As has been well-documented, the Loons preseason certainly featured its fair share of…well, let’s say happenings. Most obvious amongst those happenings being the ongoing absence of Emanuel Reynoso from the club. No doubt, such talent is missed on the pitch, as would be expected from a player of his caliber. But, because of Rey’s uncertain status, the prime question entering the season opener was what would the starting eleven look like without him in his familiar center attacking midfield role? And, would Coach Adrian Heath’s revised strategy be able to overcome the offensive arsenal of the FC Dallas attack? No question, it would be a tall order for the Loons.
Thankfully, MNUFC was ready to mess with Texas with a well-fought 1-0 win Saturday night over FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The beginning of the match saw what could be considered tentative play, as both squads felt each other out in terms of strategy, going back and forth on ball possession without much of an attack for either club to speak of. But, from around the 30th minute on, the Loons scoring opportunities started to continually build, as MNUFC made a series of runs on the attack, not to mention, a couple of beautiful shot that nearly found their way into the net.
In the 33rd minute, Kemar Lawrence lofted a beautiful shot from the left side outside the box, which Dallas goalkeeper Maarten Paes was able to get a couple of fingers on and redirect out of play. Then, shortly after, in the 36th minute, Kervin Arriaga’s free kick from dead center just outside the box nearly snuck its way under the crossbar, but was once again tipped up and out by Paes.
The scoreless first half tie was nearly broken in the 41st minute by a Paul Arriola laser from the top of the box until Dayne St Clair made an aerial acrobatic jump upward to just push the ball over the crossbar and out of bounds.
The start of the second half showed the Loons attack continuing to run and pepper Paes. Then, in the 48th minute, a Franco Fragapane one-touch blast was swatted down by Paes, only to have the deflection kicked to perfection by Ménder García. 1-0, Loons.
Subbing in for García in the 62nd minute was Hassani Dotson for the first time since tearing his ACL last April 16th, ending his 2022 season with only seven games played. In his time on the pitch tonight, Dotson looked comfortable and unhindered by his injury, making a handful of runs on the attack with a couple of those near shots on goal.
Around the 80th minute, the Dallas attack picked up steam as they pushed for an equalizer to put the game even before the clock ran out. But, when the Toros onslaught kept coming, the Loons dropped back and dug their heels, holding FC Dallas to several close-but-not-THAT-close shots on goal. The solid defense stood firm, as did the 1-0 score line, and the Loons opened the 2023 with a big W and three points in the Western Conference standings.