, I don’t think Maxi playing below Badji is the ultimate plan for these two and with our new No. 10, I don’t think it was the FOs or Coach’s plan either. Sure, Badji got on the score sheet, but I think their partnership has miles more to offer this team.

3. New/Old formation – Also again, with a new No. 10, will we see Pareja switch back to a 4-2-3-1 with Aranguiz in the middle? That leaves Maxi or Badji out of the starting XI or moves one of them to a wing. My secret desire is to see a narrow diamond in the midfield to allow both forwards time together along with our new playmaker. It also probably forces off Lamah or Barrios, which may or may not be a bad thing.

No matter how improved you believe Minnesota is or is not, this is not a game Dallas has any business coming away with less than a point, probably even three. I don’t buy the summer swoon narrative, but it will be even more annoying and depressing if we somehow manage to lose. Dallas needs to fix somethings here and integrate some new players there, but this should be a game to help solve those things and get a result. Last time we played Minnesota I proclaimed an easy win and then the Hoops only just scraped by with a 1-0 stinker. This time I expect a…tougher…2-0 win, if that makes you feel any better.