Last night, FC Dallas played their second preseason match of the year. The match ended 1-1 with Santa Telca scoring in the first half and FCD tying the game up in the second. The game was a good test for the boys as Santa Telca came in wanting to make a statement. It’s not everyday that a team from El Salvador gets to play an MLS side, friendly or not. Santa Telca is one of the better sides in El Salvador and they will playing the Seattle Sounders in CONCACAF Champions League. The match was a bit frustrating at times with STFC pulling out the general Concacaf tactics, but overall it was a good learning experience for the team.
With there being a handful of new faces in the starting eleven this year, it was a good opportunity for those guys to see what CCL is going to be like. They were able to learn how refs call the matches, how opposing teams will play, as well as adjusting to the speed of the game.
The final score isn’t flashy and the team is struggling to score during open play, but overall it was a definitely a good friendly to schedule and play. As the game wore on, the team grew in comfort, to the point where they basically dominated the last half hour of the game or so.
Here are a couple of quick thoughts from last night match.
I am really excited about the back four or three, as FCD when to three in the back in the back for the last 15 minutes or so. Matt Hedges was his normal self anchoring the backline. His partnership with Reto Ziegler this year will have a huge effect on how good this team could potentially be. Both CBs did a great job of covering each other. Ziegler looks like a Walker Zimmerman clone in that he is effective in the air and aggressive to go get the ball. However, Ziegler does look like a little more comfortable than Walker with the ball at his feet. There were a couple of times when Reto was able to play a direct pass to Mauro Diaz or Maxi Urruti splitting the whole STFC midfield. It was pretty impressive, especially with their squad bunkering pretty deep. Reto has really only been in practice for about a week now and he already looks super comfortable back there.
Anton Nedyalkov is going to be without a doubt a fan favorite. He is an aggressive fullback who uses his speed to close in on defenders and loose balls. He didn’t get forward too much last night but when he did, he showed off that left of his with some pacy whipped in balls to the box. would expect as the he gets more comfortable with the squad he will be bombing down the flanks more, causing more havoc in the opposing teams 18 yard box. If that’s not enough, he looks like he has a bit of a mean streak in him too. He doesn’t take stick from anyone. You won’t push him around and won’t back down from a tackle. It’s exciting to see someone with a little bite in his game on this team again.
The midfield is in good hands this year. Once they are up to match sharpness, Kellyn Acosta and Carlos Gruezo are going to be the dominant midfield pairing that we have grown to love over these last two years.
Behind them though, is what really excites me. We already know that Victor Ulloa can come in and hold down the #6 role, protecting the backline, but now it looks like we have a real player behind Kellyn for the box-to-box midfielder role. Jacori Hayes (pictured above) played really well last night. He was everywhere in the midfield. His ability to find the ball and get the ball was on display and he showed out. On top of that, Hayes was able to repossess the ball without fouling anyone, something that is difficult against CONCACAF opponents. I am really excited to see how he continues to grow this year. He could be a really good player for us.
The rest of the midfield was alright throughout the night, nothing really too spectacular stood out with them. There were times in the first half where you could see the team was still in preseason mood. Their passes weren’t sharp enough or were slightly behind a teammate. The buildup attack always seems like the last thing to click when getting back up to full speed. There is such a small margin for error when you are working on the final pass to unlock a defense, if you are slightly off, the pass will never get to its destination. I will hold any reservations about the team going forward until we see a few more friendlies.
No the team didn’t win, but they did get a challenge against a CCL quality side who is in midseason form all while holding their own pretty well. As the game wore on, FC Dallas became a lot more comfortable and really took a stranglehold of the play. Also, even though STFC might have scored on the evening, they didn’t really have that many looks at goal. They might have had one or two other shots on the evening, but nothing the keeper couldn’t handle.
I have to keep reminding myself that this is going to be a slow build for another couple of weeks. The returning guys are coming off of a disappointing season and have quite a few new faces to get comfortable with on the field. The fight was there last night though. For a team, that was so frustrated last year, that’s great to see.