The last time they faced FC Dallas in what felt, even so early in the season, like a must win game, it took Minnesota United 27 shots and 94 minutes to find the back of the net. Heading to Toyota Stadium for a second meeting with the Toros the Loons are hoping the momentum created from that earlier win will carry across the international break.
As Chase Gasper noted on Wednesday, it “wasn’t the greatest start and then we just refocused, got a couple results the last three games of the first stretch. That was huge for us; big confidence booster, momentum shifter. And now we’re looking to carry that momentum into the next set of games coming up this summer.”
In addition to carrying some momentum the Loons are also hoping to be on fresher legs as the season moves into the long MLS summer. After the bye week and international break Minnesota should come into Saturday’s game with a bit more health. With Ozzie Alonso, Ethan Finlay, and Emanuel Reynoso all able to practice with the team this week head coach Adrian Heath revealed some optimism. “With a little bit of luck we might have a full clean bill of health for the weekend.”
Although not yet in its final form, with Ján Greguš, Robin Lod, and Jukka Raitala still out on international duty, Saturday’s roster will feature a much different MNUFC team than has been seen so far this season. In addition to Ozzie, Finlay, and Reynoso, Ramón Ábila is finally fully fit and Bakaye Dibassy and Niko Hansen are recovered from their early season injuries. New signings Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou have also had some time to settle in with the team, each in their own way, as Heath noted on Wednesday. “Not only have they been able to get some fitness, a little bit for Franco because he came in on the back of a lot of games in a short period of time, we managed to give him a little bit of a rest to recharge. Adrien was a little bit different, he hadn’t played for several weeks and we’ve been able to get some work into him. Now we’re just trying to integrate them into the group. They’re both really good lads, they’ve done really well so we’re looking forward to seeing them on the field with the teammates.”
Sitting one point behind Minnesota at the bottom of the table, Dallas is hoping to restart their season on Saturday as well. Like the Loons, Dallas has been undone early in the season by injuries and individual mistakes on defense. Although they have on offense been able to control possession, they haven’t, much like Minnesota, been able to score. In a series of statistics that will sound familiar to any Loons fan, designated player Bryan Acosta has taken 13 shots but only 2 have been on goal and none have found the back of the net; designated player Franco Jara has taken 24 shots but only 9 have been on goal and one has found the back of the net; and Freddy Vargas has taken 11 shots and only 4 have been on goal, with none finding the back of the net. So far this season the tactics and formations have just not clicked for Dallas, especially as they have cycled through seven different starting line-ups. Their lack of rhythm is best evidenced by the one statistic they lead the league in: offsides.
Better things were expected from both Dallas and Minnesota at the beginning of the season, with many believing that this Toros team was finally ready to make a strong playoff run while many more picked the Loons to be one of the best teams in the West. But now both teams are just trying to get in sight of the playoff line. For Dallas, running on a 13 game unbeaten streak at home, with only 1 loss in their last 27 in Frisco, and never conceding a home point to Minnesota, home feels like a good place to begin, while for Minnesota a bit of health, a bit of momentum, and a few new signings offers the promise of better things to come.
Out: Ján Greguš (international duty)
Out: Robin Lod (international duty)
Out: Jukka Raitala (international duty)
Out: Matt Hedges (hip)
Out: Beni Redžić (ankle sprain)
Out: Szabolcs Schön (international duty)