(Big breath in, hold… and exhale) Ahhhhhh. The smell of a new season wafts gently on the breeze. The warm Texas air (not literally, at the moment) carries with it the hope and promise of a brighter tomorrow. One filled with an MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, and U.S. Open Cup treble for your beloved Hoops. (Harp music fades away)
But before that glorious day arrives, we must get through tedious training camps and preseason games. Games that deliver only hints about the future; only glimpses of the promise that will soon be fulfilled. As FC Dallas begin their final preparations of the offseason, we see them move on to playing scrimmages against actual MLS competition. With that in mind, here is our first match preview of the season, featuring FC Dallas vs Real Salt Lake.
Unlike our usual preview post, I find it pointless to present a lineup for a preseason game, where the starters aren’t usually named until the day of and most of the starting lineup will not make it past 60 minutes or even past halftime. But as sure as I say that, Mike Petke will have RSL lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
There are a few new faces to watch for this season out in Utah. First, RSL brought in on loan midfielder Everton Luiz from Italian Seria A side SPAL. The 30-year-old Brazilian should slot into the second defensive midfield spot beside Kyle Beckerman. If the year is a success, they have an option to buy at the end. The bigger signing though, is new front man Sam Johnson. Johnson is a new Designated Player that could possibly lead the line all season. Hopes are high that this new signing will allow the team to move Damir Kreilach back to midfield, his original position. It’s always a (pleasant?) surprise when you sign a box to box midfielder at the start of the season, only to find he is the best striker on the team.
Speaking of Kreilach, he quickly became the main man for RSL. He ended up being voted as the team MVP by the organization and the highest rated player by RSL Soapbox. The dynamic midfielder ticked all the boxes, scoring goals, securing assists, kissing babies. His partnership with Albert Rusnak gives the team two midfield dynamos and two solid foundation pieces to build around. Throw in the reigning Rookie of the Year Corey Baird and you have a nice set of pieces.
Now, I’m just going to throw some names at you and you tell me what you think. Jefferson Savarino, Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad, Joao Plata, Beckerman, Rimando. The last two, though ageless as they seem, are probably starting their final seasons as professional players. But Savarino, Lennon, and Glad are young, up-and-coming sorts – with name recognition. Lennon, the former Liverpool academy player, moved to full back last season and terrorized opposing teams down the line all year. Savarino was named a top 22 Under 22 MLS Player, and Glad was hearing whispers of USMNT talk. Each comes into the season with expectations to help deliver RSL back to the top of the West, and each has the ability to deliver. Plata rounds out the prominent trio and will be expected to fill in his usual goals and assist numbers after signing a long term deal this offseason. Unless he’s shipped out in the next few weeks. Guys like Sebastian Saucedo, Nick Besler, and Aaron Herrera will fill in the gaps and we may even see more academy players from RSL as well.
As to how this game will play out…I have no idea. In preseason games, subs are swift and there are many. Last game, the entire outfield group (10, come one people) was subbed off and replaced at the 75th minute. That’s just how it goes this time of year. Dallas will continue to work in the young guns with the vets and hopefully build off the nice win over Seattle. Keep your eye on the continued emergence of Paxton Pomykal as the true heir to Mauro Diaz and the possibility that Dom Badji really might be a 15+ goal scorer up top. And finally, watch out for the kids (Thomas Roberts in particular), they are coming for the league.