FC Dallas has a potentially season-defining game against an RSL team in disarray.
They’ll have to travel to Salt Lake without a handful of key players.

Let’s look at how FCD will go about replacing them for this key game.

Photo: Jeff Berding/USA Today Sports

The most obvious and glaring absence for FC Dallas against RSL will be that of their leading goal scorer Ricardo Pepi. Any team will have a challenge on their hands when they are missing their leading goal scorer, and that will be no different for Luchi Gonzalez and his coaching staff. The obvious replacement, much to the chagrin of many Dallas supporters, is designated player Franco Jara. Jara’s disappointing performance to this point in his Dallas career is no big secret, and it has seen him relegated to the bench for his last 7 appearances, totaling just 91 minutes in those appearances.

Saturday’s match against RSL will likely be Jara’s first start since the 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids on July 21st. Interestingly, Jara has only played the full 90 in two games this season, one of which was FCD’s first match against RSL, a 2-2 draw in which Jara scored one of his three goals on the season.

The only other possible replacement for Pepi in the starting lineup would be to move Jesus Ferreira up from his midfield/second striker position into the main striker role. Ferreira is obviously capable of playing this position but based on the last few years under Luchi.

It is clear that Luchi prefers him in a more withdrawn role, and it seems much more likely that he will slide Jara in for a like-for-like replacement to cause as little disruption to the lineup as possible.

For the first time since the Euros were still going, FC Dallas will be without their young Hungarian winger Szabolcs Schön, who has proven to be an electric addition to the attack and, if they can keep him around, may finally be the solution to the left-wing problem that has plagued the club for so many seasons now.

Schön has yet to notch his first goal for FCD, but he is up to 6 assists on the season in his 13 appearances. Schön has been especially effective recently as he has become a real nightmare for opposing fullbacks to deal with. Luckily for FC Dallas, Paxton Pomykal looks set to make his return from injury against RSL, which will slot him into the left-wing, likely opposite Jader Obrian. Obrian has frustrated fans this season with his inconsistent play. Still, he has had strong recent substitute appearances and played one of his best games of the season against Austin FC, scoring his 4th goal of the season early in the second half. Dallas will hope he can replicate his Austin performance against RSL.

With Pomykal returning from injury, he is unlikely to play the full 90 minutes, meaning rookie Kalil ElMedkhar will likely get another substitute appearance. After spending the early part of the season largely with North Texas SC, ElMedkhar has recently made the push for more minutes and has looked solid in the minutes he has gotten to this point. He’ll hope to build on that this weekend with another big opportunity in his first MLS season.

The last regular starter that FCD will be missing against RSL is Honduran midfielder, Bryan Acosta.

Acosta was the club’s standout performer in the early part of the season, offering consistency in midfield with his ball progression and lung-busting defensive runs. FCD became somewhat accustomed to playing without Acosta as he missed a good amount of time during the Gold Cup. They also played without Acosta against Austin as the DP midfielder was suspended due to yellow card accumulation. So, although Acosta’s absence is unfortunate, Dallas can adjust and deal with his absence pretty well at this point in time. Due to how well they played together in Austin, the homegrown midfield pairing of Edwin Cerrillo and Brandon Servania seems likely to make a second consecutive start. It is great to see Servania playtime again after its emergence in 2019, followed by a disappointing 2020 and 2021.

The other options in midfield are Facundo Quignon, who is just coming back from an injury, and Andres Ricaurte, who is undeniably talented but seems to play a style in midfield that doesn’t fit with what Luchi Gonzalez is looking for. Look for Servania and Cerrillo to start with Quignon and Ricaurte as potential second-half subs based on how the game is going.

If Dallas is looking for a goal, Ricaurte would be the guy, and if they want to lock it down late, Quignon will certainly come into the game.

A surprise call-up for this international break, Freddy Vargas, will also be missing for this weekend’s match against RSL. Unfortunately, that is not much of a big miss for the team, as Vargas has probably been the biggest disappointment of the 2021 season thus far.

After an electric preseason, Vargas started the season as a regular starter. Still, after weeks went by with no production, Vargas fell out of the lineup and even spent time with North Texas SC. He was called up by Venezuela for World Cup qualifiers at the start of June and for Copa America but didn’t end up playing a single minute for the national team. At this point, he’s almost fallen out of the rotation entirely for FC Dallas as well, relegated to occasional sub appearances. He did get a rare start against Houston before being subbed off at halftime due to how ineffective he was in the attack.

The fact that Kalil ElMedkhar subbed into the game against Austin while Vargas remained on the bench told where each player stands in the pecking order. It may sound harsh but, although Freddy Vargas will be missing this weekend, FC Dallas won’t really be missing Freddy Vargas.

How do you think FC Dallas will go about replacing their players missing due to international duty?

Featured Image: Jeff Berding/USA Today Sports
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