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 here, Paes is firmly the starter and has continued his strong performances throughout April. Maurer did get his first start of the season, deputizing for Paes in the US Open Cup match against FC Tulsa, but there is no doubt as to who the starter is at this point, Paes has been excellent through 9 MLS games.
The only real question mark at this point is regarding Paes’ loan from FC Utretcht. The buy option on his loan has not, as of yet, been picked up by FCD. It seems like a foregone conclusion that FCD would pick it up but we are lacking on some major details of what the buy option actually is and how Paes’ current salary situation works out between the two clubs. Utrecht has a pair of promising young keepers at this time, but maybe they’ve been tracking Paes in Dallas and will look to bring him back into the fold for the 22/23 season? Unlikely to be sure, but until the announcement of Paes’ deal being made permanent comes out, this will still be a point of concern for me.
Center back: Jose Martinez vs Nkosi Tafari
Center back has seen a bit of shuffling in April with the Open Cup matchup featuring a rotated side and Matt Hedges missing the game against SKC to finish the month due to the birth of his new son (congrats Matt and Bea!). But, when everyone is healthy and there isn’t any squad rotation, Hedges and Martinez are still clearly the first team partnership. Tafari did make his first MLS start of the season against SKC but seems likely to return to the bench against Seattle. FCD have a congested schedule in May, so more rotation seems likely but, for now at least, Jose Martinez is still firmly entrenched as the starter.
Right back: Ema Twumasi vs Nanu
Marking Twumasi as the “winner” of this position battle is maybe a bit harsh on Nanu, who only just came back from an injury to make a sub appearance against SKC on Saturday. But Twumasi has played quite a bit of right back recently, starting every game since the April 16th matchup against the Red Bulls. Twumasi doesn’t offer quite as much going forward as Nanu does, but he is more secure with the ball and seems to be a bit better on the defensive end in this early part of the season. With the schedule really getting congested in May, I fully suspect to see both Twumasi and Nanu start games at right back in the coming weeks. What will be very interesting to see is who comes out of this month as the starter. Right now, that seems to be leaning towards Twumasi but this looks like a battle that will continue throughout the 2022 season.
Defensive midfielder: Facundo Quignon vs Edwin Cerrillo
No one underlined here as this seems to be a bit of a “draw” in terms of the position battle. The trend over the past couple months has been for Edwin Cerrillo to start games at home and Facundo Quignon to start games on the road. Facu typically subs in for the last 15-20 minutes of home games, whether the team is holding a lead or chasing one, and Edwin does the same on the road, brought in either to give the team an offensive boost or try to close up shop. For now, I think I am okay with this. Quignon spent most of last season looking no better than a bang average MLS defensive midfielder, but he has looked a step above that level so far this season. He doesn’t do much in terms of advancing the ball forward and I often feel like he moves the ball too slow in possession but he is a legitimately great tackler and positions himself quite well to break up attacks. Cerrillo, on the other hand, advances the ball very well, particularly at home where he is a crucial part of moments where Dallas either needs to get the ball forward quickly or hold the ball in the opponent’s half. Both players are currently excelling at the roles they’ve been given by the coaching staff, so I don’t expect this trend to change any time soon, especially with the fixture congestion coming up this month. Don’t be surprised if no one is underlined next month either.
We’re now roughly a quarter of the way through the season. How have these position battles shaped up for you? Are the current starters the clear winners or is the coaching staff missing something? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: Stewart F. House/Dallas Morning News