FC Dallas played two matches on Saturday afternoon, giving fans a nice taste of what is to come in the 2019 season under new manager Luchi Gonzalez.
The home side downed a U23 team from German partners Bayern Munich with relative ease, winning 4-0. The second game against USL Championship side San Antonio FC didn’t go quite as well as FC Dallas lost that one 3-1.
There was a lot of good to take in from this one though, especially with the first group that dominated a pretty good youth squad.
More of this please
The opening goal was quick and fun to watch as Carlos Gruezo chipped in a ball to the penalty box where Dominique Badji was there to head it home.
Gruezo had a heck of a first half with passes like this one that set up the first goal by Badji. He had another about 25 minutes later to Michael Barrios that could have set up another goal.
Under Gonzalez’s 4-3-3 system, Gruezo is free to be a destroyer-type #6 as well as a distributing type out of the defensive portion of the midfield. We’ve only really ever seen Gruezo with a central partner for the last few years but giving him some freedom to roam and protect the defensive line behind appears to be exactly what he needs to rejuvenate his game.
The second goal was yet another play out of the midfield that just shows how well this group is taking on Gonzalez’s new system:
And yes, my man Jacori Hayes is there finishing home a pretty easy strike. I am all about where this type of formation and attack is going too. The first group just looked comfortable out there in the 65 minutes or so that we saw them.
Badji looks at home
For me, there were a few big standout performers on the afternoon but I kept coming back to guys like Paxton Pomykal, Badji, Hayes and Gruezo.
Let’s talk about Badji for a moment though. Last year, he was brought in through the big trade with the Colorado Rapids for Kellyn Acosta. He never quite looked like what we saw over the years with the Rapids either. Some of it had to do with coming in during the middle of the season, but the real answer may come just down to pure comfort.
Check out this quote that ProSoccer.com’s Arman Kafai snagged after the match with Badji:
A quote I wanted to share from Dominique Badji that I couldn't include in my pieces. I asked him the difference between coming in mid-season versus having preseason with the team and getting acclimated with #FCDallas, and here's what he had to say: pic.twitter.com/2HUI9amaov— Arman Kafai (@ArmanKafai) February 9, 2019
It comes down to simple things and so far this preseason, Badji looks like what we hoped we would get out of him last year. He confident striker that scores goals.
The more at home Badji looks, the better his performances are starting to be. Which is a good thing considering his backup right now is starting to feel comfortable too.
Intriguing items to keep watching
With two games played an a full change of lineups in both games, there was bound to be a lot to digest. Here are some quick notes that I took while watching yesterday:
- Brandon Servania looks very comfortable in the #6 role right now. I think it is fair to say that his strong showing at last falls CONCACAF U20 championships helped prove that FC Dallas could trade away Victor Ulloa and allow Servania to be the backup for Gruezo.
- Mohamed Sesay subbed in late in the first match when SuperDraft pick Callum Montgomery went down with a hard knock tells us a lot about where FC Dallas rates him. He came on board for a trial but it would be shocking not to hear him sign with North Texas SC before long. Dallas is thin at left back and he looked pretty good in that spot.
- John Nelson holding down the backup spot to Reggie Cannon is interesting to me given how we saw a lot of Bryan Reynolds to begin the preseason with Cannon out on national team duty. I think if anything, Nelson and Reynolds are duking it out for that backup role right now and that is about it. The club’s three games in Tuscan will shed way more light on that though.
- Francis Atuahene not playing yesterday tells me either he is hurt or things really aren’t going well with him in this new system. Again, Tuscan will give us more on that though we will check and see if there is an injury.
- Pablo Aranguiz showing up on the second team speaks a lot to me. A lot. He doesn’t appear to have any sort of glaring injury but not being on the first group yesterday tells me Gonzalez doesn’t rate him as high as Pomykal and Hayes right now. If you noticed how bad he missed the penalty kick, it may tell you a thing or two about his confidence right now. I’ll say it again, the Tuscan trip will certainly tell us if he is going to be a starter at the beginning of the year or if he is destined to be a late sub in most games again this year.