The Burn returned to the Cotton Bowl for their first preseason test of 2024, with Lionel Messi and Inter Miami bringing their world tour to Dallas. Let’s look at three takeaways from FCD’s preseason opening victory.


1) The 3-4-3

For most of Nico Estevez’s tenure as manager, FC Dallas has played in a 4-3-3, with occasional shifts to a 4-4-2 or 3-4-3, mostly during games, with the back 3 typically looking more like a back 5 and used to help close out games that Dallas is leading late. But in this game, Dallas played out of the 3-4-3 for the entire game, sticking with it even after multiple rounds of substitutions.

The lineup for this game wasn’t quite what one would expect from the first team, with Paxton Pomykal and Ema Twumasi missing entirely due to injury knocks, pushing Liam Fraser into midfield next to Asier Illarramendi and Herbert Endeley into the right wing back position. Interestingly, Dante Sealy was given the start opposite Endeley over Marco Farfan, who played there throughout the second half. With it being so early in preseason, it is hard to tell if this is just experimental or if someone like Farfan is actually at risk of losing his starting spot. Additionally, without Bernard Kamungo, who seems likely to occupy a starting spot in 2024, it is hard to say how he might fit into the plan.

All that said, the results were interesting. Sam Junqua occupied the third center back position, playing on the left side of defense with Nkosi Tafari in the middle and Sebastien Ibeagha on the right. This set up allowed Junqua to play on his natural left side and, most importantly, allowed Tafari to be aggressive with his interceptions and to do some playmaking from the center of the field. In the second half, Tafari switched out to the left side for the first 15-20 minutes before being subbed (he was the only starter to play into the second half) where he showed off some impressive left footed passing. This might be a preview of what this formation could look like with Omar Gonzalez playing in the middle.

But perhaps most interestingly was how this formation handled Jesus Ferreira, who occuped one of the “winger” spots in the front line instead of playing as a high 9. Ferreira, as we’ve seen over the last couple seasons, naturally wants to drop in and create plays, which this formation allows him to do. It does also still allow him to get forward and play high, as he did on FCD’s early goal as Paul Arriola found him for a nice finish. It looks like this formation is in the plans for 2024 so it will be very interesting to watch for it as preseason goes on.

2) Crying out for a DP 9

One thing I didn’t mention above was who did start as the high striker in the game. Estevez opted to go with Eugene Ansah in that spot and the results were middling at best. Ansah just never looked particularly comfortable in the role and failed to have much of an impact at all. He was mostly invisible and when he did pop up it was largely with poor touches or passes that missed the mark.

That said, it wasn’t hard to see the potential with a better player in that position (more on that shortly) and the rumors of Dallas being heavily interested in a DP striker (Petar Musa from Benfica is the name being thrown around most often) makes a lot of sense. A big target man forward for some combination of Ferreira, Kamungo, Arriola and Lletget to play off of seems like a perfect fit. If Dallas is able to land someone here, this formation and tactic could really make some noise and correct some of the offensive woes that plagued Dallas in 2023.

3) Logan Farrington looks like the real deal

In the second half, rookie Logan Farrington replaced Ansah as the high striker. Much has been made by the club about Farrington, who the club traded up, using a not insignificant amount of allocation money to do so, to grab with the 3rd pick in the SuperDraft. Within about 5 minutes of his debut, Farrington already looked livelier and more active and comfortable in the role than Ansah did in his 45 minutes playing with what would ostensibly be the superior “starting” group. Farrington, who is a noticeably big body up top, gave Miami’s defenders fits. This was especially encouraging considering that Miami did not start subbing off their starters until around the 60-65th minute mark. Farrington didn’t get many shots off but was consistently active, held the ball up well, involved his teammates and should have had an assist on a shot that Nolan Norris really should have done better with late in the second half.

Listen, its preseason and there is still over a month until the regular season starts, but Farrington’s first impression was extremely positive. Dallas might really have something here.


What were your thoughts on FC Dallas’ first preseason game of 2024? Let me know in the comments below!


Featured Image: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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