Luchi Gonzalez and his team are entering the final two weeks of the preseason before the 2020 season kicks off on February 29th. This week, we’ll look at five takeaways from what we’ve seen to this point in the preseason.
We’ll take it ?♂️
— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) February 13, 2020
This clip of a hilarious and unfortunate goalkeeper gaffe isn’t the greatest piece of evidence for the emphasis on the high press we’ve seen from FCD in this preseason, but it is a great microcosm of what the team is looking for with their press in 2020. Just within this clip, which is a zoomed-in view, you can see three different FC Dallas players in view, all three of the front three at the time: Michael Barrios, Ricardo Pepi, and entering the picture (and the 18-yard box) as the clip wraps up, Ema Twumasi.
The high press isn’t a brand new concept for FC Dallas under Luchi Gonzalez but there seems to be a greater emphasis on pressing higher up the pitch in 2020 compared to 2019, where the press was typically applied heavily in midfield but there wasn’t a lot of pressing into the opponent’s third. This type of pressing is something that has seen heavy use by Jurgen Kloop’s Liverpool in particular and it appears that Luchi Gonzalez will try to bring this concept into his FC Dallas squad for 2020. As the competition in preseason ramps up for FCD’s upcoming trip to Florida where they will play MLS sides, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues.
Injuries are part and parcel of any MLS team’s offseason but FC Dallas has been hit with a variety of injuries that have largely plagued a single position. The injuries the club is dealing with have run the gambit of injuries suffered during preseason (Brandon Servania versus LAFC and Matt Hedges in training), injuries that players have been dealing with since the offseason (Paxton Pomykal following his offseason surgery) and non-soccer related injuries (Bryan Acosta’s emergency appendectomy).
All four players did not make the trip to San Antonio for Wednesday’s friendly and it remains to be seen which, if any of them, will travel to Florida for the final preseason trip. Hedges and Pomykal seem the most likely to return soon as their injuries are relatively minor, while Servania and Acosta face at least a couple more weeks of recovery and are likely to miss the season opener against Philadelphia. At this point, FCD aren’t quite looking at an injury crisis, but everyone should have their fingers crossed that the team doesn’t suffer any further injuries.
One of the two major offseason acquisitions for FCD this season, Santos has seen his involvement continue to ramp up throughout preseason since arriving from Brazil a few weeks ago. As has been reported by various other FC media outlets, Santos is the real deal at the number 6 and has shown a clear potential to be the replacement for Carlos Gruezo that the team was missing in the second half of the 2019 season.
Santos has shown his wonderful ball-winning ability that was so highly praised by Palmeiras fans as well as his composure on the ball and his intelligent passing. What he’s shown in less than a month with the team is very promising and that will only improve as he continues to get comfortable with his teammates, coaching staff and FCD’s system.
Picault vs Mosquera
The one big position battle of the preseason is on the left-wing between the incumbent Santiago Mosquera and the other major acquisition of the offseason, Fafa Picault. In the first few preseason games in California and also against the Austin Bold back in Frisco, Mosquera started with the first team while Picault subbed on and played with the second team. That changed for the first time on Wednesday against San Antonio FC with Picault starting ahead of Mosquera, who actually did not play at all.
It is hard to say if this was just an opportunity for Picault to prove himself with the first team along with some rest for Mosquera or if this is a sign of Picault supplanting Mosquera in the first team. Picault did perform quite well with his directness and defensive effort standing in stark contrast to what Mosquera brings to the table from that position. In the last two weeks of preseason, this will be one of the most interesting spots to keep an eye on.
Loans, Loans, and More Loans
Between FC Dallas and North Texas SC, the club has sent more players out on loan than in any other season in recent memory. North Texas SC center back Brecc Evans was the first player to go on loan, heading to the USL Championship with Austin Bold FC. Francis Atuahene followed suit while the team was in California with a loan to the USL Championship, with a loan move to Landon Donovan’s new club San Diego Loyal SC. This loan has not been officially announced, but Atuahene has been with San Diego since FCD played them in preseason (Atuahene scored the lone goal to give San Diego the win). This week saw two more players join the FCD loan army with Callum Montgomery heading out to San Antonio FC and North Texas SC midfielder and USL League One MVP Arturo Rodriguez going to Real Monarchs, both in the USL Championship.
Each loan is slightly different. Both Evans and Montgomery spent the 2019 season playing with North Texas SC and both players showed that they needed to be challenged at a higher level. Evans will spend the entire season with Austin Bold and will hope to be able to make the step up to the FCD first team in 2021, while Montgomery’s loan has a right of recall, allowing FCD to bring him back if needed. Atuahene’s loan means that his time with FCD is likely done, as he is in the final year of his contract. It is possible that this loan hasn’t been announced because the clubs may be working out a permanent deal for the Ghanaian winger.
Finally, Rodriguez’s loan is very interesting and is a new move for the club as the loan as an option to buy. Perhaps what is most interesting about that is that Rodriguez is headed to Real Monarchs, the second team of Real Salt Lake. With a real logjam in midfield for FCD, it is not surprising to see the option to buy in Rodriguez’s loan, as the club will look to make some money off of him if he can’t become a part of the first team, but it is a bit surprising to see him go to another MLS team’s USL team, it would certainly be bittersweet to see Rodriguez line up against FCD for RSL in MLS play.
It is more than likely that the loans aren’t quite finished, with North Texas SC forward and USL League One’s leading scorer in 2019 Ronaldo Damus yet to sign with the first team. With that in mind, it would be shocking to not see him go out on loan to another USL Championship club for 2020, expect to see that materialize within the next couple of weeks.
What are your biggest takeaways from the preseason to this point?
Featured Image: FC Dallas