FCD’s loss to LAFC was the final nail in the long awaited coffin for the club’s playoff hopes for 2021. With little to play for other than pride and the potential to spoil some western conference rivals’ playoff hopes, we’ll look at four things to keep an eye on as FCD closes out a season to forget.
1) El Tren
If it wasn’t already clear that Ricardo Pepi was not long for FC Dallas, the young striker made news earlier in the week for reportedly submitting a transfer request to the club indicating his desire to be sold to Europe in the upcoming winter transfer window. Pepi also missed Wednesday’s match against LAFC due to a minor foot injury that he picked up with the national team. In all likelihood, Pepi is down to his final four games as an FC Dallas player. Signs are positive that Pepi should be well enough to play against the LA Galaxy on Saturday and close out the rest of the MLS season from there. Pepi’s career is still very young but his potential is virtually unlimited, with basically all of the biggest clubs in Europe reportedly showing interest. In a few years fans might be watching Pepi score goals in the Champions League, but for now, enjoy watching the last of him in MLS, let’s hope he can go out in style.
With very little left on the line for the 2021 season, homegrown players should get plenty of opportunities to play and perform and make a case for more time in 2022. That seems to have already started with Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo making consecutive starts against Minnesota and LAFC as the pair of holding midfielders. This is, of course, in addition to Pepi, Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal, who have been staples in the lineup throughout the year. Look for them to continue to get a lot of time and for the coaching staff to continue the pairing of Servania and Cerrillo in midfield. Homegrown fullback Eddie Munjoma could also see a return to action and another chance to prove himself going into the offseason.
3) Who will be back in 2022?
For the players, these last four games are a last chance before the offseason to prove that they should be back for 2022. For the coaching and technical staff, these last four games are the last chance to evaluate players in actual MLS matches. As is always the case with MLS contracts, it is not easy to know exactly when certain contracts end, how many option years might be on a contract and what the exact hit on the salary cap there is for certain contracts. We can say with confidence that DP Bryan Acosta’s guaranteed contract is up at the end of the year but with some of the homegrown deals, it becomes a bit more difficult to figure out if a player is at the end of a guaranteed contract or on a first or second option year for the club. Keep an eye on who is getting minutes in certain spots down the stretch this season, particularly the players who are here on loan like goalkeeper Phelipe, midfielder Andres Ricaurte and forward Freddy Vargas. Dallas may give these players some extra time at the end of the season to help determine if they want to bring the player back on loan in 2022 or exercise the buy options in the loans.
4) The potential sweep of Austin FC
There is still, potentially, one last tangible thing for FCD to play for in the 2021 season and it is actually a trophy, and a brand new one at that. With Austin FC’s entrance to MLS in 2021 comes the introduction of the Copa Tejas MLS trophy, contested between the three Texas-based MLS teams. The trophy has already existed for a few years at the USL level, contested by San Antonio FC, Austin Bold, El Paso Locomotive and RGV Toros but 2021 marks the first season that the trophy will be contested in MLS. As things currently stand, Dallas and Houston are tied at the top of the Copa Tejas table with 8 points a piece with Austin trailing with 5 points. Due to the way the tiebreakers work, a Houston win on Sunday in Austin will result in the first MLS Copa Tejas going to Houston, meaning that the October 30th match between Dallas and Austin will be played only for pride. But if Houston and Austin play to a draw or Austin beats Houston, Copa Tejas will be determined by the outcome of the October 30th match that will see Austin travel up I-35 to Toyota Stadium. Regardless of the outcome between Austin and Houston on Sunday, Dallas will have the opportunity to pull off the season sweep over their new in-state rivals, something that they should relish and enjoy regardless of the trophy being on the line. But if the trophy does end up being on the line on Halloween Eve, the game should be treated as a cup final. After such a dire season, a trophy would be a nice way to end the 2021 season.
What will you be watching for as FC Dallas closes out the 2021 season? Let me know in the comments below!
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