FC Dallas has reached the middle of their 2019, a campaign that was defined at the beginning of the season as a rebuilding year after the departure of long-time head coach Oscar Pareja.
With the introduction of a head coach with no professional experience under his belt, there wasn’t going to be much criticism of Luchi in his first year. However, this was made to be a year that would test many players on their ability to fit in the system now known as Luchi-Ball. As the first part of a midseason review on FC Dallas, we will be looking at the performances of the players based on the expectations that fans had before entering the season.
Shout out to both Carlos Gruezo and Marquinhos Pedroso, both players who played matches but have both moved on from FC Dallas. They aren’t listed on the review.
Most Valuable Player
We look at this player first because it seems the most obvious. We can talk about Barrios’ continued contribution to the attack game in game out, and we can talk about Hollingshead’s ability to patch up positions at a moments notice, but the best player on the team is undoubtedly Paxton Pomykal. Numbers speak for themselves: FC Dallas is 7-3-3 with 24 points when he plays, but 1-4-2 with 5 points without him. Since the departure of Maxi Urruti, he has been the team’s workhorse, with an insanely high amount of duels each game.
His passing accuracy and range are also unreal. His influence on both sides of the ball is amazing. We will be insanely lucky to be able to have another six months with his in Frisco.
P.S A Pomykal-McKinney-Adams midfield makes my mouth water like crazy. His influence on the national team will be monumental.
The other two nominations have had good campaigns so far this season. Michael Barrios continues to be a spark in an attack that has been accused of being lethargic and lazy during certain games this season. Whenever the attack fizzles out, he has been our go-to guy to dribble at a defender and make something out of nothing, and he has delivered countless times
Hollingshead is an interesting case. It was difficult to tell what his value was for the squad at the beginning of the season, but he has proven his worth again and again. He currently has been filling at left back, a spot he’s battled for against John Nelson during the season, but he’s been everywhere, playing every position for the team except striker and goalkeeper, both positions he’s played for the club in previous seasons. He’s an important part of what Luchi’s trying to build in Frisco, and I hope he stays for a long time
There isn’t a “winner” in this category, but the obvious surprise of the year is John Nelson. Ryan is a good player, and North Texas SC has a lot of amazing talents going through the ranks, but it’s clear that Luchi sees Johnny as the starting left back for the club for the foreseeable future.
FC Dallas’ second-highest draft pick in the 2019 SuperDraft, Nelson was the third-string left back entering the season. But after Pedroso’s departure and a string of incredibly impressive performances, Nelson has rightfully won the starting role. The only reason he isn’t starting currently is due to injury.
His play both sides of the ball is impressive. His passing range is solid, and his defensive abilities are incredible. His footballing future could honestly be the left back position on the national team, with there being no true starter in that role.
Edwin Cerrillo has also been a good surprise this season. Fans knew that there was a probability that Carlos Gruezo would leave, especially after the incoming Copa America. No one knew at the beginning of the year, that that player wouldn’t be named Brandon Servania.
Servania has recently stepped up enough to put his name in the discussion, but Cerrillo was performing so well that he usurped the Ecuadorian Designated Player. Cerrillo is so calm in possession, and his passing range is exceptional. Although he isn’t a destroyer like Gruezo was, he covers ground just as well, and his positioning allows Cerrillo to intercept balls without difficulty.
The position battle between Servania, Cerrillo, and possibly Acosta, will be one of my main points of interests in the second half of the season.
Ricardo Pepi also has had an amazing rise of glory since he arrived at the FC Dallas academy a little over two years ago. Being the first North Texas SC signing in club history, there was an expectation, but also caution. He didn’t disappoint: in six games in a North Texas shirt, he scored 7 goals and had 2 assists, averaging a goal or an assist every sixty minutes. This earned him a two-game Open Cup loan to the first team, then a professional contract on June 21st. His growth in an FC Dallas jersey is going to be exciting, and hopefully, he will be able to get some starts by the end of the season.
Another name that sneaked into this category is Jesse Gonzalez. He has always performed well for the club, but there always were complaints about his communication and his decision-making in crucial moments. He has shown an increase in quality in those two sections, which has helped him strut his quality better this season. Hopefully, this gives him an opportunity to impress Berhalter in a possible future national team camp.
(This doesn’t mean that their performances are worse than the surprises, just that it was expected of them to reach this level of performance)
Ignoring the Libertadores reputation that followed him to Toyota Stadium, Bressan came here with expectations. It looked like he wasn’t going to meet them for the first 2-3 months of the season, but with injuries and callus, he has gotten his opportunity to shine and has taken it. His flexibility with the right-back position has helped the team a lot in Cannon’s absence. Once Cannon comes back from the Gold Cup, it’s going to be interesting to see Bressan and Ziegler battle it out for the center-back role alongside Matt Hedges
Speaking of Cannon, he continues to be our talisman. It’s unfortunate that he set himself such a high bar after his MLS Best Eleven season last year, but that’s what comes from playing above and beyond what is expected of you. He hasn’t reached the tropes that he did last year, which has led to some reasonable criticism, but his performance for the US against Jamaica showed the world his quality.
After not being able to buy a start for the first team, Brandon Servania has become a regular for the club. The U20 World Cup put his quality up for display for the world to see, which made fans realize his quality. His play on both sides of the ball is exceptional, and he has paired up well with Cerrillo during the spew of international absences that the club has. The departure of Gruezo means that he will be called up more and more tos step up, but it seems he is up for the challenge.
There isn’t much to be said of Matt Hedges. He continues to be the rock that a captain (I don’t care who has the armband, he is the captain) is supposed to be.
Despite a recent dip in form, Jesus Ferreira has played well with the opportunities that Luchi has given him. He quite rightly won the starting striker role at the beginning of the season, and his goalscoring record has led to him being our top goalscorer with 5 goals this season. His performances have begun to wane, which will lead to him having to fight for the starting role, but Luchi has confidence in the kid, so fans should continue to believe in him.
The substitute group of Jimmy Maurer, Jacori Hayes, Thomas Roberts, and Bryan Reynolds have all performed well when called upon. They don’t have the quality of starting game in and game out, but they continue to do the jobs that the team requires, which has helped the team in moments of shortage.
Coming off of a lackluster first couple of months, Dominique Badji came into the season needing to prove his worth to the club. He hasn’t really done that
Although his performances are an improvement from his 2018 games, they set a low bar that Badji has barely passed. He has helped the team in a position that is alien to him in the left wing, but his performances altogether have been relatively poor. 5 goals isn’t spectacular, and he has done little to justify bringing reinforcements in the form of Edwin Gyasi.
In fairness, the attack is generally lackluster and inconsistent, and with Ferreira’s recent poor form, Badji has an opportunity to shine. But he has to shine sometime before December if he wants to justify him staying in Frisco.
Santiago Mosquera is, bluntly, a disappointment of a Designated Player. It’s unfortunate because all the fans can see his quality. A consistent pairing of him on the left and Barrios on the right with Pomykal in the middle hasn’t been done for a straight run of games this season. His injuries forced the signing of Gyasi from CSKA Sofia, which, if anything, gives the club a real choice if Santi pulls a hammy again.
Mosquera has quality that no one can deny. The real conversation that deviates from his poor fitness is his ability to fit with Luchi-Ball. In the few games he has played, Santi has looked lost and isolated, which may be the lingering pain from the injuries, but may also be his inability to fit into the system.
The next couple of months are crucial for Santi in order to see if he can fit into Luchi’s style of play. Hopefully, he stays healthy to prove to the coaching staff that very thing.
Reto Ziegler is only in the starting eleven because of Cannon’s call-up. Before the call-up, Bressan had actually beaten Reto for the starting center back role.
Now, technically, Reto is the captain, and Luchi won’t be quick to drop his captain from the starting eleven. But Luchi is known for his youth player development, and there are players like Callum Montgomery, Brecc Evans, and Alfousainey Jatta knocking on the door, not to mention Reto’s Brazilian counterpart. Reto’s performances have been inconsistent, which is paving the way for Bressan to claim the first team spot. His age isn’t doing him any favors, so if he wants to be able to keep his starting spot.
Needs Major Improvement
Pablo Aranguiz was called up recently to the Chilean U23’s, which speaks to his known potential. And his apparent good performance leads many to believe that he can become the Mauro Diaz replacement fans envisioned.
So far, in this season, he hasn’t been able to fit into Luchi’s system. It was understood that many players weren’t going to be able to fit into the possession style of play, but Aranguiz was one of the few that I thought was going to be a lock in for Luchi-Ball. This has been the opposite: every opportunity he has when on the field does not give Luchi any more reason to start him.
He probably is already on his way out now. However, if he wants to stay in Dallas, he needs to perform if he is given a chance.
It sucks that Zdenek Ondrasek was never given a proper chance. I would have loved to see him start a game not at Banc of California Stadium. But it seems that Luchi doesn’t think the Cobra is well suited to his system. It will be shocking, based on this, to see him on the roster by August.
The last player on this roster is Cristian Colman, who is the only player on this list that hasn’t started an MLS match (all the other players aren’t categorized). Colman is the enigma of goalscoring strikers, and his return to the roster will probably make few heads turn.
He’s got a full six months to impress, and I expect Luchi to actually give him opportunities to impress. So far, with North Texas, his influence has been the same as it was before his ACL tear for the first team. But there is an opening right now at the striker position, which means that technically he has a shot. Only technically
The second part of the midseason review will come out soon. What do y’all think of the season so far?
Featured Image: ESPN.com