Image: Minnesota United
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The time is almost here!
After a stressful, tumultuous, drama-filled preseason, Minnesota United finally steps on the pitch for real tomorrow night at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, going head to head with the same FC Dallas team that eliminated the Loons from the opening round of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and, of course, can be found only on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass.
Last season, Dallas finished 3rd in the West, advanced past Minnesota, and fell 2-1 to Austin in a “Texas Derby” conference semifinals edition.
It’s a new year for both clubs, and both look different for different reason. To get fully acquainted with the Loons’ opener opponents, I called upon Big D Soccer‘s Drew Epperley for some expert insight on Nico Estevez’s 2023 squad.
Full audio from our conversation can be found on Patreon HERE.
Get to Know the 2023 Version of FC Dallas
How did FC Dallas fans and the club feel about the conference semifinal loss to Austin?
I think it was kind of split, depending on who you ask. I think some folks were very thrilled just to be back in the playoffs and to win a playoff game, for that matter, which they hadn’t done in several years at that point. And then the other side is probably like, “Oh, we lost to a rival that’s kind of a baby rival, because Austin’s only a couple years old and that stings to lose the little brother in that manner.” So for me, personally, they hit the expectations and then some last year.
How has the club worked to improve the goal scoring from last season, where there were a lot of 1-0 or 1-1 score-lines?
Yeah, I mean, the need to put teams away was easily one of the biggest weaknesses in 2022. But really, at the end of the day, I think having this core group of Ferreira, [Alan] Velasco, [Paul] Arriola, [Paxton] Pomykal Sebastian Lietget, that group, having a full preseason together, hopefully can work those kinks out for putting things away, because we started seeing a little bit towards the end of last season. I think as long as they can maintain that mentality of what they’ve done in a few games late last year, as a group into the spring, that they can find ways to put away teams. I mean, they’ve done it. It’s just being consistent about it.
Which newcomer, either coming up from North Texas or coming in from elsewhere, do you expect to make the biggest impact this season?
Right now, it seems like our new U22 Signing Giovane Jesus, from Brazil, will probably be the one that will see the most early on, just because he’s filling a need at the ever revolving door right back with FC Dallas from the days of Reggie Cannon and Brian Reynolds. Jesus has played pretty well in preseason from what most people are saying, and I would imagine he’ll make his debut on Saturday.
How much will the losses of Matt Hedges and Franco Jara impact this squad in 2023?
I honestly think, between Jara and Hedges, it’s a little bit different. Jara’s impact is going to be lost more in the locker room. He was really a good leader for especially those young South American players like Velasco. He took that guy under his wing on day one last year, and really made him comfortable in Dallas and in Frisco. Hedges, on the other hand. Yeah, he’d been there for years, he was kind of the established elder statesman in the locker room. But he wasn’t a very vocal leader in the locker room at times. So, his impact is going to be more missed probably in those type of games where you really want that veteran leader just to step up, calms nerves down, or even just make that big defensive play.
Audio from our full conversation with Drew can be found at patreon.com/sotasoccer. You can follow Drew on Twitter @wvhooligan and check out his work at Big D Soccer.