After a few weeks away, MLS sides are preparing to resume the season. Like FC Dallas, the guys in gray have taken the opportunity to assess their early struggles and address how to best move forward. While the Loons sit one space ahead of us in the standings with seven points, I think we lost that game just fine on our own. I’m not hoping for revenge against Minnesota United. I’m not nearly as concerned about their line-up as I am about ours. The question is who was most able to use the break to resolve the problems ailing their early-season struggles.
Some quick stats:
Minnesota &&& Dallas
6 Goals Scored 8
11 Goals Allowed 11
84 Key Passes 70
9.54 xGoals For 11.42
9.08 xGoals Against 11
Let’s start with team scoring-leader Robin Lod (who has two goals on the season). He’s currently playing in the Euros for Finland, so a third of Minnesota’s production on the year will not be available for this match. He’s joined for that tournament by Jukka Raitala, who started in central defense for the Dallas match. However, Minnesota has signed well-traveled 28-year-old winger/forward Franco Fragapane from CA Talleres of Argentina as well as a 27-year-old center forward Adrien Hunou from Stade Rennais in French Ligue One. Hunou, who scored four goals in limited minutes in the recent Ligue 1 season, started Minnesota’s last outing and should be expected to start this weekend. There is similarly an expectation that Fragapane will be the long-term solution on the left to the loss of Kevin Molino in the winter window.
In terms of creating chances, Bebelo Reynoso has the keys and he drives the car. No one else on the team comes close to creating as many scoring opportunities (25 key passes) – Romain Metanire is a distant second (11). If Hunou and Fragapane can begin finishing the chances that Reynoso creates, the Loons season could turn around quickly. By the way, Reynoso also leads Minnesota in shots attempted (tied for second on the team with one goal). Does anyone know if Facundo Quignon is available for this match for Dallas? Reynoso should clearly be a marked man.
If you’re like me (and if you’re reading this blog, we’ve got similarities), then perhaps you’ve been holding on to the expected goals statistic for the last few weeks. Dallas has been creating chances – we’re just not finishing them. This is similarly (and perhaps more dramatically) true for the Loons. Minnesota was a preseason pick to finish top three in the West. The stats say they aren’t as bad as their record suggests.
To make it worse, the expected goals against them suggest that Minnesota’s defense has been better than the eleven goals they’ve allowed. The stats for Tyler Miller suggest that he has been a difference-maker for them in goal while Dallas’ keepers have been injured and their defense of the net limited. Of course, if Dallas can find a solution to the penalties allowed, then our defense looks dramatically better, too. But both teams surely look at his match as an opportunity to put a struggling rival to the sword and claim three points.
Keys to the Match:
1) How well do the new acquisitions meld with the existing team and the league as a whole? There’s only one six-minute preview of Hunou available to review, and Fragapane has yet to debut. Hopes are high in the north that these two players will solve much of Minnesota’s offensive woes, but there is always the concern that players will struggle to acclimate to the league.
2) Speaking of acclimation. Have you stepped outside? When I try to explain to my northern friends what summer in Texas is like, I suggest turning on the oven... and then leaning in. I will be working out early in the morning to avoid the day’s heat. How well the Loons and their imports respond to the weather (assuming Dallas has adjusted to the end of the monsoon season and the start of the scorch trials) could have a dramatic effect on the final scoreline. When the hydration break comes, sip – don’t gulp.
3) Jesus Ferreira. I’m not expecting him to start (though I am hoping to see Paxton from the opening whistle), but I hope to see 20 minutes. And I hope that in those minutes he shows what he did in the preseason and scores goals. Much of the discussion that I have heard regarding Dallas in the last three weeks has focused on the solid play of Ricaurte and Acosta and the chances they have created. If Ferreira (and Pomykal [and maybe Pepi?]) can make use of those chances-created, Dallas has a good chance in this match.
Franco Fragapane– Jan Gregus – Emmanuel Reynoso
Hassani Dotson – Will Trapp
Chase Gaspar – Bakaye Dibassy – Michael Boxall – Romain Metanire
Let me know what you think.