FC Dallas wrapped up the “on-the-road” start of their 2017 regular season campaign on a hot start, securing 4 points from 2 road matches against Western Conference foes. In this league, and in this conference, road points are worth their weight in gold. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again throughout the season; win at home, draw on the road and Dallas will do just fine.
Dallas will now enjoy a stretch of 7 league matches at home out of the next 9, giving the team a chance to enjoy #FortressFrisco. Dallas has only lost at home 3 times in the last seasons combined in the regular season, having won a team record 13 times at home in 2015 and 12 times in 2016.
Dallas’ approach to Sporting Kansas City was no secret. With their abysmal 1-5-1 all time record at Children’s Mercy Park, and a fast turn around to face Pachuca on Wednesday night for the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals, getting out of SKC injury free and possibly with a solitary point would’ve been a tremendous victory.
As it’s been his fashion to do about once a year (vs Columbus Crew in 2015 and vs Seattle Sounders in 2016), Oscar Pareja put out a very young lineup, handing several youngsters their first starts in a very challenging road match. This method has had mixed results on the field for those 90 minutes, but each one provided a litmus test for Pareja and where is young players stood, who he could rely on now and who still needed more seasoning.
Getting out of SKC with a point was a huge accomplishment for the young side that featured 3 homegrowns (1 making his MLS debut and first start), a rookie and another youngster making their MLS debut and first start. It’s somewhat incredible that Dallas can be simultaneously be building towards something while securing results too.
The New #19
Let’s just get the feels out of the way here. If you’re aware of the club history and the significance of the #19 jersey, you could not help but get a little emotional at the sight of Paxton Pomykal making the start.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Pomykal also became the youngest starter in club history last night.
FCD youngest starters, all-time:— Carter Baum (@CarterBaum) March 12, 2017
1. Pomykal (17 yrs, 84 days)
T2. Alex Zendejas (17 yrs, 126 days)
T2. Eddie Johnson (17 yrs, 126 days)
Pomykal’s performance drew rave reviews early on as his crosses were well placed and contributed to two shot attempts.
As much as we love Mauro Diaz and the talent he brings, it gets old to see his corners and crosses either sail over everyone or hit the first defender in the chest. Pomykal was tidy on the ball and showed incredibly maturity to not force anything. His greatest contributions were those passes along the right wing that went backwards. Rather than trying to force the issue, playing the ball back gave Dallas an extra precious few seconds on the ball to relieve the pressure from the defense that was trying to hold on desperately.
Pomykal’s just 17, but he played more like a 17 year old veteran last night.
Center Midfield is Stacked
When FC Dallas selected Jacori Hayes in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, there were some questions to where he would fit with Kellyn Acosta, Carlos Gruezo and Victor Ulloa already occupying the minutes. However, Fernando Clavijo could not contain his excitement for the young talent and it surprised the club a bit that he fell so low in the draft. Last night, we got a glimpse into why FCD thought so highly of him.
Those two long passes deep into SKC’s final third were eye openers to Hayes’ passing range. Though incorrectly called onside, his pass from the right wing to Tesho Akindele was a perfectly weighted through ball that led to Dallas’ best scoring opportunity that clattered off the post.
Hayes stated there were some nerves for him coming into the game, but it certainly didn’t show.
“I tried to settle myself down, but I also tried to take it all in while playing as natural as possible,” Hayes told reporters. “But, it is tough.”
His ability to turn his defender really caught my attention and eventually the attention of SKC too, as they fouled him 4 times in the first half - those are Mauro Diaz’ like numbers. Though apparently drawing fouls is a talent that Hayes’ possess as pointed out by A.J. Barnold, a former college coach who provided a lot of scouting information ahead of the SuperDraft.
Suffered the most fouls in the ACC last season by like... a lot. https://t.co/pVVHkudd10— A.J. Barnold (@ajbarnold) March 12, 2017
Stop Calling It “Ugly”
There are two elements to soccer: the physical and the mental. The physical is obvious to the eye, the first touch, the passing, the creativity, the movement. The mental requires a different level of thinking and processing that while different is also equally beautiful if pulled off correctly.
The SKC broadcast team continuously called the game ugly and unpleasing to the eye but that significantly negates the mental aspect of defending for a full 90. To do it at such a high level, for that duration of a time requires a level of stamina, commitment and communication that’s just not as easily identifiable to the eye.
Towards the latter stages of the match, Dallas shifted their positioning to a 4-1-4-1 formation. Once the ball was played out wide, the formation changed to the “Christmas Tree” formation (4-3-2-1) as either Kellyn Acosta or Carlos Cermeno pushed forward quickly and dropped back in line as soon as the ball was cycled to the other side.
To execute a bunker and counter well, you have to be constantly checking your shoulders to see where your teammates are in relation to the ball and to the opposition. Are you in the right position? Are you cutting off a passing lane? Where is the ball going next? Is there someone making a run behind me? Add a little freezing weather to that mix and expect to do that for a full game and you’ve got yourself a very tough challenge ahead of you.
It’s not “ugly”. It’s different. And it’s beautiful.