FC Dallas had an action-packed long weekend for the 4th of July, with an exciting and cathartic win over LAFC followed by an extremely disappointing 4th of July defeat at the hands of D.C. United.

Let’s look at the highs and lows of the games from the holiday weekend.

Back home for the first time since finishing off the delayed match against St Louis CITY SC on June 7th, Dallas welcomed the defending MLS champions to Toyota Stadium to kick off the holiday weekend on July 1st. Dallas continued their long road to injury recovery, with Sebastian Lletget making his first start since May 13th in Austin.

But the mixing and matching continued from Nico Estevez and his staff, with backup left-back Sam Junqua forced into a right-wing role and young Bernard Kamungo making his first start at the striker.

vs. LAFC

And it was the two reserves playing out of position that ended up being the stars of the show. FCD rode out a tough first half that saw them survive a few scares from LAFC before scoring early in the second half on just about the scrappiest goal possible that really epitomizes the current state of this team. A long throw from Geovane Jesus went into the box, where it was headed down into Nkosi Tafari by an LAFC defender, and Kamungo was the first to pounce on the loose ball, poking the ball past a helpless John McCarthy to open the scoring. It was a wonderful bit of awareness from such a young player, especially with how little service Kamungo had gotten to that point in the match. Kamungo still has a lot of work to do in his game, but he has some intangibles that are fantastic to see, and his ability to find space and opportunities in the box belies his young age.

Dallas weathered a couple more storms in the second half from LAFC and saw the welcome return of two more players from the injury list in Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Paxton Pomykal. Ntsabeleng made a quick impact, playing a lovely one-two with Sam Junqua to assist Junqua’s lovely second goal, an absolute rip into McCarthy’s goal that the former Philadelphia Union keeper had no chance of saving. Junqua was named man of the match and put on a true yeoman’s performance, tirelessly running up and down the right flank and putting in a massive amount of effort on both sides of the ball. It wasn’t always pretty, you can clearly see this is a player playing both out of position on the wing and on his less comfortable side, but there is no faulting his effort, and it was fantastic to see that effort rewarded with his first FC Dallas goal.

The Dallas defense was the other star of the show, with the backline of Maarten Paes, Marco Farfan, Nkosi Tafari, Sebastien Ibeagha, and Geovane Jesus, along with holding midfielders Edwin Cerrillo and Facundo Quignon, severely limiting LAFC’s potent attack for the majority of the game. The always-dangerous Dennis Bouanga, who famously scored the game-winner against FCD in L.A. earlier in the season after returning from international duty earlier in that day, had his chances. Still, FCD’s defense ended the game with a very well-earned clean sheet.

vs. D.C. United

Three days later, the defense was, unfortunately, one of the few bright spots as Dallas took on fellow MLS original D.C. United for the first time since 2019 (which was also, coincidentally, a 4th of July game). With Geovane Jesus added to the injury list, Nico Estevez shifted his team into a 3-4-3, giving Amet Korca his first MLS start, moving Lletget back to the bench as he works back to full fitness and returning Jader Obrian to the lineup after the Colombian missed the June 21st Austin trip due to yellow card accumulation before missing the LAFC match due to a breach of team rules.

On short rest with another awkward lineup missing key pieces and leaning on players who have played a lot of minutes in the past two months, Dallas was clearly set up to try to grind out a result against a D.C. United team that had traveled to Nashville for their July 1st game. Wayne Rooney elected to rotate his squad, which was missing star forward Christian Benteke due to yellow card accumulation, pretty significantly, with D.C. also clearly looking to grind out a result.

With two teams playing on short rest in the summer heat with a number of reserves playing for each team, the first half was a predictably dour affair, with only one shot on target, a breakaway opportunity from Bernard Kamungo, registered between the two teams. Things continued in that vein into the second half, but the game began to come alive as the second half approached its midway point. Dallas had a penalty shout denied when Kamungo and D.C. defender Derrick Williams challenged for an aerial ball in the D.C. box that left Kamungo in a heap on the floor and missing a tooth. As a result, Kamungo was forced to come off as Dallas made their first change, bringing Lletget and Pomykal off the bench to spark some life into the attack.

D.C. responded shortly after with a triple change of their own, most notably bringing on Mateusz Klich. D.C. would ultimately benefit more from the first round of changes, and a few minutes after the subs, Klich found Taxi Fountas in a good bit of space, and Fountas pounced on his own blocked shot to smash a volley past a helpless Maarten Paes. Dallas quickly made more changes, bringing Herbert Endeley and Tsiki Ntsabeleng on for the largely ineffective Alan Velasco and Amet Korca, who was solid in his first MLS start. Dallas saw a flurry of chances in the last 15 minutes, with Jader Obrian missing a golden opportunity and Tsiki Ntsabeleng smacking the post. Still, Dallas wasn’t able to get on the scoresheet after 11 minutes of stoppage time, losing on the 4th of July for the first time since 2006 (coincidentally, also to D.C. United).

Unfortunately, the attack continues to stutter and falter throughout this run of games where Dallas has missed Jesus Ferreira, currently lighting it up with the USMNT. Alan Velasco has put in plenty of work and energy but has had little end product to speak of, and he continues to struggle to consistently beat MLS defenders and create space for himself. Jader Obrian’s hot spell looks to have massively cooled, with many of the most frustrating qualities of his game once again on display against D.C. The rest of the attack comprises players out of position or not ready for the MLS level. Still, it is culminating in a frustrating experience for everyone involved in the club. The returns of Lletget, Pomykal, and Ntsabeleng in midfield are certainly promising, and it will be exciting to see them continue to return to fitness in the coming games.

The Crowds

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention one massive positive from both games: the crowds. Both the LAFC and D.C. United games were recorded sellouts of 19,096 spectators, and both games saw great “butts in seats” attendance as well, with the atmosphere for the LAFC game, particularly electric.

They marked FCD’s 7th and 8th sellouts of the season, which matches the total from all of 2022, which was already a record-breaking year, with 6 MLS home games still left to play (along with at least 2 Leagues Cup games).

The renewed excitement around this team in the last two years has been fantastic to see after so many years of struggles in that area; we can only hope that it continues for the long haul.

How are you feeling about FC Dallas after the holiday weekend?
Let me know in the comments below!

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