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Preview | Déjà Vu in Dallas

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Howdy, partners. Your Loons are back on the road for a midweek matchup with …FC Dallas. Didn’t we just play them? Am I looking at this right? I don’t know who made this schedule, but it’s confusing me. Give me enough time to at least sort of forget the last game before we play them again, please. Regardless of the confusion, the Black and Blue are heading to Dallas for their second match against Los Toros in 2024. With four key players away on international duty, several players nursing injuries, and a second road match in just five days, Wednesday’s showdown is going to test the limits of Eric Ramsay’s squad.

Minnesota United (8-4-5)

Run of Form: L-D-W-L-D

The last five games have seen the Loons slow down a tad after their impressive start to the year, earning just five points in that span. A pair of 2-0 road losses to LAFC and Seattle saw MNUFC outclassed in difficult environments, while draws with Colorado and Dallas easily could have been three points apiece. The lone win in the last five was the 3-1 home win over SKC, and while that match was fantastic, the general level from the lads has been affected by a particularly difficult piling up of international call-ups, injuries, and various other reasons for player absences. With a deep squad and plenty of talent waiting in the wings, the Loons have managed to stay afloat through this period, but if they want to keep pace with league leaders and stay in the hunt for a trophy, a win this Wednesday would be huge.

FC Dallas (4-8-5)

Run of Form: W-D-L-L-D

Since the last time we saw these guys, they beat St. Louis 2-0. They’ve now likewise earned five points in their last five, but whereas the Loons form is trending down, Los Toros are hoping that two consecutive results bring about a long-awaited reversal of fortune. It’s been a frustrating year for Dallas, but like we said last time, there is plenty of talent in this squad. If interim head coach Peter Luccin can find a way to carry momentum from their last match into Wednesday’s game at Toyota Stadium, it could be another tight affair between these sides with opposite records.

Keys to the Match:

Positivity, Possession, Purpose

The Loons have demonstrated that they don’t need to keep possession to be dangerous. Over the past several games, however, they have also seen how difficult it can be to win when you let a talented opponent dominate the ball. Regardless of the absences they were dealing with, the match against Seattle should serve as a wake-up call for MNUFC. They need to start connecting purposeful passes, moving off the ball, and making incisive runs to shift the opposition and prolong possession. I’m all for counterattacking, but with key personnel missing and players capable of impressing with the ball at their feet still in the squad, it’s in the Loons’ best interests to slow down, stay positive, and work the ball around a vulnerable Dallas side. This will likely be the toughest stretch of the season for the Loons from an availability standpoint; a change in approach might be the best way to handle it.

Get Numbers Up

Minnesota United struggled to generate much of a tangible threat against the Sounders, and much of that came down to their disjointed movement up the pitch. The originally planned 5-3-2 may have helped with this issue, but the 5-2-3 saw the wingbacks and wingers get in each other’s way, stopping runs before they began. The wingback pairing of Clark and Sang Bin Jeong was talented, and while Clark seemed to grow into the role quite well, neither one seemed entirely comfortable with the nuances of the position just yet. Against Dallas, the Loons need to get numbers up if they want to take advantage of the chances they generate, and that means better movement and communication from the midfielders and wingbacks. A clearer delineation of midfield responsibilities might be what’s needed to make proper movement a bit easier to understand. The return of Joseph Rosales won’t hurt, either. The best teams move forward as one, and while we’ve seen the Black and Blue attack effectively in games past, they need to realign and get everyone on the same page if they want to create any real threats. Dallas’ back three is vulnerable, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t get numbers up top to test it.

Getting Creative

Goals typically come about in one of three ways: one team breaks the other down, a moment of brilliance beats the opposition, or someone gets punished for a mistake. Unfortunately, you can’t plan for mistakes, and, try as you might, some teams are so organized that breaking them down feels all but impossible. Obviously, you have to stick to your guns and test your opposition’s focus until the final whistle, but the players who make the big bucks and turn the most heads are the ones that produce those moments of brilliance when the game is balanced on a knife’s edge. For the Loons, that has been Robin Lod more often than not this season, but it’s unfair to expect that from him every game. Other players need to step up with that extra bit of quality, and after some under-the-radar performances the last few weeks, Franco Fragapane is my pick for a difference-maker in this squad. The Argentinian forward has shown flashes of fantastic footwork, unique vision, and wonderful movement between the lines, and with a few more touches, it seems like just a matter of time before he starts making a real impact. Regardless of who steps up though, one thing is certain: an injection of creativity and risk-taking goes a long way toward winning matches.