FC Dallas made their annual trip to Commerce City over the weekend, and, as is usually the case in the Mile High City, things did not go well for the Burn as they fell to the lowly Rapids, 2-1.
This week, we’ll look at three takeaways from the match.
1) Dante Sealy Returns and Looks Ready
After a handful of substitute appearances with the FC Dallas first team in the first part of the 2021 season, Dante Sealy went on a two-season long loan to Jong PSV, the Dutch giants’ reserve team, with hopes to earn himself a deal with their first team. Sealy had some success in his two seasons playing in the Dutch second division but ultimately failed to do enough to convince PSV to keep him in Eindhoven in the future. Sealy returned to Frisco in mid-June with some reports that he was looking for other opportunities in Europe, but it appears that he is set to stay with FC Dallas for the rest of the 2023 season at least (Sealy is contracted through 2024 with options for 2025 and 2026). Still just 20 years old, Sealy was given the number 11 jersey, and a fair bit of marketing was put into him after he officially became part of the FCD squad again when the transfer window opened on July 5th.
But few had actually seen Sealy play in the past two years. The Dutch second division isn’t exactly easy to find footage of, so the occasional highlights were all anyone was really able to see of Sealy. I don’t think even the most optimistic follower of this club would have expected Sealy to look as sharp, focused, and driven as he did in his substitute appearance against Colorado. Sealy has gotten noticeably bigger since he last played in MLS, and he used his size and skill well in his limited time against the Rapids, repeatedly taking on Rapids defenders and creating danger for Dallas.
In just 20 minutes, he completed 6 of his 7 passes, 2 out of 3 dribbles attempted, won his only tackle attempted, and went 4/5 on his duels; that is a ton of work in limited time. If Sealy can continue this kind of form, he will be looking at a significant role in this team in the back half of the season.
2) Sam Junqua Continues to Shine While Offensive Woes Continue
To say that FCD has struggled offensively with Jesus Ferreira out of the team on international duty is an understatement.
Dallas has scored just 3 goals in their last 5 games, with one of those goals coming from a Geovane Jesus long throw that Bernard Kamungo stabbed home and another coming from a massively deflected shot from Sam Junqua. Junqua provided the only other goal, an excellently taken strike late in the match against LAFC, but outside of that, Dallas has had a complete dearth of goal-scoring and goal-scoring opportunities. Alan Velasco has continued to struggle to create chances for his teammates or for himself, Jader Obrian has seemingly returned to his 2022 form after a brief period of strong play, and FCD’s other young attackers like Bernard Kamungo and Herbert Endeley have had bright moments but haven’t had consistent time to put things together. Sebastian Lletget has returned to the squad but has been unable to impact any of the three games he’s played in since returning, and he was practically invisible in his 70 minutes against the Rapids. It has all culminated in brutal offensive struggles, and it has clearly been a challenge for Nico Estevez and his staff to find any answers.
That said, the aforementioned Sam Junqua has been a bright spot. Most recently, being deployed out of position in two ways, both on the opposite side of his strong left foot and further forward than his most comfortable left-back position, he has been able to provide a spark on the right wing. Against the Rapids, he was given a huge responsibility in the first half to basically deal with the entire right side of the field, having to provide defensive cover for the inexperienced Amet Korca while also providing the offensive thrust down that side. His goal was a bit lucky, but he deserves much credit for his direct and simple play and willingness to take chances when they come to him.
In the second half, FCD’s substitution switched Junqua to his more comfortable left side before his extremely unlucky handball led to Colorado’s second goal from the penalty spot, and he was substituted shortly afterward. Junqua has certainly done more than enough to continue to get playing time with his tireless running and work rate one of the few bright spots for the Burn in this poor run of form.
3) Time to Give Up on the 3-4-3
In truth, calling the formation Dallas played a strict 3-4-3 is not accurate. In practice, it was a rather fluid formation, with Dallas shifting between a 3-4-3 and 4-4-2. In possession, things looked more like a 3-4-3, with Amet Korca staying back in line with Sebastien Ibeagha and Nkosi Tafari, and Sam Junqua being given the freedom of the right flank. Sebastian Lletget, nominally the right side of the forward three, had a free role that saw him come inside frequently. Out of possession, Dallas looked like more of a 4-4-2, with Junqua playing as more of a traditional right mid/wing and Lletget pushing up and joining Jader Obrian as a forward pressing the Colorado backline and midfielders.
Either way, it just didn’t work. Dallas played the 3-4-3 and stuck to it a bit more rigidly against DC United, and it produced similarly poor results offensively in both games. The Burn simply seems lost in the build-up when using this setup. It might be something more effective with more healthy players involved. Still, Facundo Quignon and Edwin Cerrillo are two very safe players in possession, and neither are particularly eager to progress the ball. Even after substituting Herbert Endeley for Amet Korca in the second half, Dallas stuck with the formation and still struggled to create much danger until the later triple sub that saw Dante Sealy, Bernard Kamungo, and Tsiki Ntsabeleng enter the game. Until then, Junqua had flipped sides, moving Marco Farfan back into more of a left-center-back role, but the issues in the build-up continued. One of Dallas’ best chances of the game came off a rare quality moment of interplay between the forwards and midfielders, but the chance fell to Facundo Quignon, who hit a tame shot almost straight at William Yarbrough in the Rapids goal.
I understand Nico Estevez and his staff’s desire to try this kind of formation. In theory, it should provide extra defensive stability, and the idea of Sebastian Lletget and Alan Velasco playing on either side of a central striker and working to combine sounds okay in theory. Still, it just doesn’t seem to work in practice. I’d like to see Dallas return to what they are clearly more comfortable with a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 look. There are going to be challenges right now due to injuries, but that should serve to keep everyone on the team most comfortable and get players into their most comfortable positions on the field.
What are your thoughts on FC Dallas following the match in Colorado?
Let me know in the comments below!
Photo: AP Photo/David Zabulowski