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On Saturday, FC Dallas finished their 14th game of the 2022 MLS season and began a three week break, their longest of the season. This week, we’ll look at the biggest surprises and disappointments for FCD thus far in 2022.


Surprises

1) Paul Arriola

To be very clear, I am not at all surprised that Paul has been a hugely impactful and important player for FCD, I just did not expect such a massive impact quite so quickly. As of writing, Arriola has 7 goals and 2 assists in his 13 games played in 2022. With those 7 goals, he has already matched his career high in any previous season as a professional. Paul’s veteran status, time with the national team and ability to speak both English and Spanish meant that he was always going to be a very important part of the locker room, but he has a real case of being the MVP of the entire team so far. Jesus Ferreira’s MLS leading 9 goals and 4 assists grab the headlines but there’s no way Jesus is putting up those numbers without the contribution of Arriola. He is a tireless worker who never stops running or gives up on a play and his abilities in attack and in pressing opposing defenders have played a major role in getting FCD where they are thus far in 2022.

2) Tsiki Ntsabeleng

FCD had 3 first round SuperDraft picks in 2022, two of which in the first 10 picks. But it was the second to last pick of the first round who has had by far the biggest impact on the season thus far. Tsiki, a winger in his college days, was immediately converted into an 8 with FCD and his progress in that spot has pretty clearly been well ahead of what anyone could have imagined for him. He started the season off as a late game substitute, often coming in to spell the always hard running and working Paxton Pomykal, but quickly asserted himself as an important member of the squad, assuaging a lot of concerns around the team regarding depth in central midfield. Tsiki has played in 11 MLS games with 4 starts, notching a very important goal against Houston. His ability on the ball is among the best on the team and his progress in learning a new position at the pro level has been pretty astounding so far. It will be a joy to see Tsiki continue to develop in 2022 and beyond.

3) Marco Farfan

I debated between a few choices for this third spot in the surprises as, truthfully, a lot of players have exceeded pre-season expectations. Facundo Quignon and Jose Martinez have been leveled up from their performance level in 2021 and Jesus Ferreira, although certainly highly rated by many, likely wasn’t expected to be quite this prolific in the early days of his return to the 9 spot. But I decided to go with another new arrival to FCD in 2022, left back Marco Farfan.

To say that trading fan favorite Ryan Hollingshead just a few weeks before the season was a controversial move is an understatement. There was lots of concern among the fanbase immediately after the trade that FCD had not only lost a fan favorite and leader in the locker room, but one of the best left backs in the league. Farfan, on the other hand, had never quite caught on in Portland, where he was signed as a homegrown, or at LAFC, whose fans did not exactly have glowing reviews of his time in Los Angeles. But Farfan has come to Dallas and absolutely excelled. He has started every game in 2022, playing almost every possible minute, and has registered his first two career MLS assists. A stark contrast from the hyper offensive Hollingshead, who would often take up positions all over the place in the final third and was heavily involved in FCD’s buildup, Farfan is most notable for his defensive abilities, which rank among the best across all of MLS for full backs. He regularly shuts down the opposition on his side and has been no slouch offensively either. At only 23 years old, Farfan still has the bulk of his career ahead of him and FCD seems to have found a left back for the foreseeable future.

Disappointments

1) Szabolcs Schon

Anyone who has read any of my recent articles should not be surprised to see Schon top the disappointments list. After a very promising 2021 season saw him notch 6 assists in only about half a season worth of play, Schon has not even made an appearance in MLS this season, with his only appearances in the season coming in two starts in the Open Cup. He did notch an assist against lower league opposition in FC Tulsa, but was underwhelming and failed to make the most of his opportunity against Sporting Kansas City in the next round, getting pulled from the game immediately following a really poor pass that led directly to an SKC goal.

In fairness to Schon, frequent international callups to Hungary have done him no favors, taking him away from the team and staff for extended periods of time throughout the season, but, even then, it is clear that he has failed to earn Nico Estevez’s trust thus far. It will be interesting to see what happens with Schon during this summer’s transfer window. At this point in his career, he just needs consistent minutes and playing time, and that doesn’t seem likely to happen with FCD any time soon. The question is really whether Schon will be loaned somewhere or if FCD will decide to part ways and sell Schon on a permanent deal.

2) Nanu

The first big signing of the offseason, Nanu came over from FC Porto with a fair bit of hype. Here was a player who was coming in on loan from a team that regularly plays in the UEFA Champions League and he even had Champions League experience to boot! On paper, he looked to be an upgrade on Ema Twumasi, who is still basically learning the position, and would, at least in the short term, provide some veteran experience to guide young players like Twumasi.

But Nanu has been mostly pretty hit or miss with FCD. He doesn’t seem to be a demonstrably better defender than Twumasi, he is prone to frustrating turnovers and poor touches and, although he certainly has a knack for getting forward and getting into good spots, he doesn’t always seem to be the best at actually linking up with teammates after getting into those positions. I won’t go as far as to say that Nanu has been performing poorly, I think that is both harsh and not really accurate, but he is, for me (and apparently for Nico as well) second in the depth chart behind Twumasi at right back. As of now, I don’t see any reason to extend his loan beyond this season.

3) Jimmy Maurer

I think it is a good sign of just how good the team has been in 2022 that Jimmy Maurer is taking up one of these spots. After finally seeming to outright win the starting job in 2021 after a stellar 2020 season, Maurer seems to have unfortunately taken a step back in 2022. Injured early in preseason and forced to miss almost the entirety of preseason, Maurer has only played twice in MLS for FCD in 2022, along with two starts in the Open Cup, and has not exactly covered himself in glory in those appearances. His first appearance of the season was in the Open Cup and he wasn’t troubled much as FCD easily went past FC Tulsa in the first round. His second appearance against SKC in the Cup did not go quite so well as Jimmy ultimately allowed 4 goals in that game and was especially rough on SKC’s tying goal in regulation. He followed that up with his best appearance of the season away to the LA Galaxy, filling in for Maarten Paes who was out due to health and safety protocol, only allowing the single goal on a well taken shot from Diego Costa. His second game filling in for Paes was sadly his worst game of the season as a very poor and uncharacteristic mistake led directly to Vancouver’s game winning second goal late in regulation.

To be clear, at this point, Maurer is clearly the back up. News has recently came from the Netherlands that Paes’ buy option in his loan from FC Utrecht has been activated due to him reaching a certain number of appearances for FCD and Paes’ form does not look likely to dip any time soon. Even with his apparent drop off this season, Maurer is still one of the best backup keepers in the league and is a quality presence in the locker room as well, though I think he’ll be as disappointed with his 2022 thus far as the fans.


Who have been your biggest surprises and disappointments in 2022 for FCD? Let me know in the comments below!


Featured Image: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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