Back in January, we took a look at the four biggest preseason position battles for FC Dallas in 2022. Each month throughout the season, we will review those four battles and see where things stand as the season progresses.
Goalkeeper: Jimmy Maurer vs Maarten Paes
During the start of preseason, Maurer looked to have the upper hand in this battle, with Paes not even arriving in the country until after the team got back from their trip to Florida in early February. However, Maurer suffered a foot injury in the preseason match against Orlando City which kept him sidelined throughout the majority of February, opening up the spot for Paes to take. It seems that he has firmly taken that spot. Paes started all the remaining preseason games as well as the home opener against Toronto FC (Maurer returned from injury to make the bench). With Paes still on a short term loan expiring in the summer, the team is going to want to see what they have with him as quickly as possible and, unless Paes makes any major mistakes, it seems unlikely that Maurer will supplant him as the number 1 keeper in this early part of the season. Right now, this battle has firmly been won by Paes.
Center back: Jose Martinez vs Nkosi Tafari
After so many strong performances in 2021, I suspected that Nkosi Tafari would make a serious push for the starting job against the veteran in Jose Martinez. But that just never seemed to happen through the preseason, in every preseason game, Martinez was part of the starting group with Tafari part of the second group. It seems clear that the coaching staff wants to give the pairing of Hedges and Martinez some time in the early season to establish that partnership, something they were never really able to get going in 2021. Martinez has not exactly blown anyone away in preseason and in the season opener but also has not made any major mistakes or shown any big issues that would lead to him being replaced.
This battle is now also complicated by the recent loan singing of Joshue Quinonez. Quinonez has been capped by the senior Ecuador national team and looks to be a potentially big prospect at center back. It’ll be interesting to see how he factors into this position battle as the season goes on as well.
Right back: Ema Twumasi vs Nanu
Like the previously mentioned Maarten Paes, Nanu was a late arrival to preseason, only showing up in time for the last couple weeks of preseason. Nanu was barely able to play in any of the preseason matches and only made a brief sub appearance in the season opener against Toronto FC. With that in mind, Ema Twumasi was the starting right back throughout preseason and into the season opener. However, Twumasi’s performance in the opener was probably the worst of any starter on the field for Dallas and was a major drop off from the performances in 2021 that earned him a new contract in the offseason. It is too soon for Nico Estevez and his staff to drop Twumasi from the starting lineup, but Twumasi will certainly have Nanu nipping at his heels if he can not quickly raise his performance level in the coming games.
Defensive midfielder: Edwin Cerrillo vs Facundo Quignon
When I wrote the original article, I had a strong hunch that the young homegrown would end up beating out the veteran for this job and that has proven to be true. Other than the San Antonio FC preseason match, Cerrillo has started every other preseason match, as well as the opener against Toronto FC. Quignon was relegated to second team duty in preseason and did not make it off the bench for the opener. It is pretty clear at this point that this job is Cerrillo’s to lose. I expect to see Quignon used largely in situations where Dallas is looking to hold onto a late lead to provide some additional defensive solidity in midfield, but I don’t expect Quignon to be a regular starter, assuming Cerrillo does not deal with any kind of injury issues. This could be a real breakout year for Cerrillo and his progress will be fun to watch over the course of the season.
What are your thoughts on each position battle after the first game of the season? Who do you see winning these jobs over the course of the season? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: LM Otero/Associated Press