Matchday 1 Preview: FC Dallas vs. MN United

Matchday 1
FC Dallas vs. MNUFC
AppleTV  | 1500 ESPN

A new season begins where the last one ended for the Loons. After a heartbreaking loss in the first round of the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs – on penalty kicks! and a nearly flubbed Panenka! – MN United FC might be returning to FC Dallas looking for revenge. But with central playmaker and tactical centerpiece Emanuel Reynoso still absent from the Loons’ camp, the club will be heading to Frisco in search of what comes next. And while Minnesota begins the season in uncertainty, Dallas is hoping to build on the progress made in 2022, when they finished 3rd in the West under first year head coach Nico Estévez. With a roster full of homegrowns and young talent and led by a trio of USMNT players, this could be a breakout season for a Toro’s team heading into its prime.

Run of form: It is hard to count preseason games as a run of form leading into a season opener. Though it might not be much better, MNUFC finished the 2022 season 6th in the West, with a 14-14-6 record, while FC Dallas finished 3rd, at 14-9-11. Facing each other three times in 2022, the teams split their regular season match-ups, each winning on the road, while Dallas beat Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs in a game that went to penalty kicks, with a final score of 1(5) – 1(4). The teams’ two results in 2022 were a bit of an anomaly for the season as Dallas was very good at home last year, 10-3-4 in the regular season at Toyota Stadium, while Minnesota was not great on the road, finishing the season 6-10-1 away from Allianz.

In search of a style: The Loons spent much of the preseason experimenting with players and formations trying to find a Plan B for a Rey-less world. It seems like they have come close to settling on a 4-3-3, with Robin Lod as their central playmaker. With a quality and skillset that makes it uninteresting to think of him as Reynoso’s replacement, Lod proved himself more than capable of playing the part of playmaker last season. And with Bongi Hlongwane taking his place on the right the team will have a much more direct approach to goal. The difficulty, though, will be in the team’s balance. With a three-man midfield, a decision must be made: assuming Wil Trapp remains the first choice defensive midfielder, if Kervin Arriaga or Hassani Dotson, who are, at the moment, the two options for the third midfield position, decide to push forward they risk leaving Trapp over-exposed, something he is already vulnerable to when left as a single defensive mid. This is be an even bigger danger as newcomer Miguel Tapias will be learning his way into a central defensive pairing with Michael Boxall. But if Arriaga or Dotson stay back to cover with Trapp, a gap will open in the middle of the field that, for a counter-attacking team that has consistently relied on stout defense and quick transitions, could become a dead zone.

Discipline and creativity: When he arrived in Dallas last season, head coach Nico Estévez came with some impressive organizational and structural discipline. The Toros quickly made themselves into one of the strongest teams in the league in terms of their defensive transitions and team structure when out of possession. Everyone on the team knew their responsibilities and worked hard and smart together. If they continue that into the new year they will be difficult to counter-attack against. At times, though, that defensive discipline came at the expense of offensive creativity. Paul Arriola, Jesús Ferreira, and Alan Velasco all had brilliant seasons in 2022. But if they were having a bad night, or if, for example, Ferreira flubbed a sitter in extra-time of a playoff game, as a random example – the team struggled. As a team FC Dallas had a hard time turning 1-0 leads into 2-0 wins. They were solid but lacked other options. Mid-season addition Sebastian Lletget clearly helped, and if Dallas can become as creative in possession as they are disciplined out of it, they will be very very good.

Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath reacts to an officiating call during the match against FC Dallas at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minn., on Saturday, September 3, 2022.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Who to watch


  • Emmanuel Reynoso: The biggest news of the preseason for MNUFC remains Reynoso’s absence without explanation. Although the team has played without him in the past, that was always temporary and on occasion known. A lot will be unfairly asked of Lod to replace Reynoso, but the rest of the team will need to step-up together to find a new identity and provide the answers on the field that the club isn’t off it.
  • Miguel Tapias: The club’s best signing of the offseason, Tapias has a huge hole to fill in central defense. In his shortened pre-season he has looked very good. The transition from a strong early career in Liga MX to MLS should not be as hard as the transition other players struggle through. But it is tough to learn a defensive pairing on the fly and in-game. How quickly he and Michael Boxall can learn to play together will go a long way in determining how the Loons will start this season.
  • Luis Amarilla: After a promising start to his MNUFC career, Amarilla had a disappointing 2022. If the team is going to find any kind of success this year, Amarilla will need to be at his best and scoring goals. If he has another slow start, expect Ménder García to quickly get the nod up top.

FC Dallas

  • Paul Arriola, Jesús Ferreira, Alan Velasco: Although Ferreira got most of the headlines last season while coming close to winning the Golden Boot, the entire front line for FC Dallas was spectacular, contributing 34 of the teams 48 goals. When they find their form they are a joy to watch.
  • Matt Hedges: Another player to watch in absentia. As the Loons learned last season, losing a veteran central defender can be devasting for a team, and so the FC Dallas front office has taken a risk in letting Hedges move to Toronto FC in the off-season.  New signing Sebastien Ibeagha has the MLS experience to step into the back line with José Martinez, but as with Minnesota, learning a new defensive pairing always takes time.
  • Paxton Pomykal: If the front three are the excitement for the Toros, Pomykal is their heart. The local homegrown player made his professional debut for the club at 17, and now does the midfield work that keeps the team moving.


Minnesota United FC

Suspended:  Emanuel Reynoso
Out: Bakaye Dibassy (thigh) | Doneil Henry (thigh) | Ryen Jiba (knee) | Mikael Marques (ankle)

FC Dallas

Suspended: None
Out: None