The preseason is just a different animal. I've been told that a few times by players in the past few years that you should never really read into preseason results as they typically do not translate well into the regular season. Hell, Chivas USA went undefeated a year or two ago in the preseason and we know how their seasons ended up.
For FC Dallas, the trip to Austin for the ATX Pro Challenge brought out a few good things and a couple not-so-good things that we should expect out of a team that has only been playing for a few short weeks. At the end of it all though, it was very nice to see preseason games in the State of Texas, unlike last year's Middle East trip.
So what did we gather from this two game set in Austin? Time to dive into some items we learned from the win over Columbus and the loss to D.C. this past weekend.
Midfield can turn it on
While we continue to say the midfield is the thinnest group on the roster; we saw plenty of good moments out of this group that make me feel confident going into March. Friday night for one was a good showing out of Mauro Diaz, Fabian Castillo and Victor Ulloa. Oscar Pareja was able to get solid minutes out of those guys this past weekend, all who contributed well in the two matches.
The key here is knowing that these guys are still in preseason mode. Castillo had the jets turned on but not at a super high gear that we know he can achieve. Diaz pulled some strings but some balls didn't end up the way he probably would have liked. Still, a lot of what we saw out of this group felt like what we saw in the first two months of 2014; solid play with a lot of decent chances on goal in the run of play.
On the minutes
One quick note on the minutes played this weekend. It was great seeing Castillo and Walker Zimmerman go the distance on Sunday, both played the full 90 against DC after 60 and 45 minutes respectively on Friday against Columbus.
Right back a concern?
The longer the delay on the Je-Vaughn Watson re-signing, the more we may need to be concerned. At least maybe. Atiba Harris played well in spots at right back over the weekend but he definitely needs more time to get comfortable in that position. I think once Kellyn Acosta returns to full health and the same goes to Zach Loyd, the depth in that area will be fine, especially if Zimmerman can prove he can go more minutes this season at center back.
This trip was nearly a coming out party for the second-year midfielder. Sure, his two goals against Columbus were mere tap-ins but he was also finding ways to get himself in position to score in both games. This is super encouraging to see out of a young guy that has a lot to prove here this preseason. He also looked good in moments against D.C. on Sunday, by testing Bill Hamid in the first half of that game.
The big question we'll continue to ask ourselves is he the starter at right midfield? Will FC Dallas go out and find a DP-level player to fill this position or is Pareja planning on running with Hollingshead until more talent is signed? If the season were to start today, I honestly would feel pretty decent about having Hollingshead as a starter on the right side. He worked fairly well with Atiba Harris and didn't appear to put the team in any real danger on that side of the field.
On to the trialists and rookies
The one thing we got to see plenty of in this weekend was minutes out of some of the trialists. Juan Toja got late minutes in both matches. Defender Aurelio Saco-Vertiz got some minutes in both games before ending his weekend early with what looked like an ankle injury. Then there was the two Homegrown players in Aaron Meyer and Damian Rosales, both got minutes late in the matches as well. Rookies Jaineil Hoilett and Will Seymore got some time too.
So what does FCD do with these players?
Honestly, had Saco-Vertiz not picked up an injury, I would have felt fairly confident that he would have been signed, now I'm not so sure that happens. Not that an injury will keep him from earning a contract, but more so because of a gut feeling. He did show fairly well on Friday but I don't see him as a starter for this team just yet either if he does earn a contract.
I'm not sold on the club signing Toja at this point either. Limited minutes, with yellow cards in each match. Even though he'd likely be a cheap option to have, I'd rather see the club get someone who isn't a liability in the discipline department off the bench, FCD already has enough issues in that area as it is.
The two unsigned rookies (Seymore and Hoilett) are an interesting thought right now. A lot could depend on the roster sizes in this CBA discussion but a lot could also depend on what Arizona United SC is looking to get from the club on loan too. Right now my gut tells me Hoilett is being heavily considered to sign more than Seymore.
I wouldn't expect either of the Homegrown players to be signed right now, though seeing Rosales get minutes makes me intrigued that he could land one and be a prime candidate for a loan to Arizona. The SMU grad has played pretty well so far in the preseason. Meyer on the other hand will go off to college this fall, so I would be shocked if they came to a deal before then.