Luchi Gonzalez and his team got to test themselves in their first international friendly of the summer against Liga MX side Tijuana Xolos. Oscar Pareja made his return to Toyota Stadium and there were smiles all around. This was a great opportunity for some of the FC Dallas players who see limited minutes to get the chance to face competition that is outside of MLS.
While there may have been a friendly mood between players and coaches before the game, things changed during the game. FC Dallas started the first half strong and Pepi almost had a chance with a cross from Atuahene that went just out of Pepi’s reach. As the half wore on, Tijuana got more comfortable and more physical. Los Xolos attacked down the flanks as one would expect from an Oscar Pareja team as the lined up in a 4-2-3-1. Another feature of Tijuana was how they were playing through the midfield with quick and concise passing. For FC Dallas, they were faced with a high press and a very physical Tijuana team that really limited the chances to build in the middle. Long passes were favored as FC Dallas looked to bypass the midfield and the Xolos press. Things got heated as Tijuana players began to put in physical challenges. Things got very heated (and not just the weather) as Aranguiz was ejected in stoppage time after a scuffle in the middle of the field.
Alfusainey Jatta came in for Bressan and Jimmy Maurer made his way onto the field for Kyle Zobeck. FC Dallas was forced back for the majority of the second half but did find some success on the playing long balls and trying to attack on the counter. In the 70th minute, FCD made six substitutions. Bryan Acosta, Dom Badji, Santiago Mosquera, Jesus Ferreira, Brandon Servania, and Ema Twumasi all came in. Francis Atuahene, Ricardo Pepi, Edwin Cerrillo, Jacori Hayes, Thomas Roberts, and Jonathan Gomez. In the final moments of the match, things began to open up more and more for FC Dallas. The long balls were finding players and FC Dallas was able to create more and more chances. Though, neither team was able to put the ball into the back of the net.
Thoughts & Takeaways
First and foremost, this was a friendly so when it comes to the details of how the team played, there really can’t be that much emphasis put on a specific pass or tackle. A big takeaway is the value of the different competition that FC Dallas will face thanks for this friendly against Tijuana Xolos and Sevilla FC.
“It helps us a lot,” Ferreira told Dallas Sports Nation (DSN). “We are always wanting to compete with teams that are not just in the U.S. but outside of the U.S. and we can prove that when they play us. They come play us and think that it’s going to be easy maybe because we are in the U.S. but we have to go out and prove to them that the U.S. is not an easy league to play in. When they come here and they are playing in our home, we are going to have to show them that we have to defend our home.”
Getting exposure to different styles of play is something that any coach will tell you is invaluable to young players. The experience from playing against the competitive competition, that these players do not consistently see over the course of a season, helps the whole squad learn and grow. This experience is not only valuable for the whole team, but it is valuable to some of the younger players as well.
“Obviously, it’s just an experience too,” Reynolds explained to DSN. “You just gain more experience playing against international teams. It’s always good just playing against different teams from different areas around. Being young and getting these games in, I think it’s really important for me because it also, like I said, builds experience. Against Sevilla, it’s going to be a big game and if I get the opportunity to play in it then I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
The variety of competition that FC Dallas will face is more than just a chance to see different teams and different styles of play. These games provide a chance for FC Dallas to play against teams that will provide serious competition even in a friendly setting. These matches are helping prepare FC Dallas for their different competitions.
“One of our goals is to get into CONCACAF Champions League,” Gonzalez told the media. “So, losing the Open Cup game two weeks ago is very hard because it is one of the ways, so we have to keep fighting the other ways for the rest of the season. We know that we are going to be in CONCACAF Champions League eventually because we are going to earn that. This is a great moment to reflect and to say, ‘hey, we can play with this team from Mexico.’ I know that they are in preseason and they are not fit yet and had rotations. We had rotations. I’m realistic about it as well but I think it would be a great opportunity to play that caliber team in a real competition but you need this game to get to that point eventually.”
Seeing Old Faces
It goes without saying that there were lots of hugs shared between players and coaches from both sides.
“It was good,” Ferreira told DSN. “[They are] coaches that have coached most of us. Three years now. Maybe two. It was great seeing how they are taking care of the team and it was just good to catch up with them.”
Oscar “Papi” Pareja helped start the FC Dallas Academy and had the opportunity to coach a large portion of FC Dallas’ homegrowns. Some of those players are currently in the first squad for FC Dallas and it was different seeing their former coach in the opposite technical area.
“It kinda feels crazy because those are the guys that signed me to this team and I’m thankful for them,” Reynolds said with a smile. “It was a great experience playing against them.”
For Oscar Pareja, he played a large role in the youth development scene at FC Dallas. He has left a mark on the club and even though it hasn’t been a full year, he was happy to be back home and to see how things have been since his departure.
“I was very excited and happy to see [Luchi Gonzalez] working with the team,” Pareja said. “I think the club has been very faithful to its philosophy and I think they’re doing a great job and that excites me a lot.”
Not only has Oscar Pareja made an impact on the young players that he has developed but he has also played a part in the coaching scene. All of FC Dallas’ coaches have all coached in the Academy during Pareja’s tenure at FC Dallas. It is fair to say that Papi has also “grown” Luchi Gonzalez.
When Pareja was asked if he had any advice for the young FC Dallas head coach, he laughed and said with a big smile, “No, no. We are competing all the time in this role, but I think he is doing well.”
It was a special match that held significance for the players before and after the game. During the game, it was anything but a friendly between two teams that love to compete. Having international friendlies against quality teams will prove to be helpful for the team in the future due to the experience and for gaining exposure to different styles around the world.
Featured Image: FC Dallas