FC Dallas picked up their first three points of the 2023 season with a 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy. Last week, I had three overreactions to a disappointing opening day performance. Let’s flip that on its head this week and look at three overreactions to a strong reaction in FCD’s first win of the season.
1) Nkosi Tafari is the answer at center back
Last week I mused about Sebastien Ibeagha and how he did not at all look the part of a starting quality center back in his FC Dallas debut. Unsurprisingly, Ibeagha was dropped for Nkosi Tafari against the Galaxy and Tafari looked exactly the opposite of Ibeagha: confident, assured and like a player that is ready to take a step forward in his career. Rather than list them off myself, I’ll let FC Dallas team reporter Garrett Melcer show you his very impressive stat line:
Big game for Nkosi Tafari on his first start of '23:
Led #DTID in clearances (6), possessions gained (8), successful passes (50/59) and aerial duels (6).
He actually won all his duels. 6/6 on the ground and 6/6 on aerial duels.
— Garrett Melcer (@GarrettMelcer) March 5, 2023
That’s simply a dominant performance from Tafari. From the time he entered the league in 2020, it was clear that he had all the physical tools, standing at 6’4″ and having an extremely impressive burst of pace (to this point, I still haven’t seen anyone beat him for pace). The only questions were on the tactical and mental side of the game, and all indications are that he’s taken major steps forward over the past couple seasons. At this point, as far as I’m concerned, his name should be written in ink on the starting lineup.
2) I’m no longer worried about Jesus Ferreira
After the season opener, I mentioned in my article that I was worried about Jesus Ferreira. Beyond the fact that, at that time, he had not scored since September 2022, he simply did not look anything like the player that had 18 goals and 6 assists one season prior. Well, thankfully, Ferreira very quickly put my mind at ease with a stellar performance against the Galaxy, netting a brace and looking very much like the Jesus Ferreira fans came to know in 2022. I mentioned last week that I felt like Jesus just needed to see the ball hit the back of the net to get over his slump in form and I didn’t really care what that goal ended up looking like. He tried to get off the mark with a stunning effort early in the first half, smacking the post with a well taken shot from outside the box. He ultimately got his first goal off a very well taken goal, cushioning a lovely Paul Arriola header (after a play that Ferreira himself started with a lovely flick on in the build up) and easily placing his shot past Jonathan Bond. His second was even better, receiving a gorgeous Paxton Pomykal (more on him shortly) through ball in the box and perfectly placing his shot in the far corner of the goal.
But beyond just the goal scoring, Ferreira looked like a confident player again. Whatever work was done between him and the coaching staff over the week worked wonders as Jesus resisted the urge to drop super deep into midfield like he did all too often against Minnesota and played more like a proper number 9, regularly combining well with his teammates in the build up and putting himself in wonderful positions to score goals. If he is able to carry this kind of play forward, Jesus is going to be looking at a great follow up to his record tying 2022 season.
3) It is definitely the year of Paxton Pomykal
Last week my one positive takeaway from the season opener against Minnesota United was Paxton Pomykal. He was the only FCD player who looked really ready to start the season and had a fire and intensity to his game that was lacking elsewhere in the team. He also looked incredibly hungry to address the major criticism of his bounce back 2022 season: not showing up often enough on the scoresheet. Though he wasn’t able to actually accomplish that goal in week one, he managed to do so in week two, slipping in a gorgeous through ball for Jesus Ferreira for FCD’s second goal. Outside of the scoresheet, Pomykal had another immense game in midfield, continuing to be a huge part of ball progression for the team and regularly breaking up Galaxy attacks. I lost track of the number of times the Galaxy held the ball in a relatively dangerous position in the attacking third only to see Pomykal drop in from midfield and take the ball off a Galaxy player’s foot. Beyond the gorgeous pass for Ferreira’s brace, Pomykal also started that entire play off with his defensive work in midfield, winning the ball off a Galaxy player and allowing FCD to hit the Galaxy quickly in transition.
If he can stay healthy, I have no doubts at this point that Paxton is due for a massive season. I certainly think he’ll end up on the scoresheet a lot more than 2022 if the first two games are any indication and he looks to be the driving force behind the team. I’m so excited to see how the rest of the year goes for him.
What are your thoughts on FCD’s first win of the 2023 season? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: FC Dallas Twitter