After a long offseason, the 2020 MLS regular season is just a week away, and with that in mind, we’ll take a look at four questions that have yet to be answered heading into the final week of FC Dallas’ preseason schedule.
Who Starts at Left-Wing?
This has pretty much been a consistent question throughout the preseason: will new arrival Fafa Picault be able to take the left-wing spot from the incumbent Santiago Mosquera? In the first few preseason matchups, Mosquera seemed to be retaining the spot, starting games and playing largely with the first team. That changed in the friendly against Austin Bold, which saw Picault start and play significant minutes with the first group for the first time.
It seems that Picault’s involvement with the first team has carried forward, but things are still inconclusive as FCD played in a 3-5-2 against Philadelphia in Wednesday’s matchup. Picault started the game but played up top as a forward rather than out wide as a winger. Mosquera started on the bench and was subbed on in the second half and ended up playing in the same position up top as Picault.
At this point, it seems that Picault has supplanted Mosquera in the lineup, but don’t be surprised to see this go back and forth during the season as the two players may both see starts based on the opposing matchup.
Who Starts the Season in Midfield?
The remainder of the starting eleven is pretty much set, except for one other position: the “8”. Thiago Santos has established himself as the starting defensive midfielder, or the “6”, while Jesus Ferreira has cemented himself in the “free 8” (or “10” if you prefer) role. Meanwhile, injuries have taken their toll on the final spot in the midfield three. Brandon Servania suffered an injury in the preseason against LAFC that will keep him out of the season opener next weekend while Bryan Acosta needed an emergency appendectomy that will see him miss the start of the season. Paxton Pomykal is the most obvious choice here, but he’s continuing to work back from his offseason surgery and has not featured in the preseason to this point.
In response to these injuries, Luchi has done some experimentation with the position. Against Austin Bold and San Antonio FC, Edwin Cerrillo, typically a “6”, slotted into the position. With all the injuries, he seems the most obvious fit, though Gonzalez chose to start Johnny Nelson, typically a left-back, at that position against Philadelphia, though that was in a different formation. Suffice to say it is still up in the air who gets the start opening day, but if you made me pick someone now, I would suspect that Cerrillo gets the nod on February 29th.
Is the 3-5-2 Here to Stay?
The 3-5-2 is not anything particularly new with Luchi Gonzalez and FC Dallas. It was used sparingly in the regular season last year after it was seen at times in the 2019 preseason, but throughout 2019, Gonzalez’s bread and butter go-to formation was clearly the 4-3-3. That seems to be the same in 2020, the 4-3-3 seems to be the “standard” formation for FC Dallas, but the 3-5-2 has seen a fair amount of time, especially compared to the past season and preseason.
On paper, the 3-5-2 makes a lot of sense, Dallas has three veterans at center back in Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges and Bressan and two full backs in Ryan Hollingshead and Reggie Cannon who are both very good at getting forward and supporting the attack.
The 3-5-2 was used throughout the most recent preseason game against Philadelphia, but it is tough to read too much into that considering the two teams match up again to open the regular season in just over a week, so Gonzalez would want to keep his cards close to his chest, and also considering that the team is currently without Michael Barrios, who is back home celebrating the birth of his daughter (congratulations Mikey!). More than likely, the 4-3-3 is going to be the dominant formation once again in 2020 but don’t be surprised to see more flexibility and experimentation from Luchi Gonzalez.
What’s Up with Cal Jennings?
FC Dallas drafted six players in the 2020 SuperDraft: Nkosi Burgess, Cal Jennings, Manuel Ferriol, Derek Waldeck, Anders Engebretsen, and Aiden Megally. Megally never reported to training camp, Ferriol is working through some visa issues while the team remains in contact, Waldeck and Engebretsen have both signed contracts with North Texas SC, and Burgess, the highest pick, signed with the first team earlier this week.
That leaves Jennings with the unanswered question here. Jennings is still with FC Dallas, currently out in Florida wrapping up their final preseason trip, but has not gotten much playing time in recent friendlies. From the outset, a season largely spent with North Texas SC seemed highly likely for Jennings, but it is a bit surprising to not see him signed along with Burgess earlier this week. Jennings may just still be working out the deal with FCD, or perhaps the club is trying to sign him to a North Texas SC deal instead of a first-team, or maybe the deal has already been done and the announcement is still pending. Either way, Jennings’ future still seems to be up in the air for the time being.
What are your biggest questions coming into the final week of preseason? Who do you think should start at left wing to start the season?
Who should replace the injured Bryan Acosta and Brandon Servania in midfield?
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