After a spirited comeback while playing down a man, FC Dallas lost a heartbreaker to defending MLS Cup champions LAFC last Saturday. This week, we’ll look at three positive takeaways from the Burn’s performance.
1) Strong, positive mentality
The first ten or so minutes of this game were, simply put, a complete and utter disaster for Dallas. I will give the team a lot of respect and admiration for having the desire to play “their” game and play out of the back while playing away to the defending champs, but they simply weren’t sharp enough as LAFC piled on early pressure and a bad pass from Paes followed by a poor touch from Alan Velasco led to LAFC’s first goal and the Burn were lucky to not be down 2-0 in the first ten minutes with how they continued to play shortly after the goal.
But once they got out of that nightmare first ten minutes, the team settled in very well and were, at least, on equal footing with the hosts, scoring a goal that was disallowed by VAR in the 18th minute. That goal being chalked off would have been a great excuse for heads to drop but Dallas should be commended for maintaining their mentality as they continued to stay on level footing with LAFC following the chalked off goal. Unfortunately, the wind was taken out of their sails as a VAR review of an Ema Twumasi yellow card foul was upgraded to a red card, putting the Burn down a man for the final hour of the game.
To FCD’s immense credit, they continued to stay in the game. Obviously they did so by weathering some heavy pressure from LAFC but they got their reward late in the second half as Nkosi Tafari steered home a goal from a corner to tie the match at one goal apiece. It really looked as though the Burn would get something out of the game when yet another VAR review determined that Tsiki Ntsabeleng had fouled Carlos Vela in the box, but Vela smashed his penalty off the post to save Dallas. Unfortunately, the story of the night wouldn’t end up being FCD’s resilience and mentality as Dennis Bouanga came off the bench in a surprise appearance after a 14 hour flight from Gabon to squeeze a shot past both Sebastien Ibeagha and Maarten Paes. FCD put up a valiant effort to try to level things once again but it was too much to ask in the end.
Since preseason, Nico Estevez has been preaching about the importance of mentality. He said that he felt specifically in the playoffs in 2022 against Austin that he didn’t feel the team truly believed they would go to Austin and get the win. Despite not picking up any points from their trip to LA, Estevez should be proud of his team’s mentality and fight in a game where they suffered repeated blows but stayed in the ring until the very end.
2) Stand out performances from Tafari, Cerrillo and Farfan
The mentality of the collective team was strong but a few players had stand out performances against LAFC. Once again, Nkosi Tafari was excellent at center back in his fourth consecutive start. Putting aside his goal, he and center back partner Sebastien Ibeagha kept a potent LAFC attack largely in check, limiting them to just 6 shots on target throughout the game. Tafari also displayed solid passing (87%), and was solid on his duels, winning half of his ground duels and 100% of his aerial duels. It seems clear at this point that Tafari should always be in the starting lineup if he is available, with Jose Martinez and Ibeagha selected based on opponents and tactics.
With Paxton Pomykal on the bench nursing a hamstring knock and Sebastian Lletget unavailable for personal reasons, FCD went out in a 4-2-3-1 with both Facundo Quignon and Edwin Cerrillo starting. This led to a slightly different role for Cerrillo than the single 6 position he usually operates out of as Cerrillo pushed forward more, trying to play a bit more like a box to box player. He did this quite well, scoring the disallowed goal in the first half and, even after the red card forced FCD into what was basically a 4-4-1, he continued to be the central player playing higher up the field. Much like Tafari, Cerrillo is at a point in his career where he really needs a lot of playing time to take that next step and he is another player who should almost always be starting if he is available.
Finally, a strong performance for Marco Farfan should come as no surprise to anyone who was watched the Burn since he arrived via trade before the 2022 season. The left back has been one of the most consistent performers in the team since he arrived but he seemed especially motivated in LA against his former team. Farfan did a tremendous amount of running on the left side of the pitch and was excellent in his duels, winning 6 out of 8 and was ultimately a big part of the reason that LAFC had a hard time closing out the game even up a man. Farfan has always been known as a strong defensive fullback but his ability going forward has improved a lot in the past year to the point where he regularly finds himself in the attacking third. He had a great opportunity on a shot in the second half that he might want back but Farfan seems set to lock down the left back spot as long as he wants to be here.
3) An opportunity for Geovane Jesus
One of the few big signings FCD made in the offseason, to this point the young Brazilian right back has been limited to appearances off the bench, with his 49 minute substitute appearance against LAFC coming in as his longest outing of the season. With Twumasi’s red card coming with a one game suspension, Geovane should make his first start for the Burn next weekend against the Portland Timbers. In his limited time so far, Geovane has shown a lot of flashes of positive play, most notably with his cross leading to Jesus Ferreira’s game winning goal against Sporting Kansas City. He doesn’t look to have any issues dealing with the physicality of MLS, the questions around him are more on his familiarity with the FCD system of play. This weekend will be a huge opportunity for Geovane, a strong performance could see him grab hold of the right back spot from Ema Twumasi going forward.
What, if any, were your positive takeaways from a tough loss for FCD over the weekend? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports