FC Dallas has entered the first international break of the MLS season on the back of two straight wins against lofty Western Conference opposition. A big part of this strong start has been done to the performances of FCD’s offseason acquisitions. This week, we’ll look at each of those players and how they have contributed in this early part of the year.
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. Since entering the game against Nashville in the 64th minute, Velasco has been nothing short of a revelation for FCD. His ability on the ball hasn’t been on display in Frisco since Mauro Diaz was running the show and Velasco is doing this at just 19 years of age. After notching his first goal of the season, winning MLS goal of the week and earning a spot on the MLS Team of the Week in the process, Velasco followed that up with his first MLS start against Portland and added his first MLS assist as part of a beautiful team goal to open the scoring against the Timbers. After the FCD offense struggled to get on the board in the first couple weeks of the season, Velasco has helped blow things wide open with 6 goals scored since he made his club debut. It is clear that Velasco’s play is going to continue to be crucial to the FCD attack going forward. What I’m most excited about is how good things look with just a couple games of the attacking group playing together. I can’t wait to see what they will look like in the mid-to-late part of the season.
Over on the other wing, FCD’s MLS record breaking trade acquisition has put in strong work of his own to start the season. Watching Arriola play, the most obvious thing that stands out is his absolutely immense work rate. The man simply never stops or switches off at any point. He picked up his first FCD assist on the opening goal of the season against Toronto, drew the penalty that gave FCD the lead against Nashville and scored his first FCD goal to close out the game against Portland. His understanding of the system Nico Estevez wants to play (Estevez’s system is similar to Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT, a system that Arriola is well versed in) and his existing relationship with Jesus Ferreira has been crucial in his fast start to the season. Arriola’s fitness is also showing to be outstanding. He was subbed off with about 10 minutes left to play against Toronto but has played the full 90 in the three subsequent games. He’ll need some rotation through the season to ensure he can maintain that level of play but Arriola has been a joy to watch in the first four games and has already endeared himself to the FCD faithful.
Acquired from what was easily the most controversial move FCD made in the offseason, FCD’s new left back, replacing club legend Ryan Hollingshead who went the other way to LAFC in the trade, has made an extremely strong first impression to open the 2022 season. Since arriving in Dallas a day before the club’s final preseason game, Farfan has played just about every minute thus far in the season. Farfan came to Dallas known for his defensive qualities, an inverse of what fans saw for years at that position with Hollingshead, but Farfan has been able to add some quality offensive contributions to go along with his excellent defensive abilities. His work rate, like Arriola, has been immense and he has been a big part of a massively improved defense that has only conceded 3 goals in 4 games and only allowed 9 shots on targets thus far. Much like Arriola, Farfan has very quickly endeared himself to FC Dallas fans, which is no small feat considering he was replacing one of the most beloved FC Dallas players in the history of the club. If he can continue his strong play, he may even find himself re-entering the US National Team picture, especially with the similarities in style of play between FCD and the USMNT now.
Brought over in what was probably the most head-scratching move, at least at first glance, of FCD’s offseason, Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Paes has started all four games of the 2022 season. Following a preseason injury to Jimmy Maurer, Paes was thrust into the starting role quickly after arriving for preseason and has made the spot his own. Truthfully, Paes has not been heavily tested so far, owing a lot to the improved defense in open play so far. He has conceded three goals but there was little he could do to stop Jonathan Osorio’s goal against Toronto or Carles Gil’s penalty in New England and his defense left him out to dry on Jaroslaw Niezgoda’s nicely chipped goal against Portland. Up until the Portland game, most of Paes’ work had been in claiming crosses, something he has shown to be quite good at, and distributing from the back, something he could still stand to improve upon (though FCD has rarely booted the ball long from goal kicks in 2022). That did change in the second half against Portland and Paes pulled off what might be the best save of the entire league in 2022, stretching to stop a screaming shot from Portland’s David Ayala in the second half to keep the score at 3-1. It was a crucial moment as Portland looked to push and cut the lead to 3-2. Just 7 minutes later, Paul Arriola would finish off the game. There’s still more to be seen with Paes but there’s no reason for him to lose his starting job at this point and it seems more and more likely that FCD will exercise the buy option in his loan this summer.
With so much else that happened in the offseason, it is easy to forget about Nanu, who was FCD’s first big acquisition in the offseason, coming over from FC Porto. It took a couple games of coming off the bench for Nanu to get his first start, but he started both home wins against Nashville and Portland and went the full 90 minutes for the first time against Portland. It appears that the Guinea-Bissau international right back has won the starting right back job from Ema Twumasi for the time being and his ability getting forward has been apparent, especially against Portland where he picked up his first MLS assist on Jesus Ferreira’s second goal of the game. He has been solid, if not spectacular, defensively as well, helping contribute to FCD’s excellent defensive record to start the season. I’d like to see a bit more consistency from Nanu going forward, some of his passes have the right idea but the execution just isn’t quite there. Hopefully this will come with more time spent playing in this system and with his teammates but the start of his FCD career has been solid thus far.
Finally, we’ll end with the only 2022 SuperDraft pick that has played minutes with the first team so far this season. While Isaiah Parker and Lucas Bartlett get set to get their season going with North Texas SC (though expect to see Parker with the first team at some point), Tsiki Ntsabeleng, drafted at the very end of the first round, has appeared in all 3 out of 4 games thus far for FCD. Though his minutes have not been extensive, with his longest spell being a 20 minute appearance against New England, Tsiki has looked lively as a second half substitute and has shown qualities that indicate he is ready to continue to contribute going forward this season. He will be a player to watch as the season unfolds and injuries and rotations inevitably come up, offering him a chance at a bigger role and more minutes. Keep an eye on the South African through the rest of 2022.
What are your thoughts on FCD’s offseason acquisitions through this early part of the season? Let me know in the comments below!
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