FC Dallas took on New Mexico United in the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. It was a hot and humid match at SMU as FC Dallas lost 1-2 in a well-contested match what proved to be difficult and frustrating for the teams and fans alike.
FC Dallas’ newest homegrown, Ricardo Pepi, made his return to the starting lineup along with Edwin Cerrillo. It was a back and forth affair for both teams. New Mexico United favored to press against FC Dallas and defend in a mid-block when possession was lost. FC Dallas favored attacking along the flanks with patient buildup along the backline and midfield. Brandon Servania opened his goalscoring account with a rocket of a goal off a corner kick to give the home side the lead in the 41st minute. It would not take long for New Mexico United to respond as FC Dallas turned the ball over in their own box where Kevaughn Frater was able to slot the ball into the back of the net to even the score.
In the second half, FC Dallas looked to put the game to bed and advance to the quarterfinals. New Mexico United had different ideas and continued to press and defend in a mid-block. Paxton Pomykal made his return to the field as Ricardo Pepi made way for him. New Mexico United scored again in the 64th minute off a freekick where Sam Hamilton put the ball away after some confusion amongst the Dallas defense on how to handle the ball. Zdenek Ondrasek came into the game hoping to score for the home side as Brandon Servania’s night game to an end. Thomas Roberts came in for Bryan Reynolds as the final sub for FC Dallas. Los Toros were not able to pull another goal back and bowed out of the competition in the Round of 16 for the third straight year in a row.
Thoughts and Takeaways
New Mexico United did well to frustrate FC Dallas’s play. The pressure that the FCD faced from NMU did well to force the ball back to be cycled. There was a moment where Luchi Gonzalez was visibly frustrated when the ball was cycled back when it could’ve been played forward. Once FC Dallas regained possession, New Mexico United would sit and defend deep and commit numbers to whoever was on the ball. To counteract the fast transitions that NMU made from attack to defense, FCD tried to play with verticality, long balls, and through balls to bypass the midfield.
When it came to the feel of the game, FC Dallas was the better team but New Mexico United did a better job of executing their game plan, converting their chances that they had, and frustrating their opponent. Gonzalez shared, “We didn’t execute the plan. We started off well, got the first goal. Didn’t close the half the way we should’ve. Pretty innocent in the ball in behind. So, that’s a growing pain for our back line. Anyway, it’s 1-1, second half, a lot to play for and we made some adjustments. I thought we started the second half well, created some opportunities and service in the box that we didn’t get on the end of. And then they get a dead ball and they score… At the end of the day, we need to kill. We need to put balls in the box and kill and we need to get balls out of our box and kill in the opposite way, get the ball out.”
Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo were tasked with connecting the midfield and attack together given that Jesus Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Michael Barrios, and Dominique Badji were all going to put pressure on the New Mexico United backline. For two young players who are just starting their professional careers, this is a big ask for those two players. Nevertheless, Edwin Cerrillo did well in helping to shield the backline and provide service to the wings and Servania. Brandon Servania made efforts to be the glue between the midfield and attack and provide service.
FC Dallas favored to attack down the flanks for great portions of the match and there was a limited amount of play through the middle. When Paxton Pomykal and Thomas Roberts came in, both attempted to build out through the middle, but the ball tended more to the flanks.
Gonzalez stated, “But just disappointing that we couldn’t do more, especially there at the end where to me we’re all over them but we’re not getting enough service, we’re not getting enough crosses. I think the stat sheet says it, 10 crosses, so no that’s not good enough. We need 20 crosses. 20 crosses, that gives us opportunities to put things in the box. Especially when we’re playing with two ‘nines’ at the end and we got a center back committed and we’re not getting balls in the box.”
This is interesting because while crossing is one way to attack it has arguably not been a strong point of FC Dallas this season. Badji, Ondrasek, Ferreira, Barrios, and Hedges were all challenging New Mexico’s backline in the last 10 minutes of the match. FC Dallas continued to opt for attacking through the flanks when Pomykal and Roberts were options in the middle of the field. Again, New Mexico did well when it came to committing numbers to flanks to defend the ball, this left space open for Pomykal and Roberts to work in which might’ve created more chaos and quality goals scoring chances.
When crossing, there is a smaller area that the ball can go where it will be threatening than if the ball is played from the middle. Through the middle, there is a wider range of options as one has the entire top of the box. Given the number of players that FC Dallas committed forward and how many defenders New Mexico United had in the box, across will most likely find the head of a defender.
This is the second year that FC Dallas has lost in the Round of 16 in the US Open Cup. For Luchi Gonzalez and his team, it is fair to say that this was a trophy they could’ve gotten this year. In theory, playing two lower divisions teams in the first two rounds and then playing Minnesota United in the quarterfinals and the winner of Portland Timbers/LAFC match in the semifinals. The draw appears favorable for the team and in a tournament where it takes one match to move on, this is the type of challenge that is fair for Luchi and his team.
On the flipside, being eliminated from the USOC can prove to be another opportunity for Luchi Gonzalez and his staff. It is difficult when you are missing players due to international duty and some of the players that you rely on are younger professionals who don’t have the experience yet. Luchi takes each and every aspect of the season so far as a learning and growing opportunity and that is just what they are: opportunities. This is a young coaching staff with a young team.
One of the critiques is that FC Dallas struggled to find their rhythm in this match and in previous matches. With now only focusing on the league and trying to secure a playoff spot, Gonzalez and his staff have the chance to refine their system and continue to gain the experience for future cup runs and seasons. There will be less fixture congestion with no more cup games which can help eliminate the uncertainty with the balancing of minutes between players and not playing with an exhausted squad.
FC Dallas returns to Toyota Stadium on Saturday, June 22 as they take on Toronto FC at 7:00 PM.
Featured Image: Nico Mendez/Dallas Sports Nation