FC Dallas wrapped up their 2022 preseason with a 2-1 victory over in-state rivals Houston Dynamo on Saturday. This week we’ll look at four takeaways from preseason as a whole as FCD gets set to start another season this weekend.
1) Improved defensive solidity
Over the course of 5 preseason games against the US U20s, Orlando City SC, San Antonio FC, Chicago Fire FC and Houston Dynamo, FCD conceded only two goals, one against the US U20s (it should be noted that this was late in the game against a lineup made up largely of North Texas SC players and trialists) and one against Houston. This is a welcome early sign after FCD suffered through one of the club’s all-time worst defensive seasons in club history in 2021, conceding the joint-highest goals in the Western Conference (only Toronto FC and FC Cincinnati conceded more goals in MLS).
New arrival Marco Farfan played in the final three preseason games following his trade and looked very comfortable defensively. As much as any FCD fan adores Ryan Hollingshead, Farfan is undoubtedly a significant defensive upgrade at left back. Matt Hedges appears to be completely unbothered by the injuries that plagued his 2021 season, Jose Martinez looks far more comfortable paired next to him than he did at any point in 2021 and Ema Twumasi continues to grow and develop as a right back, and he’ll have stiff competition from new arrival Nanu to keep that spot as the season begins.
Of course, the regular season is a completely different animal from the preseason, but the early signs in regards to the defense are certainly very positive and fans should expect to see significant improvement in this regard compared to 2021.
2) Homegrown midfield
Throughout preseason, at least 2 of the 3 midfield spots were consistently filled by homegrown players, with Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania occupying the “8” positions in midfield. One of the big question marks of the preseason was who would nail down the other midfield spot at the 6: fellow homegrown Edwin Cerrillo or veteran Argentinean Facundo Quignon? Following the two most recent games against Chicago and Houston, both of which featured Cerrillo starting, it seems that decision has been made, at least for the time being. This means that FCD will start the season with an all-homegrown midfield of Pomykal, Servania and Cerrillo. This is the kind of thing that has popped up in specific moments within games in the last few seasons but this is the first season where the first choice midfield looks to be made up of all homegrowns. This is exciting stuff for the club and fans and shows the fruits of labor for the vaunted FC Dallas academy, which has certainly proven it’s ability to generate players to sell to Europe and generate players who can fill out an MLS roster, but is now hoping to demonstrate that it can provide players to contribute heavily to a highly successful MLS team.
3) Wing depth
After years of inconsistent and inadequate play on the wings, the wingers now look to be one of the deepest positions on the roster. At this moment in time, the starters look to be Paul Arriola and Jader Obrian, though the latter is almost guaranteed to be replaced by Alan Velasco once he is in town and up to speed. Once FCD is at full strength with Arriola and Velasco as the presumed starters, the backups will be Obrian, who registered 9 goals in 2021, and Szabolcs Schon, who is a U22 initiative player and contributed 6 assists in 2021. You’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of backup wingers in the league. Even beyond Obrian and Schon, FCD also has Kalil ElMedkhar, who was fantastic for North Texas SC in 2021 and showed good signs of improvement in this preseason. Beyond Kalil, FCD also has fullbacks capable of playing on the wing in a pinch in rookie Isaiah Parker, Eddie Munjoma, Ema Twumasi and new arrivla Nanu. It is a breath of fresh air to not have massive questions on one (or both) of the wing positions going into 2022, hopefully this group can deliver on their promise once the season starts.
4) New keeper?
With Jimmy Maurer sidelined for a good chunk of preseason with a nagging injury, new signing from FC Utretch Maarten Paes has stepped in and started the last three preseason games for FCD. Paes was hardly tested at all against San Antonio and, in all honesty, did not face any massive tests against Chicago and Houston, but he did look assured in the moments he was called upon, most notably coming well out of his box to head away a dangerous chance for Houston in the final preseason tune up. Paes is currently only on loan until the summer, so FCD are going to quickly want to see what they have with the Dutch keeper so they can make a decision on his buy option. Maurer certainly should not be counted out of the picture completely at this point, but it certainly looks like Paes is likely to be the opening day starter, and if he is able to maintain a solid performance level, it will be tough for Maurer to get back into the starting lineup over him. Keep an eye on Paes in the early part of this season.
What are your takeaways from FCD preseason? What are you most excited for going into the 2022 season? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: FCDallas.com