The start of the 2018 season for FC Dallas Homegrown players Jesse Gonzalez and Kellyn Acosta has been rough. Both have been hit with the injury bug and have missed all three of the club’s games in March.
As the team is coming off another bye week from league play, each returned to full training. This got our staff debating whether or not they deserved to immediate return to their starting spots in the lineup. Let us know what you think below.
Jason Poon - How is this even a debate?
Jacori Hayes has earned his starting spot. Until he makes a costly mistake or his play suffers a dip in form, Acosta doesn’t get near the Starting XI. Not to forget that Acosta didn’t have a full preseason either. Can’t imagine he’ll be 100% until May.
As for Jesse Gonzalez, it’s undoubtedly he has the higher ceiling among him and Jimmy Maurer. But like Hayes, Maurer has earned his starting spot. Maurer has yet to make a costly mistake, his distribution and command of the defense has been strong. If Gonzalez wants back, then he needs to step up his game. The fact that this is even on the table points to how inconsistent Gonzalez has been as a starter for the past three seasons.
Nathan Hill - Yes and maybe.
Kellyn Acosta is a no brainer. Jacori Hayes has offered poise and talent early on this season, showing that he has a role to play on this roster. Jacori will get his minutes. I can even imagine Acosta and Hayes potentially developing a partnership over the course of the season, when Gruezo needs a break. Pareja might bring Acosta in as a sub for a match or two, but unless Kellyn has regressed in a few weeks, he’ll be in the starting XI faster than I can throw down a Green Chili Pork taco from Torchy’s.
Jesse Gonzalez is a slightly different story. Do I think Jesse has more talent and ability than Jimmy? Yes. My gut is that Pareja will stick with the slightly hotter hand and let Jesse prove his mettle and minutes on the practice field. At this stage in his career, Jesse needs a challenge, and he seems to play better when he is fighting for minutes against a veteran GK who pushes him. Jesse will be back in the starting XI soon, though maybe not right away. Jimmy is doing what he was signed to do - be a vet in goal, and it has helped FC Dallas early on.
Jeff Loftin - Yes
If we ignore the previous seasons of work and only focus on the short three game season we have in front of us right now it would be a different discussion. But, since Jesse and Kellyn have put in years of work in the system and earned their spots over years of time and years of play, I do not see any reason to change that up. Yes, Jacori and Maurer have had good runs so far this season and that’s great. Support players are supposed to do that - step in when the starter is hurt and play well. I think it is great both players have had their moments of quality play but let’s not get overzealous here and proclaim that both Hayes and Maurer are going to take anyone’s spots.
If Kellyn and Jesse lose their spots it will be after the come back 100% healthy and play poorly while those waiting in the wings are playing and training well. I just do not see any reason why we would ignore years of dedication and strong play to be swept up in the moment by play on a team that has only won 1 of its first 3 games.
El Chico Carmona - Not right away
Jimmy and Jacori are both playing lights out. Jimmy is currently #1 in MLS with a 0.67 goal against average, and #2 in MLS with a 83.3% success rate on save attempts. Pareja likes to ride the "hot hand", and if being tops in MLS isn't hot, then I don't know what is. Sure, Jesse has all the intangibles, and the bigger upside. That said, with the backline players still not all on the same page, I'd rather have Jimmy and his strong defense management skills starting, at least while he's still the "hot hand".
Jacori has been arguably the best midfielder for FCD in MLS play. So I'd rather Jacori continue to start, and have Pareja slowly work Acosta back into the starting lineup. People don't realize that Acosta has missed way too many games in the past year, and it may be time for Pareja to start using baby gloves when it comes to managing Acosta's playing time. It's a long season, so let's not rush two of our most important players back into the starting lineup, there's plenty of time to work them back in.
Etan Cohn - Jesse: yes; Acosta: it depends
Jimmy Maurer has been a suitable backup goalkeeper, but overall, I think Jesse Gonzalez still has the starting job if he is back to 100%. Because Maurer has been playing well, Jesse does not have to rush back until he is ready, but I do not believe that Maurer has done anything to take the starting position from Gonzalez. Remember, Gonzalez was probably FC Dallas’ best player at the end of last year.
Kellyn Acosta, as a center midfielder, will need more time to adjust to playing again and building chemistry with his new teammates even after he is back to full fitness. Jacori Hayes has stepped in and been performing very well in the center midfield position, and deserves a starting position at the moment. While Acosta may get his starting position back in the midfield, he will have to show well to beat out Hayes or Gruezo. Maybe we will see Acosta at fullback a little bit? If FC Dallas is not done experimenting with 5 defenders, he could be a decent wing back.
Scott Hiney - Eh..?
I’ll echo Jason as far as Jacori goes. He’s playing really well, he’s growing really fast and I think that’s something FCD fans should be really excited about. If our youth can develop right before our eyes while also adding valuable on-field contribution, that’s a perfect scenario. On top of that, a fully-healthy Kellyn is the only version of Kellyn I want on the field.
Between the posts, Jimmy has shown his quality thus far, but I think a keeper situation can fluctuate a little more because teams don’t always have a clear No. 1. That’s where I see FC Dallas right now, so there are starter minutes for Jesse out there, but at the same time, rolling with the hot hand is a tried-and-true format for success.