Minnesota United’s start to their inaugural campaign reminds me a little of the 2016 early-season Houston Dynamo. The results were different — Minnesota spent the first four weeks giving up five or six goals a game while the Dynamo were able to pick up points themselves — but the general chaotic nature of their playing styles are especially similar.
Owen Coyle’s Dynamo ran all over the place with little defined tactics or shape, looking to make up for their lack of defense with as much offense as possible. Minnesota lacked a defined shape as well, and couldn’t figure out how to devote numbers forward without isolating terrible center backs like Vadim Demidov with players like Fanendo Adi.
The Loons traded for defensive reinforcements a couple weeks ago and were vastly improved in a 2-0 loss in Dallas. That approach — locating the problems and taking steps to fix them (Demidov is not starting any more) — differs greatly from the Dynamo’s last year, which was to massively over-compensate and start settling for low-scoring draws and losses.
Things are different for the Dynamo now. They enter the game with an actual, diagnosable strategy and are able to play both defense and offense at the same time (I know, really complicated). Still, when Minnesota enter BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, you can surely expect a high-scoring game.
Each club has a talented young goal-scorer just bursting on the scene — Erick Torres for Houston, Christian Ramirez for MNUFC — and both teams play to their attackers’ strengths by focusing on hitting teams on the counter attack and occasionally devoting tons of numbers forward.
Neither roster is particularly stacked with defenders — the Dynamo especially, due to the rampant injuries along the backline — so when numbers go forward, goals stream in both ways. Expect the goalkeepers to have a tough night on Saturday.
Here are a couple other (brief) thoughts on the upcoming game:
1. Quioto may or may not return
Romell Quioto is listed as questionable right now with an injury suffered a few weeks ago. His return would subtly change the Dynamo’s attack, and likely would make things that much tougher for the Loons.
Mauro Manotas, Quioto’s replacement, plays as more of a “target winger” who likes to combine like a forward in the channels with short passes and make runs off the back post. He shifted the Dynamo’s attack to whatever side he played on, using Alex and Torres to break through the gaps rather than cutting through-balls or individual skill. The counter-attack became slightly less of a threat, and the Dynamo compensated for it by creating more of their own chances with less space.
Quioto is similar in that he also focuses more on goal scoring than creating plays himself, but he plays more on the counter, looking to exploit as much open space as possible and create mismatches with slower defenders. Both styles of play have proven to be effective.
The difference is that Manotas has started two games and scored zero goals while Quioto’s started three and scored three. It’s simple numbers, and so the Honduran should have the clear upper hand.
2. Don’t forget about Kevin Molino
Ramirez has been, by far, the most effective attacker for Minnesota — his goals have him on Bruce Arena’s radar — but the Dynamo can’t forget that there are other capable players alongside him. Do not underestimate the Loons.
Kevin Molino, who will likely play as an outside midfielder in their 4-4-2 hybrid-looking formation, is a versatile attacker who likes to move all over the place and generally wreck havoc on the half-spaces. He’ll create, he’ll score, he’s a threat from distance, and his movement helps create space for strikers like Ramirez.
Along with second striker/central creator Johan Venegas, Molino is a very important element of Minnesota’s attack. They are the secondary goal scoring options, and they have to double as creators in addition to their other varying duties.
3. This is a game the Dynamo should win
At the moment, there is a pretty solid argument that Minnesota are the worst team in MLS, both results-wise and talent-wise. They allow a ton of goals and lack enough offensive firepower to make up for it.
As such, when you are a playoff contender like the Dynamo are now, you have to get all three points in home games against bad conference opponents. FC Dallas did it last week, and now Houston need to do the same. Dropped points against a team like Minnesota could be seriously harmful later on in the season should the Dynamo remain in the upper-half of the conference.
There is no such thing as a must-win in April (I feel silly even clarifying that), but these are the kinds of results a team like the Dynamo need. Wilmer Cabrera, I’m sure, knows that.