FC Dallas and MLS have reached the final phase of the 2020 MLS season, a grueling stretch of 10 games in a little over a month.

This week, we will look at five key things to watch for in this last stretch of the season.

1) Familiar Opponents

Of the 7 opponents, Dallas is scheduled to play in the final phase of the MLS season, only 3 (Columbus, Real Salt Lake, and Miami) are teams that FCD has not already played in 2020. Within these final 10 games, Dallas will play Houston, Nashville, and Minnesota two times each. By season’s end, Dallas will have played Houston, Nashville, and Minnesota 4 times each while also playing Sporting Kansas City 3 times.

Suffice to say that a large part of how Dallas ends up ending the season will rely on how they perform against teams that they are already quite familiar with.

At this point, it is anyone’s guess as to how these repeated match-ups will go. Dallas certainly has a leg up on Houston after a draw in Houston was followed by a victory at home for FCD. Against Minnesota, Dallas came away victorious at home but lost in Minnesota, and perhaps most surprisingly, Dallas was completely unable to gain three points in either of their early matchups at home against Nashville. They’ll have to travel to Nashville for the remaining two games (one of which still needs to be scheduled by the league) to try to earn their first victory again on the expansion side. This kind of repetition in scheduling is a mixed bag for FCD. On the plus side, they avoid having to play conference high flyers Seattle and Portland, but on the other end of the spectrum, they will not be afforded the opportunity to earn points against some of the conference’s worst performers in San Jose and Vancouver.

Overall, the team can only play the schedule that is set for them by the league and it will be fascinating to see how these teams face off after having so much time to familiarize themselves with one another.

2) Squad Rotation

Photo: Omar Vega/Getty Images

Starting with Columbus on October 3rd, FCD will play 10 games in 37 days before they wrap up the regular season against Minnesota United on November 8th. As will be the case for all MLS teams, Luchi Gonzalez will need to rotate his team to keep players fresh and energized for such a grueling portion of the season. The battle for the playoff spots in the Western Conference are extremely tight. Dallas is currently sitting pretty in 3rd with a game in hand on a lot of the teams around them, but they remain only 4 points ahead of in-state rivals Houston, who sit in 9th outside of the playoffs.

Any kind of dip in form could be calamitous and could see FCD drop out of the playoffs.

To ensure that the team stays relatively consistent, coach Gonzalez will need to give players certain games off, especially veteran players such as Reto Ziegler and Franco Jara, who have a lot of miles on their 30+-year-old legs, while relying on younger players like Bryan Reynolds, Tanner Tessmann and Ricardo Pepi to play minutes in their absence and take advantage of their younger, fresher legs.

3) Homegrown Development

Speaking of Reynolds, Tessmann, and Pepi, and expanding on the squad rotation, homegrown players’ contributions will be vital down the stretch to close out the regular season.

Tessmann and fellow midfielder Brandon Servania have recently seen a lot of minutes and Bryan Reynolds has been nothing short of a revelation at right-back.


This tight stretch of games is a golden opportunity for these players to get significant, important time in the team and make their claims for permanent positions for the rest of the season and pushing into the 2021 season as well.

Additionally, the need for rotation and the unfortunate likelihood of injuries and knocks coming from the congested schedule may afford players like Edwin Cerrillo, Dante Sealy, and Eddie Munjoma playing time that they have found hard to come by thus far in the season. Homegrown players are always something to watch for when watching FC Dallas but they may be more important than ever in this final month of the 2020 season.

4) The Ever-Evolving Meaning of “Luchi-ball”

Luchi Gonzalez’s first season in charge of FC Dallas led to the term “Luchi-ball” being coined to describe FCD’s style of play. Broadly speaking, “Luchi-ball” meant a focus on possession and short passing to create overload opportunities in the final third to create goal-scoring chances. It also almost always meant a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, depending on available personnel, and almost a complete insistence on playing out from the back at all costs.

In 2020, we’ve seen an expansion of what “Luchi-ball” is, to the point where it has almost become an obsolete term. We’ve seen extensive use of back 3 (or back 5) formations, both at the start of the game and in situations where FCD is defending a lead, and generally have seen FC Dallas seem far less concerned with possession.

As FCD heads into this extremely compressed part of their schedule, it will be fascinating to watch how the team’s overall play style shapes out and if there is any attempt to return to some of the more pure possession-oriented soccer that was so common in 2019, or if “Luchi-ball” continues to evolve as the season wraps up.

5) Michael Barrios’ Form

For the better part of the last half-decade, Michael Barrios has been the lynchpin for the FC Dallas attack. His pace and ability to get beyond defenders has been a vital part of the FC Dallas offense since he arrived from Colombia back in the 2015 season. 2019 was one of Barrios’ best seasons for FCD as he was one of the league leaders in assists with 15 and chipped in 5 goals as well.

Unfortunately, 2020 has not been so kind to Barrios. He has certainly retained his blistering pace and ability to get beyond defenders, but the end product has not been there with Barrios only registering 3 assists so far with no goals tallied. It would be massively unfair to blame all of the team’s offensive struggles on Barrios, but the diminutive winger’s struggle to find his footing in 2020 has not helped at all.

If Barrios is able to recover his 2019 form, FC Dallas could be in business down the stretch of the season and should have little trouble earning a playoff spot. However, if his form continues and the offense, in general, continues to sputter, FCD may find themselves in trouble come the start of November.

What are you most interested to watch for as FCD enters the final stretch of the 2020 season?
Will FCD earn one of the 8 playoff spots in the Western Conference?

Featured Image: Omar Vega/Getty Images
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