FC Dallas made a trip to the Pacific Northwest last week to play Seattle and Portland. This week, we’ll look at three takeaways from those two games.
1) Missed opportunities
Coming off a massive home win against the LA Galaxy, FCD had some big opportunities against two teams below them in the standings to put some further distance between both Seattle and Portland. Unfortunately, Dallas was only able to come away with one point from the trip following a dramatic draw in Portland.
Against Seattle, FCD clearly came to play for a draw and a hope to nick a goal on the counter, setting up in a 5-4-1 from the outset and heavily rotating the team. To be fair, the strategy largely worked, as Seattle’s attack was largely kept in check. Only a rare mistake in judgment from Maarten Paes leading to a penalty kick for Nico Lodeiro broke the stalemate in this one. FCD had a few opportunities on goal and did come out to play a bit more in the second half against Seattle, but it was not enough. Certainly a missed opportunity to at least get a point.
Traveling up to Portland, on the other hand, FCD very much went for it against a hot Portland side that was unbeaten in their last 9 games coming into the weekend. In this case, Los Toros will be kicking themselves for not coming away with all three points and breaking the Timbers’ unbeaten streak. Paul Arriola hit the post in the first half before having a shot seemingly on an open goal saved by Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic and Alan Velasco had another huge opportunity later the half. There were some positives as, once again, the FCD defense largely stifled the opposition attack as Portland struggled to create any solid goal scoring opportunities throughout the game. They looked to have stolen the three points after an extremely unlucky handball by Matt Hedges led to a Marvin Loria tap in following Maarten Paes’ penalty save. But FCD persevered and kept fighting and earned a deserved point on a last minute Diego Chara own goal from a very well taken Jesus Ferreira corner. A bittersweet ending as FCD were surely hugely disappointed to let three points slip away, but also ecstatic to get a solid road point in a place that has been notoriously difficult for the club over the years.
2) Lletget straight in
Even with two games during the week, the biggest FC Dallas news of the week was the deadline day trade with the New England Revolution to acquire veteran MLS and USMNT midfielder Sebastian Lletget. Lletget, who has experience working with Nico Estevez from the USMNT, seems to be a natural fit alongside Paxton Pomykal in midfield. If there were any doubts as to what role Lletget would play in the team and how quickly he would be brought into the starting lineup, those questions were quickly answered on Saturday against Portland as Lletget went straight into the starting lineup and played 89 minutes on his club debut. Unfortunately, Paxton Pomykal was unavailable for the match with a minor thigh injury so fans weren’t able to see Lletget paired with Pomykal as of yet, but he did play a half with Brandon Servania and a half with Tsiki Ntsabeleng (more on Tsiki shortly). In short, Lletget looked extremely comfortable after only having participated in two training sessions since being brought to the club on August 3rd. There were certainly some moments where he was out of sync with his teammates. FCD were caught offside a number of times against the Timbers and a number of those offside decisions involved Lletget but he looked comfortable in the system. It will be exciting to see what he looks like with more time with his teammates and coaching staff and paired next to Pomykal in the “intended” starting lineup.
After weeks spent playing very limited minutes due to some sort of lingering stomach issue, Tsiki Ntsabeleng saw his first major minutes in weeks against Portland, coming on as a halftime substitute for Brandon Servania. Tsiki was nothing short of electric in his 45 minute cameo. He has already shown an ability to glide past defenders on the dribble throughout the season, as well as an extremely high level of ball retention in the midfield and both of those were on full display against Portland. He looked fantastic on the eye test and his statistics looked great as well: 28/31 (90%) passing, 3/3 on his dribbles, 2/2 on tackles and 6/9 on ground duels, a hugely impactful performance in just 45 minutes. With Sebastian Lletget’s arrival, Tsiki doesn’t have a clear spot in the starting lineup but he is bound to continue making significant appearances through the rest of the season and he offers something unique in midfield. It will be fun to watch him continue to develop this season and see how he continues to impact this team in years to come.
How are you feeling about the single point from two games in the PNW? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: Stephen Brashear/USA Today Sports