FC Dallas has wrapped up their preseason stint in Spain, playing four friendly matches over the past several days. This week, let’s take stock of some players who have seen their stock rise from their time in Spain and some players who struggled and have seen a drop off.
No one has had as good of a time in Spain as Dante Sealy. Playing as a left wingback in FCD’s new 5-2-2-1 formation, and often playing with the group with more starters, Sealy has absolutely gone off in the three friendlies he played in. He tallied 4 goals (2 from free kicks!) and 2 assists across the three games. Sealy played some left wingback at times in 2023 for FCD but was often used as a sub and never looked particularly comfortable in the position, but in preseason thus far he has looked totally different, far more comfortable and willing to attack and defend at will. Offensive contributions from the wingbacks looks to be a very important part of this 5-2-2-1 setup and if Sealy can carry what he’s shown in preseason over into the regular season, he may be poised for a starting role and a breakout season.
FCD’s 2023 first round SuperDraft pick had a big opportunity presented to him with Bernard Kamungo missing the start of preseason with the national team for January camp and Ema Twumasi picking up a knock. That allowed him to get the start against Inter Miami where he looked very solid with the starting group, then another start against New Mexico United in the second preseason friendly where he scored an absolute banger of a goal to open the scoring for FCD. He followed up those strong performances with more quality play in Spain, playing in all four friendlies and bagging another goal against Malmo. He has some stiff competition for the right wingback spot with Estevez looking to play Kamungo there and Twumasi returning from injury, but Endeley has done very well to make a case for himself to get some real minutes in 2024.
The club captain has had a promising start to his 2024 season. With the 5-2-2-1, a lot of folks, myself included, would place Arriola as a right wingback due to his high workrate and abilities going forward, but, to this point, he has exclusively been deployed as one of the attacking midfielders/wingers underneath the striker and he has looked darn good in those minutes. Arriola is a very smart soccer player and his intelligent movement and quick passing has opened up spaces for his teammates and generated opportunities. This was evident right from the start of preseason when his pass found Jesus Ferreira to open the scoring against Miami. Two of FCD’s goals in their final preseason test against Norwegian side Odds BK were orchestrated by Arriola, with him picking up a direct assist on one of the goals. After 2023, there were a lot of questions asked about Arriola and what he could provide to FCD and, so far, things are looking promising.
North Texas SC players
The Burn brought three players from their MLS Next Pro roster to Spain: Haitian international midfielder Carl Sainte, young attacking midfielder Diego Garcia and the newly signed Brazilian attacker Pedrinho. All three players have seen a lot of playing time in preseason and that continued in Spain. Garcia and Pedrinho were both deployed as the attacking midfielders/wingers underneath the striker in the 5-2-2-1 while Sainte was, surprisingly, often used as a center back, playing on both the right side against Odense and on the left side against Aalborg before playing as a midfielder on the final matchday against Malmo. It is hard to say if any of these three players have done enough to earn themselves a first team contract, but they certainly seem to be on the short list at this point. One of my hot takes for the season is that Sainte will earn himself a first team contract and become a starter at center back by the end of the 2024 season, he was seriously impressive in that role in preseason.
With Petar Musa not able to actually play in any preseason games until he gets his visa, Ansah and rookie Logan Farrington split time at the striker spot through preseason. To be blunt, Farrington has been the clear and obvious winner of that battle. Farrington has notched a couple goals, nothing spectacular, but solid finishes and good positioning to get himself into those spots. Farrington has also displayed solid movement and good link up play with his teammates. In contrast, Ansah’s first touch has been poor, his passing often erratic and generally has looked poor in possession and unable to find good chances. To be totally fair, he was probably unlucky to not score against Aalborg as a defender made a wonderful sliding tackle to block his goalbound shot but overall Ansah has really struggled to make any positive impact in his time on the pitch. It is hard to see a lot of minutes for the Ghanaian in 2024.
To be clear, these last couple players have not necessarily been poor or played badly, they have just had what I’m sure they would consider relatively disappointing preseasons thus far. In 2023, Sebastian Lletget joined Paul Arriola in the ranks of highly paid veterans who did not live up to expectations. Lletget was plagued with injuries and inconsistent play, only really showing his strongest level during a good run during Leagues Cup. With personal issues put behind him, he certainly will hope that 2024 is a bounce back season for him. Unfortunately, it hasn’t started particularly well. Lletget has been deployed as one of the attacking midfielders behind the striker but, unlike Arriola, has struggled to make a significant impact on the pitch. As always, his touch is clean and his passing is solid enough, but he hasn’t been able to find much luck in the final third with end product. With Jesus Ferreira still injured and likely to miss the rest of preseason and maybe the early part of the season, he will have his opportunities to make an impact but will need to turn around his performances quickly if he wants to keep a regular spot in the starting eleven.
The switch to the 5-2-2-1 has had a positive impact on a number of players but one player who has not seemed to have the best time with the switch over is FCD’s stalwart left back Marco Farfan. Farfan has been deployed as a left wingback. There were thoughts that Estevez and his staff may look to use him as a center back, Farfan does have experience there in his time with LAFC, but, so far, Sam Junqua has been preferred as a player to make the switch from fullback to center back. Farfan has, put simply, been outplayed by Dante Sealy as a left wingback so far in preseason. Where Sealy has looked confident and decisive, Farfan has looked a bit shaky and uneasy, a surprising thing to see from a player who has been so strong and consistent in his two years with FCD. Farfan has shown some flashes at wingback, the defensive side of his game remains strong, but questions are certainly there if he can provide enough going forward to keep his spot in the starting eleven in 2024.
What are your thoughts on the team as they finish up their time in Spain? Let me know in the comments below!
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