The hashtag for this movement is somewhat unclear right now, but the general idea is shared by most in the American soccer landscape. Many have claimed, probably correctly, that FC Dallas has stiffed Paxton’s growth over the past couple years due to lack of playing time. Now with Luchi steering the ship, FC Dallas has the opportunity to allow Paxton to develop into the elite player we know he can become
FC Dallas has been blamed in the past for stifling Paxton’s growth. His first year as a professional, Mauri Diaz was an MVP-caliber player. When Fabian Castillo got sold, most fans believed that Pomykal was signed to fill that hole, but Roland Lamah was then later signed in early 2017. When Mauro was sold in the middle of the season last year, we as fans thought this was the opportunity for Pax, but the club then went on to sign Pablo Aranguiz.
This isn’t a claim that these signings shouldn’t have been made, as both Pablo Aranguiz and Santiago Mosquera have shown to be players with quality that can be very valuable to the club. However, as a club that has boasted their amazing academy to the entire league, there has been little proof of that on the field, as Reggie Cannon, Jesse Gonzalez, and Victor Ulloa were the only academy players to consistently start for the club in the last couple seasons.
That has seemed to change this season. Luchi stated in his first press conferences, as well as in interviews, that his mentality is to develop stars, and that the best players will play. Most of the time, this is just coach talk, as coaches would rather fall on veterans in tough moments. But there was real proof during preseason, as Paxton, along with Jesus Ferreira, Edwin Cerrillo, and Brandon Servania saw time with the first team squad.
It wasn’t entirely surprising to see Jacori Hayes start against New England: he performed really well in preseason, and he deserved a start after also not being given much of an opportunity last year. Luchi’s commentary on Acosta not being fully integrated with the system also explained why Hayes started over Pomykal.
It didn’t work though.
Seen above is the passing map in Zone 14 and Zone 11 of Gruezo, Acosta, and Hayes during the game. Granted, Hayes was forced out due to injury, but this…isn’t pretty.
The three midfielders were unable to make any penetrating passing into Zone 14, which is the area in front of the penalty box. without those penetrating passes throughout the middle, both Dom Badji and Mosquera were forced to drop back to receive the ball, an action that slows down the ability to break down defenses.
I mean, this is Badji’s passing map. There should be no reason, with a midfield trio with a massive passing ability, for Badji to go behind the halfway line, except for something like the header he had an assist for Barrios (labeled in blue on the map).
In 30 minutes or so, Pax was able to make a pass into Zone 14. Something the midfield trio weren’t able to do for the whole match.
I want to state that there is nothing wrong with the possession that the club has adopted. I think it will allow for more flexibility with the team, and it shows the multiple capabilities that this club has at its disposal. But for there to be any attacking prowess in this team, there has to be a connector. Paxton is perfect in that role: he always makes lives miserable for defenders, his splits defenders with great passes, and his movement is on point.
Without Pax, or at least Pablo, there is no attacking threat. It showed against, possibly, the worst team in the eastern conference.
This weekend, there is a massive incentive to play Paxton, as Hayes is injured and Aranguiz can’t, and hasn’t, been playing the 10 role for Luchi’s teams during preseason. We are also playing an LA Galaxy team that isn’t great, especially with newcomer Joe Corona only practicing with the Galaxy for a week.
The club and staff have to become comfortable with allowing Pomykal to lead the team in distribution. Unless Mosquera is forced inwards, which will eliminate a threat on the wing, the club will not be able to produce much if Paxton isn’t on the field. Also, the next player in the pipeline who has a skillset that somewhat resembles Paxton’s is Thomas Roberts’. It’s time to #UnleaseThePax.
It’s going to be fun to see Luchi’s system actually work how it’s supposed to tomorrow.
Featured Image: Prosoccerusa.com