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Minnesota United vs. FC Dallas: Keys to match, projected starting XI and a prediction

Minnesota United vs. FC Dallas

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Allianz Field
Stream: Apple TV Season Pass
Radio: KSTP-AM 1500 ESPN
Weather: 74 degrees, sunny, 8 mph southeast wind
Betting line: MNUFC plus-100; draw plus-260; Dallas plus-235

Form: MNUFC (8-3-4, 28 points) kept a poor Kansas City team down in a dominating 3-1 win last Saturday. The shorthanded Loons will look to do the same against Dallas (3-8-4, 13 points), which is winless in its past four matches.

Flashback: The Loons’ previous MLS Cup Playoff appearance in 2022 was ended by FC Dallas. After a 1-1 draw, MNUFC made four of five penalty kicks (only Wil Trapp failed to score), while Dallas made all five to advance out of the first round.

Absences: MNUFC has an MLS-high nine players away for international duty: Dayne St. Clair and Tani Oluwaseyi (Canada); Robin Lod and Teemu Pukki (Finland); Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales (Honduras); Zarek Valentin (Puerto Rico); Carlos Harvey (Panama); and Alejandro Bran (Costa Rica). Also, DJ Taylor (hamstring) is out. Micky Tapias (U.S. green card) and Hugo Bacharach (knee) are doubtful. Caden Clark (toe) and Franco Fragapane (leg) are probable.

Given the absences, head coach Eric Ramsay said: “We’ve got almost nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

View: With that slew of missing players, it’s the worst possible time to have Tapias travel to Mexico for an appointment on his immigration paperwork. Why not have him do it next week to spread out the absences? One theory is the club wanted to consolidate the roster pinch primarily into one week.

“That is sort of above my head and the strength of the rationale for that,” Ramsay said. “It was more to do with the greater good (taking Tapias off an international roster spot) in the upcoming (transfer) window. I think it was going to be awkward at any point. Not ideal circumstances, but I think hopefully it’s one over the course of the season that we will be happy to get done sooner rather than later.”

Projected XI: In a 5-2-3 formation, LW Franco Fragapane, CF Jordan Adebayo-Smith, RW Bongi Hlongwane; CM Hassani Dotson, CM Wil Trapp; RWB Caden Clark, CB Devin Padelford, CB Michael Boxall, CB Victor Eriksson, LWB Sang Bin Jeong; GK Clint Irwin

Possible bench: With more than 10 absences, the Loons will call on some first-team backups and MNUFC2 players. Some candidates include: Kage Romanshyn, Patrick Weah, Alec Smir, Morris Duggan, Molik Jesse Khan, Finn McRobb and Britton Fischer, among others.

“I’m sure there is an opportunity for debuts and minutes where there wouldn’t have been a couple of weeks ago,” Ramsay said.

Context: Ramsay said newly signed attacker Samuel Shashoua has a “strong pedigree” within the Tottenham academy, but the 25-year-old has had an injury history that has held him back in Spain the past few years. He won’t be eligible to play for the Loons until July 20 vs. Seattle.

“He’s a player with a lot of technical quality, who can definitely bring value to the group,” Ramsay said of Shashoua. “If he can find his rhythm, we are hopeful he can spend a month or so training to get himself to a certain level before he comes in with the group. Then we will see where that sort of takes him.”

Positive check-in: Pukki got a desperate dose of confidence with a brace in Finland’s game against Portugal on Tuesday. He hasn’t scored in MLS since March 9.

Negative check-in: St. Clair had some rough moments in Canada’s 4-0 loss to Netherlands on Thursday. He had questionable decision-making to come off his line on a goal and spilled a shot for another goal concession.

Key: Dallas has struggled to score goals this season: third-fewest in MLS (17 in 13 matches). But the team has an estimated six goals on set pieces, so a pieced-together MNUFC lineup will need to be tight in that phase of the game.

Prediction: MNUFC has just too many key players missing to get what otherwise appears to be an easier home win. But there still is something positive in the game for the Loons: a 1-1 draw and plenty of experience for other players.