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
No real changes at all at the goalkeeper spot. What has been most notable with the goalkeepers is just how little Paes has had to do. After 5 games, Paes has only faced 10 shots on goal and conceded 3 times, one of which was a penalty against New England. Outside of a couple stellar saves against Portland, Paes has still rarely been tested, though he has shown really well in his ability to catch or punch dangerous crosses, which has been the majority of his action thus far. His work playing out of the back could be a bit better, his long balls are often not finding their target but so far there has been nothing to indicate that Paes’ starting spot is at risk. Jimmy Maurer is back and fully healthy but it will take some major gaffes from Paes to lose his job at this point and I’ll be shocked if FCD does not utilize the buy option in his loan.
Center back: Jose Martinez vs Nkosi Tafari
Another position battle with no real changes, Jose Martinez has continued to lock down the starting center back spot next to team captain and club legend Matt Hedges. Since last month, Tafari has made his first appearance of the season, coming on as a second half substitute when Martinez picked up a knock against Nashville, but besides that roughly 10 minute period, this position has firmly belonged to Martinez. 2021 was a tough year for the Spanish center back, never really getting a long run in the team due to nagging injuries throughout the year and never looking particularly good in FCD’s haphazard defense. This year has been a vast improvement with Martinez looking far more confident and calm at the back. For now, Martinez seems to have this position firmly locked up, but don’t be shocked as the schedule picks up to see some rotation at center back and for Tafari to get a start or two.
Right back: Ema Twumasi vs Nanu
The only change from last month, the right back spot has become Nanu’s over the course of the past month. After starting the opening two games of the season against Toronto and Nashville, Twumasi was dropped to the bench against Nashville with Nanu taking his spot and Nanu has started the two games following that one. Although Nanu is currently the starter, I would not say he has firmly locked the spot down. Twumasi struggled with turnovers in the first couple games of the year and although Nanu was decent in this department in the two home games he started, he also struggled with turnovers against Chicago, regularly failing to do things like simply trap the ball along the sideline. Nanu has also made some frustrating decisions in the final third, exemplified by his massive chance late in the game against Chicago where, instead of electing to shoot with his dominant right foot or put a ball across the box, he elected to attempt to open his body up and use his weaker left foot to slot a shot into the far corner. The end result was…a sad slow dribbler that Gaga Slonina had zero issues dealing with. That caught the ire of his teammates along with some interesting decision making at the back as the game wound down as Nanu seemed to want to do everything except make a simple clearance away. I think this spot is still Nanu’s for the upcoming game against Colorado, but the opportunity for Twumasi to take this spot back is there.
Defensive midfielder: Edwin Cerrillo vs Facundo Quignon
Although the veteran Facundo Quignon did make his first start of the season against Chicago over the weekend, it is safe to say that this is still firmly Edwin Cerrillo’s position. Cerrillo has had a fantastic start to the season (Buzz from 3rd Degree had a great write up going into detail on just how good Cerrillo has been) and has been an integral part of the all homegrown midfield and the massively improved defensive performance of the team so far. Prior to Saturday, Quignon had been limited to late game sub appearances, mostly in an effort to shut up shop and hold on to a result, a role he was effective in against both Nashville and Portland. Quignon was not exactly bad or anything against Chicago, but a yellow card 15 minutes in clearly hampered his game in some ways and a lot of folks watching were likely surprised that he wasn’t substituted at the half, instead going until just after the 60 minute mark. It was an encouraging performance in the sense that things did not fall apart in any way without Cerrillo in there, but it wasn’t the kind of performance that will see Cerrillo’s spot challenged in the near future.
How are you feeling about these position battles after the first full month of the season? Let me know in the comments below!
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