FC Dallas had their first publicly available preseason match of the season on Saturday, taking on USL Championship side San Antonio FC and coming away 6-0 winners.

1) Pomykal back in the middle

After a season spent playing exclusively on the wing in 2021, Paxton Pomykal is back playing in central midfield in 2022, and what a joy he was to watch. The homegrown looked like a different player completely from what we saw in 2021, he looked comfortable, full of energy and running (as always) and was constantly popping up into dangerous spots and combining well with his teammates. Pomykal did not technically get on the scoresheet in his 70 minutes against San Antonio FC, but he did draw the penalty for FCD’s third goal, converted by Jesus Ferreira. Regardless, Pomykal was constantly involved in play going forward and if this is any sign of what is to come in 2022, FCD fans are in for a treat.

2) Left back looking different

FCD shocked fans across MLS on Thursday when they announced that long time fan favorite left back Ryan Hollingshead was being traded to LAFC in exchange for Marco Farfan. After the initial shock and grief of losing a club legend wore off, it started to become clearer as to why the trade happened. FCD released footage from Hollingshead informing his now ex-teammates of the trade, indicating that he and his family wanted to make a move back to Hollingshead’s home of California.

But beyond the personal reasons, moving on from Hollingshead at left back indicates a tactical change that was evident in the friendly against SAFC. Hollingshead was an extremely attack minded left back but was also a player who loved to come in on his right foot and cut inside, leading him into a lot of underlapping runs and runs through midfield throughout his time at left back with FCD. This became a staple of how FCD played under Luchi Gonzalez with Hollingshead regularly being heavily involved in chance creation and recording career highs in goals and assists while playing under Luchi, who basically unleashed his full backs to join the attack almost constantly.

Nico Estevez has a bit of a different tactical outlook for his fullbacks. More like former FCD manager Oscar Pareja, only one fullback is given license to get forward at one time, meaning that the opposite fullback stays back to cover defensively. This creates a greater need for a defensive minded full back, which FCD acquired in Farfan. Farfan was thrown straight into the fray, starting the friendly and playing about 60 minutes. Farfan didn’t get forward often, even with FCD dominating possession, and when he did, he was almost always out wide trying to overlap and combine in the wide spaces. This also lines up with the personnel FCD have at left wing. In the friendly, this was Jader Obrian (who had 2 goals within the first 6 minutes), but later in the season, this will almost certainly be newcomer and record signing Alan Velasco, who is known for his dribbling and ability to cut inside. With all that in mind, it is no surprise to see the left back now staying wider and having less license to move forward. It will be interesting to see how this position looks once Velasco is in town.

3) Tsiki impresses from the second group

After about 70 minutes, the entire FCD team changed in a line swap to play out the last 20 minutes against SAFC and also play a 45 minute match against North Texas SC. For me, the most impressive player in this second group was brand new signing Tsiki Ntsabeleng. Although he was primarily a winger in college, he is slotting in as a midfielder for FCD, playing in a similar role to Paxton Pomykal and looks set to be his backup to start the season. Tsiki is a fun player to watch and has a similar frame (even smaller though) and play style to Pomykal, always looking to get on the ball and take people on. There were a lot of question marks when FCD chose to trade up into the late first round of the SuperDraft to draft Tsiki, who most college soccer analysts projected as a mid-to-late 2nd round pick, but it seems they may have found something with the young South African. I’m very interested to watch how he does against MLS level competition in the next two friendlies against Chicago and Houston.

Were you able to attend to preseason match against SAFC? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Featured Image: FCDallas.com
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