The season opener is upon us! Storylines, for one, is stocking up on pre-wrap, BODYARMOR, and face paint, because this year is sure to be one wild ride. In an interesting twist of fate, last season’s end has circled to this season’s beginning, and Minnesota United is traveling back to Frisco to kick off the 2023 campaign against FC Dallas – the team that narrowly knocked them out of the 2022 playoffs.
It’s a new year. The new kits have been released, the front offices have restocked the rosters, and above all, there are absolutely no grudges whatsoever for things that may or may not have occurred last year – say, on a balmy October 17 night around 10:00 p.m.
One penalty kick is all that separated MNUFC from playoff advancement in 2022, which was an especially difficult thing to witness after such an intense game. From start to finish, the first-round playoff match more closely resembled a dogfight than a gentlemanly kick about the pitch. Each team matched blow for blow, landing beautiful goals and heroic saves until the bitter end.
That game was fraught with “what ifs.” What if Emanuel Reynoso’s second goal hadn’t been called offside? What if Jesus Ferreira hadn’t produced a world-class shank during perhaps the best opportunity of the night? What if Dayne St. Clair hadn’t matched his career-high of eight saves in a game? We’ll never know because FC Dallas oiled themselves up and squeaked by with five penalty kicks to MNUFC’s four. For what it’s worth, however, the Toros were promptly tossed into the Austin FC fryer and knocked out of the running by Matthew McConaughey and company. Alright alright alright.
FC Dallas was a strong opponent the last time MNUFC met them on open pitch. Tensions from the match might carry over a bit, but new moves from both teams means there are no guarantees as to what will be seen come Saturday.
The USMNT trio of Jesus Ferreira, Paul Arriola and Sebastian Lletget – discounting World Cup playing time of course – will continue to be strong offensive weapons for the Toros. Pair that with their signing of forward Jesús Jiménez and Dallas is on its way to an even deadlier attacking force this season. Jiménez notched nine goals for Toronto FC last year, and his prowess may contribute to a change in the Dallas formation. The team from Frisco has typically used a 4-3-3 formation, but with two strong strikers, may decide to pair Jiménez and Ferreira up top rather than utilize a true #10 and striker combo. MNUFC will need to plan for this possibility accordingly.
Minnesota United has done some great work strengthening their defense in the offseason. A lot of late-season difficulties for the Loons came from injuries and lack of depth in the back. In the first-round playoff match last season, Minnesota United’s back line held firm, and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair caused all sorts of difficulty for the Blue and Red. With the Minnesota defense now shored up, the match on Saturday will be interesting to say the least.
It’s the age-old question of offense vs defense. Which side can outlast the other? In order to win, MNUFC will need to score, of course, and the current absence of Emanuel Reynoso will certainly make things more difficult in that department. However, MNUFC has a lot of existing offensive talent. Robin Lod is a versatile and dangerous attacker, Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Kervin Arriaga are young and physical rising stars, and Franco Fragapane and Luis Amarilla have consistently made some great plays for the Black and Blue. The cracks in the Dallas defense will appear; they just need to be taken advantage of.
The FC Dallas offense will be difficult to stop, and that is definitely a focus for the upcoming match. What may be overlooked, though, is whether such an aggressive offensive team will be able to inhibit the MNUFC chances when they do come. Even without the existing tension from the previous meeting, this would be a exciting game to watch. Though, if for nothing but the Storylines plot alone, some sort of a revenge-based butt-whooping in FC Dallas territory might be just the thing to kick off this season on a high note.
FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United FC
Toyota Stadium | Frisco, Texas
02.25.2023 | MLS Week No. 1 | MLS Game #1
7:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass - Free, 1500 ESPN)