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Bakaye Dibassy’s injury has sent tremors through multiple Loons seasons

Without him, the Loons are clinging to one of the final playoff spots with two games remaining.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Nashville SC
Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar, left, handles the ball against Minnesota United FC defender Bakaye Dibassy in the second half Aug. 14, 2022, in Nashville. Dibassy suffered a season-ending injury against Houston on Aug. 27
Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL -- The seismic injury to Bakaye Dibassy has sent aftershocks through Minnesota United’s present and future.

After the Loons’ top center back suffered a season-ending rupture to a quadriceps tendon against Houston on Aug. 27, this year’s team has struggled to keep its MLS Cup Playoffs position.

The Loons have averaged 1.0 points per game without Dibassy and have a minus-8 goal differential across those seven games, including one missed in March. With Dibassy, MNUFC has averaged 1.52 points per game with a plus-5 goal differential.

With Dibassy, Minnesota was in the driver’s seat to finish in the top four in the Western Conference and host a playoff game at Allianz Field in mid-October. Without him, the Loons are clinging to one of the final playoff spots with two games remaining.

Overall, Minnesota is 13-13-6 this season and picking up 1.4 points per game; the team, currently holding the sixth seed, will return to game action after the international break at San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 1.

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And Dibassy’s injury, which could keep him out at the start of the 2023 season as well, has altered how the club will approach center back position on next season’s roster. The three key players, including Michael Boxall and Brent Kallman, are all over 30 years old.

“We had already earmarked it as a position of importance and we were already down the road of scouting numerous young players; that might have to change now,” Heath told the Pioneer Press earlier this month. “We were hoping to bring in, with the Under-22 initiative, somebody that could sit behind Dibassy and Boxy for 12 months and then see where we were.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Nashville SC
Minnesota United FC defender Bakaye Dibassy reacts after a play Aug. 14 against Nashville SC.
Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today Sports

“With Dibassy’s situation, we are down to Boxy and Brent, really, and (reinforcements at the position) take on more significance.”

The age of the Loons’ back line was a concern going into the season, and it has come back to bite them. Right back Romain Metanire, 32, was sidelined to begin the year with persistent hamstring injuries, and it forced Dibassy to fill in at fullback.

The curveball was its youngest member, left back Chase Gasper, entering into the league’s substance abuse program and not playing for the club before he was traded to L.A. Galaxy in May.

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After a slow start, the Loons ascended to be one of the league’s best through late August, netting 26 out of the next 33 points during that stretch.
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After signing a 2½-year contract with MNUFC through the 2024 season, with a club option for 2025, the 28-year-old Paraguayan has played in three games — an international friendly versus Everton, plus coming off the bench in two MLS games, wins over Houston and Portland.
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MNUFC traded with Toronto FC for left back Kemar Lawrence, brought in right back Alan Benitez on a free transfer from Paraguay and has seen the benefits of fullback D.J. Taylor coming up from the USL Championship.

They appear in need of a similar changing of the guard at center back, or at least a clearer succession plan. Current backups Callum Montgomery has been out injured to end the season, and Nabi Kibunguchy has only played sparingly in midfield with the first team on top of his center back role with the club’s developmental team, MNUFC2.

With the World Cup coming in November, the Loons’ staff has been out scouting before many prominent leagues close their doors in late October or early November.

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“We are looking at decisions for the end of the year,” Loons technical director Mark Watson told the Pioneer Press earlier this month. “What positions are available and then moving forward with our scouting process. That process is fully on, so it’s going to be a busy couple of months. Some of the second divisions or countries that aren’t in the World Cup, they will continue their leagues, but for the most part things end, so it will be an expedited scouting window this year.”

Briefly

MNUFC announced Thursday the inaugural St. Paul Cup, a doubleheader for pairs of boys and girls varsity teams from within the city to play at Allianz Field. Harding and Washington Technology Magnet will play at the MLS stadium on Oct. 7. Loons homegrown players Fred Emmings and Devin Padelford surprised the high school teams with the news this week. Different schools will be picked in future years based on input from an advisory board of representatives from the Saint Paul Mayor’s Office, Saint Paul Public High Schools and MNUFC. … The Loons unveiled Tuesday a new mini-pitch for the Community School of Excellence, a Hmong Language and Culture School, on Larpenteur Avenue. It’s the fourth field built in the area by United. It was done with the help of MLS Works and the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA LOONS
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