The 25th season is underway in MLS and for FC Dallas. With hopes high running for FC Dallas, Philidelphia looked to spoil the party in North Texas. FC Dallas came away with 2-0 win after a chippy affair. Here’s how it all unfolded and what can be taken away.
A couple of new faces started on the field for FC Dallas. Newest homegrown Tanner Tessmann made his FC Dallas debut and first start with the team. Similarly, former Philadelphia Union winger Fafa Picault started against his old club while defensive midfielder Thiago Santos anchored down the midfield.
The match started with the match being open to both sides as each team not only getting a feel for each team but also implementing their game plans in a competitive setting. As the half wore on, FC Dallas became more threatening as the half wore on. There were a couple of injury concerns for both teams from late challenges and a couple of slipped footing. The first half ended scorelessly but the odds were in Dallas’ favor.
The second half featured the same attacking and hungry FC Dallas the home side pressed on for the opening goal. Zdeněk “Cobra Ondrášek opened the scoring with a half-volley after taking an awkward first touch to give FC Dallas the lead in the 61st minute.
He. Scores. When. He. Wants. ?
— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) March 1, 2020
Fafà Picault’s debut came to an end after 65 minutes as he made way for Brazilian defender Bressan. With the addition of Bressan came a formation change and the 3-5-3: a formation that Luchi Gonzalez would like his team to utilize more often. Paxton Pomykal returned to the field after a rocky offseason that saw him miss time as he continues to recover from his hernia surgery.
Tanner Tessmann had a calm game throughout but came up big with assisting his fellow academy product, Paxton Pomykal, who dribbled the ball with remarkable skill to double FC Dallas’ lead.
?He's One of Our Ooooown ?
? He's One of Our Oooown ?
— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) March 1, 2020
Ricardo Pepi was the final substitute for Luchi Gonzalez as Michael Barrios made way for the young striker.
FC Dallas started its 25th season off with a 2-0 win and 3 points in the bag that will have the club and fans happy and excited for things to come in the season.
Thoughts & Takeaways
There was plenty of excitement around the new players for FC Dallas. Winter additions Fafa Picault and Thiago Santos made their debuts in their new colors for the 2020 season while homegrown Tanner Tessmann similarly made his debut.
Thiago Santos has been dubbed as the Carlos Gruezo replacement and there has been plenty of praise of his skill from the club, coaching staff, and multiple media outlets. Santos displayed his technique, skill, and prowess but in a way that was different from Carlos Gruezo. While Gruezo was a younger player and had a strong physical presence, Santos played with more command of his midfield and made the former Dallas “6” look like a “flashy” player.
“Thiago is a very important ‘6’,” Luchi Gonzalez said of Thiago Santos (in Spanish). “Offensively, he can be a ‘6’ and ‘8’… but we Thiago mostly at the ‘6’. You saw his resources in ball recovery and he brings a talent of that to us and a great competitive spirit to the team.”
With Santos’ age comes to experience in his game as he new when were the right moments to make a tackle. His most notable impact was how he marked players which eliminated the ability for the ball to be played into the middle of the field, forcing Philadelphia to go out wide. As Santos plays more games with his new team, one can expect his impact in the midfield to only grow.
Fafa Picault got the chance to display to fans why there was much excitement around the player during the preseason. He demonstrated his technical skill as well as his speed and willingness to take on defenders. While he didn’t get into the box as often as one may have hoped, he proved to be a nice complement to Michael Barrios.
“Fafa had great energy,” Coach Gonzalez said of his winger. “He was good in the press, good in the recoveries. Offensively, he tried to get in those duals in behind and get services. It was almost there. I know he wants to give more offensively, but he was very important for us tonight.”
There were a couple moments when both wingers were on the same side of the field which made the attack lopsided but one can expect little mistakes to be worked out. Fafa also had a couple physical moments with his old team which didn’t make his job any easier.
“Once the whistle blows you’re trying to win for whatever badge you are representing,” Fafa Picault said about playing against his old club. “The friendship dies. Obviously, you don’t want anybody getting and I don’t want any of their guys getting hurt. Everybody has families, everybody has mouths to feed but at the end of the day we came out with three points. It’s nice to see some old faces, I won’t see them for a while since we only play them once. It was great to see them and now my mind shifts to next week.”
There was plenty of speculation around Tanner becoming the next FC Dallas homegrown as well as starting on opening day. Tessmann did start and impressed many viewers with his performance. While it was nothing “flashy,” Tessmann played with maturity and confidence. He played a simple game and but his biggest to the Dallas midfield was how he read the game.
“It was amazing,” Tessmann said regarding his debut. “It was a dream come true. I’ve been working hard for four years to get this opportunity and it finally came. I think I took advantage of it and our team did great. I gotta give them credit because they gave me confidence. They gave me the ball and believed in me so give the credit to FC Dallas.”
While mostly playing as an attacking midfielder in the FC Dallas Academy and nearly every position with North Texas Soccer Club in 2019, Tessmann is the definition of a versatile player. He did well to cover his fellow teammates when they went out of position, was a reliable defensive presence in the defensive third, and progressed the ball up the field in the attacking third.
Things to Come
2019 FC Dallas was characterized by ball possession and build-up play from the backline. While Luchi Gonzalez wants to continue to adhere to the foundations laid during last season, he wants his team to become more dominant on the field, especially making use of their possession of the ball. Coach Gonzalez has emphasized combination play with interior players (midfield/central players) and exterior players (winger and fullbacks) during the buildup phase of the attack.
This match demonstrated the work that the players and coaching staff have been doing throughout the preseason as much of the attacking play went down the flanks while making overlapping runs and combination play.
Another addition to the FC Dallas gameplan is the employment of 3-5-2/5-3-2. Luchi Gonzalez wants his team to become more comfortable with another formation to allow his team to have options and flexibility during a game that was the case with the addition of Bressan.
“[Philadelphia] played a double nine, so we found ourselves two versus two on the backline,” Luchi Gonzalez said of the formation switch. “Thiago was doing a good job of helping the center backs, Tanner as well, but we just needed cover behind, so we went into three center backs. That allowed Ryan and Reggie to be a little more divided to get pressure on the ball up the field.”
Another addition to the FC Dallas gameplan was the increased use of long-balls.
According to whoscored.com, Reto Ziegler had the majority of long-balls as he tried to deliver balls behind the Philadelphia backline to the FC Dallas wingers.
Thiago Santos came in second place with the number of long-balls which isn’t too much of a surprise. Along with choosing to bypass the midfield, FC Dallas has also worked on switching the play, which much of that task fell to Thiago Santos.
It has already been shown in game one that Luchi Gonzalez is building upon the foundation that he has laid in 2019. With the addition of key pieces, FC Dallas is already shaping to be a more competitive and consistent team in 2020.
FC Dallas plays its second game at Toyota Stadium on Saturday, March 7th at 2:00 PM with Montreal Impact coming to town. Fans can expect to see the return of Maxi Urruti.
The game will be aired within DFW on TXA 21 and ESPN+ for viewers outside of the metroplex.
Featured Image: FC Dallas