New Loon Tapias will be a ‘top, top MLS player,’ coach says after debut

If you only get one chance to make a good first impression, recently acquired Minnesota United defender Micky Tapias made his Saturday night in a season-opening 1-0 victory at FC Dallas.

Signed from CF Pachuca in Mexico’s Liga MX, Tapias started at left center-back beside veteran Michael Boxall, played all 90 minutes and earned his first yellow card, too.

The left-footed left back also impressed impressionable Loons coach Adrian Heath.

“He will be a top, top MLS player,” Heath said afterward.

At 26, Tapias gives the Loons a younger, athletic anchor to an aging and injury-prone backline that is missing veteran starter Bakaye Dibassy. A ruptured-quadricep tendon injury ended Dibassy’s 2022 season early and will start his 2023 season late.

“Everything we thought he was: Composure, competitive, good decision making,” Heath said about Tapias’ Saturday debut. “Considering he has played probably 2 1/2 games with Michael Boxall, I thought the pair of them were outstanding tonight. Micky will be a really big player for us over the next few years.”

The Loons also just signed 21-year-old Swedish center back Mikael Marques. He was listed as out with an ankle injury for the season opener.

“Now we have two younger ones,” Heath said. “That was something we wanted to do. “Tapias had a great year last year and Marques looks like he has a really big upside. We’ve addressed that area now.”

Named Miguel, Tapias prefers to be called his more American nickname Micky by his new teammates and new team, with which he signed a three-year contract with a fourth-year team option in 2026.

Heath has praised that athleticism and lift, his ease on the ball and a versatility that allows him to play both left-side positions on a four-man backline. Heath also noted Tapias can play in a three-man or a five-man backline as well.

Being left-footed on that left side doesn’t hurt any, either.

“Anytime you have a left-footer playing on the left side, it makes things a lot easier,” Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair said. “He’s obviously comfortable on the ball, which makes things easier for me being comfortable on the ball, being able to play out a little more just having a left-footer there.”

FC Dallas dominated the game’s possession Saturday, but the Loons limited Dallas’ shots on goal to one all night.

“All over the park, everyone did their jobs really well,” Boxall said. “The little time I’ve had with Micky beside me this preseason — and then tonight — it’s still a work in progress. But from where we started, I like the way he plays. As long as we keep communicating and keep things tight, then we can be a fairly solid partnership this season.

“It’s a nice start, but it’s just the start.”

French-speaking Dibassy and former starting right back Romain Metanire both overcame the language difference with their backline teammates and goalkeeper to become among the Loons’ best and most dependable players. Metanire was an All-Star selection in 2019 and the Loons swooned late last season after Dibassy was injured.

“There’s a little bit of a language barrier, but I’m trying to work on my Spanish,” St. Clair said. “I think for his lack of English, he has done well communicating with the team. I know a few things on the field, but that’s about it. My loan to San Antonio (in 2020) helped me a little, but it’s not great for sure.”


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