Minnesota United FC vs. FC Dallas Preview
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - After 180 total minutes of soccer against the Portland Timbers in only four days, Minnesota United will finally face a different foe in fellow Western Conference playoff hopefuls, FC Dallas. The Loons currently sit in second place in the West, staring down at Dallas who are in seventh place, just above the playoff line. As the month of August and the playoff race heats up, the Loons will face another difficult test as they travel to the scorching state of Texas. The two teams previously met at Allianz Field on July 13, towards the tail end of a similarly hectic spell of games for Minnesota United. A stoppage time goal from Mason Toye and a dramatic penalty kick save from Vito Mannone preserved three points for the home side but Saturday's game promises to be drastically different. Squad rotation will be a must for Adrian Heath's side amid another busy period for the club and temperatures that are projected to be right around 100 degrees.
The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
To the shock of many, the Loons felled the Timbers not once, but twice in as many attempts. A 90th minute penalty kick from Ethan Finlay sunk the Timbers on Sunday in MLS play while a game-winning goal from Mason Toye booked MNUFC a ticket in the U.S. Open Cup Final, where it will square off against Atlanta United. While Sunday's MLS win was crucial in the Western Conference playoff picture, a U.S. Open Cup Semifinal victory placed the Loons in the club's first ever Cup Final. Emotions poured out of Allianz Field when the final whistle sounded, a moment that those connected to Minnesota United will treasure for years to come.
"It's one of them things that people will remember," said Minnesota United Head Coach Adrian Heath. "[The] first Semifinal in the stadium, first win, incredible atmosphere. I thought the crowd even surpassed themselves last night [with] the atmosphere in the ground. There was a guy there, he hadn't been to the game before and he was like, blown away with it and I'm not surprised. When we needed them, our supporters came up again which doesn't surprise me."
While the importance of Mason Toye's goal itself cannot be understated, the technique involved in making it happen - the deft first touch taken in stride, the opening of the body, the composed finish befitting a veteran striker - should not go unmentioned. The goal exemplified the young forward's maturation and growth as he has exploded onto the MLS stage.
"He's in a rich vein of form, he's obviously very confident [right now]," said Heath. "It was a great first touch the other night, great ball from Kevin [Molino] but great first touch, opened his body up and a great finish. He's playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. He's got to remember what's got him in this position which is generally his workout here on the training facility, putting hours in, studying video, looking at people who play like him, seeing what he can learn off the field as well."
Wednesday's Open Cup victory sees the Loons unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions - an ongoing record for Minnesota United's MLS era. As Saturday approaches, the challenge of facing FC Dallas on the road in harsh conditions with limited rest looms for Heath and his squad. The Loons will look to start on the front font and score early, which will allow them to manage the game while holding a lead rather than falling behind early. When Minnesota United visited the Montreal Impact early in July, it conceded inside the first minute of play, forcing the Loons into chasing the rest of the game. Temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees when the whistle blows for kickoff come Saturday, making Heath wary of a slow start.
"It's going to probably be best part of 100 degrees you'd expect," said Heath. "They've got the conditions and they come and get after you. There's no respite. They've got a young team, they've got energy so we've got to be prepared. The one thing we can't do is start the game slowly because if you get behind and you're chasing the game, it can be a difficult place to play."
While Saturday's opponents are still very much in the playoff picture, the 2019 MLS campaign has been a challenging one for FC Dallas. They have struggled to pick up results on the road, which is where eight of their nine losses have come from. Their offense has also come into question as Dallas has scored one goal or fewer in 10 of their 24 MLS games - that's scoring one goal or not scoring at all in almost half their games. While Heath made note of Dallas' shortcomings, he also pointed out that their results haven't done justice to their overall form.
"I think [that] they've played better than some of their score lines reflect," said Heath. "They've missed a lot of chances this year to kill teams [off] and then teams have hung around and managed to nick a point off them or nick two off them. At the end of the day we've just got to go and be prepared because one thing about them, at home they are a formidable opposition. They get after you, got pace in the right areas, got a bit of everything, young team as well. It's going to be tough."
Saturday's game comes on the heels of yet another double game week for Minnesota United so fresh legs will be at a premium. Given the newfound depth throughout his squad, Adrian Heath gave the likes of Angelo Rodriguez, Ethan Finlay and Miguel Ibarra a rest on Wednesday. Playing a team as dangerous as the Portland Timbers, though, Heath was forced to stick with the same back four as the weekend and played midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Jan Gregus the full 90 in both matches. While there may not be wholesale changes as exhibited in July's road game against Montreal, Heath will be forced to rest some of his key players on the road to Dallas.
"We managed to give one or two people a rest last night," he said. "That will help with the game coming up this week. We made seven changes recently when we went to Montreal and everybody stepped up. Let's talk about the people who are here and who are playing, not the people we left behind. It's [also] a great opportunity for people. The one thing I do know and I think this is a message to all of the squad, we have strength in depth in nearly every position now. We will pick the people who we feel as though are going to get us a result on the night and the people who stick to the plan."
Minnesota United's next game is a back at Allianz Field against the visiting Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, August 14, presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The game will start at 7:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Preview interviews with Head Coach Adrian Heath and midfielder Robin Lod.
Head Coach Adrian Heath on his experience and emotions that came with a monumental game last night... "Well, it's one of them things that people will remember. [The] first semifinal in the stadium, first win, incredible atmosphere. I thought the crowd even surpassed themselves last night [with] the atmosphere in the ground. There was a guy there, he hadn't been to the game before and he was like, blown away with it and I'm not surprised. The atmosphere was electric last night. When we needed them, our supporters came up again which doesn't surprise me."
Adrian Heath on what he's made of FC Dallas' campaign so far... "Well, I think [that] they've played better than some of their score lines reflect. We've watched quite a lot of their games and they've probably, as I was saying earlier on in the season, when you're on top, they've missed a lot of chances this year to kill teams and then teams have hung around and you've managed to nick a point off them or nick two off them. At the end of the day we've just got to go and be prepared because one thing about them, at home they are a formidable opposition. They get after you, got pace in the right areas, got a bit of everything, young team as well. So, it's going to be tough."
Midfielder Robin Lod on his impressions of MLS and Minnesota United so far... "It's been good. I've enjoyed every bit and we are doing great so it's been nice. The atmosphere in the stadium has been amazing so I've enjoyed it."
Robin Lod on it being a challenge to go up against a lot of new teams that he hasn't seen before... "Yeah, of course. It's different but you always see some clips from the teams before and I think the most important thing is how your own team is playing and to focus on that and not do too much focusing on the opponents."
Collin Martin, Jacori Hayes, Brandon Servania and Ema Twumasi all played for Wake Forest in college.
Hayes and Martin are both natives of Maryland.
Ghana natives Abu Danladi and Twumasi came up through the Right to Dream Academy before playing NCAA soccer.
Danladi and Reggie Cannon were teammates at UCLA in 2016. Ryan Hollingshead also attended UCLA during his college career.
Ethan Finlay, Miguel Ibarra, Cannon and Matt Hedges have all been capped by the U.S. national team.
Ethan Finlay's four goals this season tie him with Mason Toye for the third-most on the team.
Toye and Finlay lead the Loons with two game-winning goals each.
Minnesota has now claimed 38 points in MLS play, its highest total ever since joining the league in 2017. It earned 36 points in both of its first two seasons.
Vito Mannone made five saves to earn his eighth clean sheet of the year on Sunday. He now holds the club's career record for most clean sheets.
Mannone's 78 saves is the third-highest total in MLS.
The Loons have kept back-to-back clean sheets for the third time this season.
MNUFC has not allowed a goal in its last three home games, the longest home shutout streak since joining MLS.
Ike Opara was named to the MLS Team of the Week for Week 22 of the season. He sets a new club record with six appearances on the Team of the Week in a single season.
MNUFC players have featured in the MLS Team of the Week for six consecutive weeks.
Minnesota's last two penalty kick saves have come against FC Dallas.
Reto Ziegler's only unsuccessful penalty this year was against Minnesota on July 13.
Minnesota sits at second in the Western Conference for the first time since March.
The Loons have stayed above the playoff line the entire 2019 season.
MNUFC has never scored at Toyota Stadium.
Robin Lod made his first start for Minnesota on Wednesday night, playing all 90 minutes in the 2-1 Open Cup win over the Portland Timbers.
Minnesota has advanced to the U.S. Open Cup Final after defeating Portland. It is the first time a Minnesota team has ever reached the Final.
Darwin Quintero scored his sixth goal of the tournament on a penalty kick in the first half. He leads all goalscorers in the cup and has scored in every game this year.
Minnesota signed Uruguay international midfielder Thomás Chacón to a Young Designated Player contract on Wednesday. The team bought down Angelo Rodriguez's contract with Targeted Allocation Money, and he will no longer occupy a Designated Player roster spot.
F - Edwin Gyasi
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