FC Dallas will host a playoff game at Toyota Stadium for the first time since 2018 as Minnesota United travel to Frisco for their first round matchup. Ahead of the big game, let’s look at what FCD needs to do to move on to the next round.

1) Slow down Emanuel Reynoso

Easier said than done, right? Put simply, Minnesota’s success heavily revolves around Reynoso. The Argentine attacking midfielder is one of the most talented players in MLS and is capable of almost single-handedly winning games for the Loons. The FC Dallas midfield and defense are going to have a major challenge on their hands to keep Reynoso in check. Reynoso, unlike some other highly effective attacking mids in MLS, primarily uses the dribble to generate chances. Reynoso is almost absurdly dominant when looking at dribbling stats across the league. He leads the league in successful dribbles with 134 across the season. Putting aside the fact that this comes out to over 4.5 successful dribbles per game played, he has almost 50 more successful dribbles than the second best on the list. No one is coming close to Reynoso in MLS when it comes to effectiveness on the dribble.

Those stats also speak to just how much Reynoso gets on the ball for Minnesota. He had 21 goal contributions (10g/11a) in his 29 games played, both of which are career bests in his time in MLS. He also has playoff experience, particularly in 2020 when he almost dragged Minnesota into the MLS Cup final. In just 3 playoff games, he tallied a goal and seven assists, so there’s no doubt he is capable of raising his already high level even higher when these big moments come.

Whoever starts at the 6 for FCD on Monday night, whether it is Edwin Cerrillo (which seems likely) or Reynoso’s compatriot Facundo Quignon, they are going to need to be at the top of their game if FCD hopes to move on to the next round. But it will take an entire team effort to limit a player of Reynoso’s caliber, he has a knack for finding pockets of space across the field, Paxton Pomykal and Sebastian Lletget will need to be constantly switched on defensively in their roles in midfield to help deal with the danger Reynoso can create and the entire backline will need to be prepared to deal with him, along with the rest of Minnesota’s talented attack, at any time. FCD’s success in this one will largely hinge on their ability to deal with Reynoso.

2) Constant pressure on Minnesota’s backline

The Loons lost their best defender, Bakaye Dibassy, to a season ending injury back on August 27th in a game against the Houston Dynamo. Since Dibassy exited that game in the 7th minute, Minnesota has conceded 15 goals in 8 games and 14 in the 7 games Dibassy missed entirely, including 3 goals to FC Dallas themselves on September 3rd at Allianz Field. Dibassy is clearly a huge miss for Minnesota defensively and, as evidenced from the last couple months of the season, goals can be scored against the Dibassy-less Loons. Minnesota has also been especially porous on the road, conceding three goals to RSL, one to Portland, four to Sporting KC and two to the already eliminated San Jose Earthquakes.

FC Dallas needs to come out very aggressive to start the game and keep their foot on the pedal to put consistent pressure on Minnesota’s defense. Minnesota are likely to try to sit deep and compact and play on the counter, Dallas will need to be sure that they do not fall into a pattern of just trying to lob hopeful crosses into the box and ensure that they vary their attack and do what they can to drag Minnesota’s defensive shape apart and exploit the spaces created. Minnesota always seem to find their chances with Reynoso on the field, but if FCD can get their attack going, they should be able to generate a number of quality chances, as they did in Minnesota at the start of September.

3) Clinical in front of goal

Another one that is easier said than done, but will be vitally important against this Minnesota United team. Not to keep hammering home statistics, but in addition to all the goals Minnesota has conceded down the stretch this season, they’ve also conceded quite a lot of shots and shots on target. It will be important for FCD to have their finishing boots with them on Monday night. They can look at what happened much earlier in the season for what happens when you aren’t clinical against Minnesota United. Way back on May 22nd, the Loons came to Frisco and delivered FCD’s first home loss of the season by a 2-1 score line. Dallas had almost 70% possession and nineteen shots but only managed to put three of those shots on target. Put simply, that just is not going to be good enough if FCD wants to move on to the second round. I have full confidence in FCD’s ability to generate chances and get shots off, but Jesus Ferreira, Alan Velasco and Paul Arriola will need to make sure they are testing Dayne St. Clair in the Minnesota goal with those chances and shots. Otherwise, it will likely be an early playoff exit for FCD.

How are you feeling about FCD’s chances going into this matchup with Minnesota United? Let me know in the comments below!

Featured Image: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
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