- WITNESS THE FIREPOWER OF THIS FULLY ARMED AND OPERATIONAL FOUR-MAN FRONTLINE: Left winger Franco Fragapane was set to make his MNUFC debut the last time the team took the pitch against Real Salt Lake, but at the last moment, a paperwork issue kept him out of the starting XI. Barring something totally out of the blue, there shouldn’t be an issue this time around and the 28-year-old will play his first minutes for the Loons on Saturday away at Dallas. Against the Claret-and-Cobalt, Head Coach Adrian Heath opted for Hassani Dotson out wide on the left before eventually bringing in Niko Hansen in that spot in the 65th minute. Hansen went on to score the game-tying goal in the 78th minute that would earn MNUFC a point, but it’s likely we’ll see him this week on the right side. Emanuel Reynoso was held out of the game against RSL to help speed his recovery from a leg issue that’s been bothering him, but he is expected to return as well, meaning that this will be our first chance to see all of Fragapane, Reynoso and forward Adrien Hunou — who debuted in Utah — this week. The chemistry could take some time to develop, but there’s little doubt that the front four have received a significant firepower upgrade.
- OF SPEARS AND SHIELDS: Per Joseph Lowery over at MLS soccer dot com, FC Dallas are third in the league in passes per possession at 4.842. That’s the kind of number every coach with an interest in possession-based soccer would love to see, but the Toros so far haven’t turned that ball movement into wins. While they’ve scored eight goals so far, they’ve only managed one win in 2021. The good news for them is that with an expected goals for (xGF) of 11.42, they’re creating good chances — just not always finishing them. It’s a problem that Minnesota United is well familiar with. The Loons have scored six goals on the year but with 9.54 xGF. Their hope is that adding the likes of Hunou and Fragapane will lead to more chances getting finished, i.e., upgrading the tip of the spear. Dallas have recently signed defensive midfielder Facundo Quignon from Argentina’s Lanus, i.e., upgrading the shield behind the spear to help the spear do better. In either case, it’s not likely that either team will be languishing in last or second-to-last place in the Western Conference for the rest of the season.
- FINNISH WHAT YOU STARTED: Minnesota United was the only team outside of Europe to send three players to UEFA EURO 2020 over the international break and the results so far have been positive. Defender Jukka Raitala and midfielder (and sometimes #9) Robin Lod joined Finland for that team’s first trip to the competition. The Finns have performed well overall, currently sitting second in Group B with a win and a loss, while Jan Gregus’ Slovakia team find themselves on top of Group E, having won their only game so far against Poland while Spain and Sweden drew in their opener. Loons fans likely follow these players’ success on the international stage with a mix of celebration and concern — the further Slovakia and Finland go in the tournament, the more time Raitala, Lod and Gregus will miss. While Raitala may have already made his biggest contribution to the team this year by stepping into a centerback role for the injured Bakaye Dibassy early, Lod has been one of the team’s best players so far, leading the team in xG+xA and finding himself top ten in MLS in that category as well. Minnesota have the depth to work around his absence as well as Gregus’ with Hassani Dotson, Wil Trapp and Osvaldo Alonso all available in central midfield, but an injury here or there could challenge that depth in a season that only gets more compressed from here on.