Riding three matches unbeaten, with three straight clean sheets, Adrian Heath’s Minnesota United FC are brimming with confidence ahead of their road clash with FCDallas Sunday evening.
The COVID-19 schedule has pitted these two sides against each other twice over the past month and a half already, but the Loons are confident going into Round 3. The temperature in Frisco, Tex. on Sunday is predicted to be 97 degrees at kickoff. The Loons are not going to make excuses though; Heath knows that both Dallas and Minnesota are going to be there in search of three points.
“It’s going to be crucial (three points) between now and the end of the season for teams in and around the playoffs,” he said, “because we know seeds are really, really tight.”
Minnesota has excelled defensively over their last three matches, but their offense has struggled to find the back of the net. The Loons have only scored twice over their past three matches, with both goals coming in a 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati.
In a video conference Friday afternoon, Heath expressed his admiration for Bakaye Dibassy and the work he’s put into the team right away. He also mentioned that goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has been playing really well for the team, which helps the team keep those clean sheets.
“Given the last three games, defensively, as a group, we’ve been very, very good,” said Heath. “I think that Dibassy’s command has given us a little bit of composure, a little bit of calmness in possession. (He is) a very experienced guy who knows what this league is played in leagues [where] he’s played against really quick guys, because the French league might be the most athletic league in Europe, in terms of the 11.
“They’re the level of speed that he has to play again. So I always feel he’s always he’s… he brings a calming influence to us. I don’t think it’s a coincidence he’s been involved in the games. And I also think that whenever we’ve needed it in the last few weeks, then Sinclair has come up once in two, so it’s a great save.”
When asked about how he can get more out of his full-strength front four, which includes the likes of Molino, Reynoso, Kamara and either Lod or Finlay, Heath mentioned that the opportunities are there, they just don’t seem to be resulting in goals. He feels that the breakthrough is coming, though, and with that the flood gates could open.
“If you look at the last few games, the one thing that we can’t say is that we haven’t created opportunities,” he said. “You know, I can think back to the Salt Lake game where it was a draw at home, we must strike five great chances on the night. And then in tie games, especially on the road, you know, you need to take them opportunities when they come along.
“You know, that’s going to be no different this weekend. It’s always been the same. You know, you don’t get opportunity after opportunity on the road. It just doesn’t work like that. So when they do come along, and if it’s the first goal in the game as well; they make a huge difference to what the end result can be.”
Heath mentioned that the team has a roster that can not only make the playoffs, but “pull a few upsets, too.” The Loons finally have both Ozzie Alonso and Ethan Finlay back. Finlay played 90 minutes against Nashville last Tuesday, and Alonso was in training with the team this week.
Heath briefly mentioned, however, that the Loons could still dabble with the transfer market. Following the departure of Mason Toye, Heath mentioned they are looking at a possible replacement.
“Yes, we have looked. If something became available, we would look at it, but I’m more concerned with the big picture.”
Heath elaborated by saying the team will know more about that pursuit, and the status of injured striker Luis Amarilla on Monday next week. Amarilla hasn’t seen the pitch Sept. 3 due to an ankle injury.
Ahead of Monday, though, the Loons have a Western Conference clash against FC Dallas. The match is set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Field Sunday evening.