Just a few weeks removed from head coach Adrian Heath confirming the team’s interest in Bakaye Dibassy, Minnesota United made the signing of the Ligue 1 defender official on Monday, marking the first post-COVID addition to the Loons’ roster.
Dibassy, who turns 31 on Aug. 11, will travel stateside after his visa is approved and join the team following the mandatory 14-day quarantine once he enters the U.S.
The LB/CB combo defender spent the last four seasons with Amiens SC, three of those in France’s top division, tallying nine goals and four assists during his tenure.
Minnesota have found ways to maximize those coveted international roster spots and will use one on Dibassy.
“Acquiring someone like Dibassy, who possesses experience, versatility and incredible athleticism — who has played so many games in the top leagues in France — is a huge boost for the club,” said head coach Adrian Heath.
The acquisition comes at a time that, when completely healthy, the Loons possess a wide-array of centre back options – with MLS is Back starters Michael Boxall and Jose Aja backed up by recently returned Brent Kallman. Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara is out for duration of the tournament, rehabilitating a prior injury.
Considering the lack of clarity regarding Opara’s status post-tournament and Kallman’s nearly full year off the pitch, though, Dibassy provides yet another welcome option for Heath in the middle. Also, a lot has been asked of Opara and Boxall from 2019 into this season. Possessing an ability to rotate quality options off the bench and give your starters a rest every now and then is crucial to getting through any MLS season, let alone a potential mini-campaign that could feature a condensed schedule.
The Malian international’s largest contribution to this roster, however, may come at outside back.
As stated, with the emergence of Aja and return of Kallman, Minnesota have immense depth at centre back, and with Hassani Dotson’s ability on the right side of the back line, there’s a solid piece behind Romain Metanire there as well. Left back is arguably the thinnest single position on this team, and sliding Dibassy there provides possibilities and depth Heath does not currently have at that position.
Furthermore, Chase Gasper hasn’t been all too impressive in this tournament, following an outstanding rookie season that saw him become one of the best left backs in the league and notch his first USMNT appearance. The presence of Dibassy could fill that recent void in the Loons starting XI or potentially push Gasper to improve his play and keep the starting spot for himself, thus making Dibassy the quality left-side depth option this squad’s been lacking.
“I liken him to Romain Metanire,” said Heath of Dibassy. “Very strong, loves to run, loads of experience and a great character fit for this club. We are delighted to bring him in.”
This quote from Heath is another reason why the outside of the Loons’ backline could be Dibassy’s best fit. Tactically, as it stands, the left side of Minnesota’s formation operates completely different than the right side.
On the right, Romain Metanire and Ethan Finlay have developed an excellent chemistry, and with Metanire’s ability to run and get into the attacking third, the overlap between he and Finlay on counterattacks has produced a ton of goalscoring opportunities.
However, the same cannot be said for the left.
Gasper and left winger Robin Lod do not work in tandem like their counterparts. Gasper likes to push up the field in support of counterattacks and build-up possessions, dissimilar to Metanire who is a direct contributor to those attacking sequences. This leaves Minnesota exposed to a potential counter, which requires Lod to be aware of the open space and track back to eliminate those potential opportunities for the opposing team.
Any style that takes Lod further away from the goal and away from the middle third of the pitch is doing his ability a disservice, but with the way the left portion currently operates, and Adrian Heath’s defensive style, Minnesota’s gaffer is willing to make that trade to limit their exposure on counters.
Having Dibassy on the left, however, could provide a whole new dynamic to how that third and Lod are utilized. Heath compares Dibassy to Metanire in his ability to run and provide versatility on the outside, and if Dibassy can be the symmetrical piece that allows he and Lod to work together and the Loons to potentially make overlapping runs on either side of the pitch, this becomes an exponentially more dynamic offensive, and specifically counterattacking, team.
Dibassy will be an official member of Minnesota United when the transfer window opens Aug. 12.