SHORTHANDED LOONS OPT FOR A 4-3-3 LOOK
With forward Darwin Quintero out with an injury and defender Francisco Calvo and midfielder Collen Warner suspended, a shorthanded Minnesota United side was forced to make some drastic changes to its lineup against FC Dallas.
“The players we were missing have given us a lot this year, but any one team is not just one, two or three players,” defender Michael Boxall said. “Other players have had the opportunity to step up. We need full buy-in from every single player for 90 minutes.”
Without his top playmaker and two of his most vital defensive cogs, Head Coach Adrian Heath opted to shift to a 4-3-3 formation with midfielder Frantz Pangop on the left wing, midfielder Collin Martin in the No. 6 spot and defender Tyrone Mears at left back as part of a back four. Pangop was the most surprising inclusion in the new-look starting XI, making his first career MLS start.
While it was clear the Cameroonian is still chasing match fitness, he did show glimpses of promise in his 65 minutes. Pangop made a positive impression with his speed and dribbling ability to find space in wide areas and showed a willingness to challenge defenders one on one. What was missing was the capacity to create real danger in the final third and get balls into the box, which the Loons struggled with as a whole. Minnesota clearly missed Quintero’s creativity in the attacking half and was unable to get bodies up the field, effectively isolating forward Angelo Rodriguez up top with little support.
“We miss (Quintero’s) inventiveness and we miss that little but of craft and guile in their half of the field,” Heath said. “We got a few balls in that mid-third today, but we never got around them or penetrated in behind them.”
“THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR US”
Through 40 minutes, Minnesota looked like it was setting itself up for another positive result on the road, but FC Dallas defender Maynor Figueroa’s VAR-aided opening goal late in the first half quickly shifted the momentum.
“It all happens so quickly,” Boxall said. “I tracked my man in and then obviously the ball is in a dangerous area, so I am thinking I have to get my head on it and try to do something otherwise it is a goal. I thought I got a little nudge and it is pushed towards Bobby and he did great to keep it out. Unfortunately it fell to the feet of a guy in red and he tucked it home.”
At just 1-0, it was not Figueroa’s goal that killed MNUFC in Dallas, but rather it was the Loons getting away from what made them successful in the first half. In the opening 40 minutes, the Loons’ back four of Boxall, Mears, Brent Kallman and Eric Miller was disciplined and defended well and did well to negate Dallas’ considerable pace by staying with runners and not allowing them to get in behind.
They got away from that in the second half and it cost them. Minnesota failed to close down both midfielder Carlos Gruezo and midfielder Michael Barrios on the play that culminated with Barrios’ 57th minute dagger, giving them far too much space to operate.
“It doesn’t matter how quick you are if you don’t close them down in the final third,” Boxall said. “That is not good enough for us. For the first 40 or so minutes it was good and it was there. We gave ourselves every chance to get a draw or get three points. When you give up that second goal that just kills us. It is not being accountable in our final third.”