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Quick Burns: Who is winning and losing (so far) in the preseason for FC Dallas?

With any preseason camp, there are some stand out performances and some that need a little work.

Daniel McCullough

The preseason is coming down the final days here as the MLS season kicks off next week (you read that right folks, next freakin’ week!).

Our team has been watching FC Dallas closely so far this preseason to see what new manager Luchi Gonzalez has in store for this year. So far we’ve seen some players potentially win a starting spot while others are being left to battle it out on the depth charts.

Here are some players we’ve seen as winners and losers of this preseason camp so far.

Jeff Loftin - Paxton/ Aranguiz

Paxton is killing it so far and has solidly earned his spot as a regular in the lineup. He bossed much of the game against Bayern’s U23s and has looked dangerous throughout the preseason. As he has risen though, Aranguiz has taken a bit of a fall. Because of the emergence of a home-grown playmaker, Aranguiz’s place in the team has come to be less important and it appears as though he is now fully on his way out.

Jose Carmona - Ryan Hollingshead/ Francis Atahuene

Maybe it’s not fair that I’m selecting Francis Atahuene following his injury. It doesn’t change that fact that he is this preseasons biggest loser. Here is the MLS Superdraft #4 overall pick, who after being slowed down last season with several small injuries, had an opportunity to impress the new Manager and prove he was worthy of his high draft order. Instead, Atahuene finds himself about to miss no less than half the season due to a pectoral muscle injury. Should he return on time, he most likely will be sent to North Texas SC for an extended time. Should Atahuene make it back to the senior roster, he will likely have very few games left to make an impression this season. Very likely, it’s better luck next season.

Ryan Hollingshead has endeared himself to FC Dallas fans both on and off the pitch. On the pitch, he has proven to be a man capable of playing any position asked of him, and play it well. It is because Hollingshead has been willing to play every position asked of him, that he has never really excelled at any one particular position. That changed a bit last season, when Hollingshead was used primarily as a defender, even getting multiple starts at Left Back and Full Back. This preseason, with Marquinhos Pedroso still getting back to 100% following offseason surgery, Hollingshead has been getting all the minutes at Left Back. Ryan has looked great going forward, and solid when on defense. He has played well enough, that Left Back is now likely the biggest preseason battle for a starting spot, and one that should spill well into the regular season. Still only 27 years old, Hollingshead will have made the transition to full back, at a much younger age than previous FCD success stories like Je-Vaughn Watson, and Atiba Harris. Hollingshead looks to have found a position to call home, and both he and FC Dallas, are better off for it.

Drew Epperley - Pomykal, Roberts, Servania, Badji /Aranguiz, Colman

So far under Luchi Gonzalez there really have been a lot of winners, and pretty much all of them are Homegrown players. I look at how Paxton Pomykal has played himself into a starter so far this preseason as a big sign of things to come with this group. But further down guys like Thomas Roberts has shown well (even if it has been against lesser competition), as has Brandon Servania, who appears to be the guy that will back up Carlos Gruezo this season.

Outside of that Homegrown trio, no one has stood out more to me so far this preseason than Dominique Badji. Mostly it is due to him scoring goals but a lot of it has to do with how comfortable and at home he looks now with this bunch.

On the other side of this coin, it is hard not to single out Pablo Aranguiz. It may still be early to write him off and a lot of it may come down to just the system he is in right now but until some production comes against good teams, he’s going to have to work hard at getting himself back into that starting mix.

The other is probably not fair since we know Cristian Colman is hurt but with how well Badji is showing, and newcomer Zdenek Ondrasek is looking more and more comfortable with this group as well, it will be a long and hard road back for Colman to earn minutes when he is healthy.

Ben Lyon - Badji/ Ondrasek

Somewhat surprisingly, it has been Dominique Badji tearing it up in the preseason with 5 goals and seemingly beating out FC Dallas’s biggest offseason, ‘The Cobra’. If you recall back to last year, I touted Gyasi Zardes to have a big year after a hot preseason, and he finished the season with 19 league goals (and 20 across all competitions). Badji looks prime for a similar breakout this year, and it appears as if he’ll be given every opportunity to fail early.

It’s hard to say Zedenek Ondrasek is ‘losing’ here. He came to Dallas on a good contract and escaped a dreadful club situation in doing so. He also won’t feel a lot of the burden that comes with being a big offseason signing as Badji will feel most of the pressure to produce early on. Still, a player wants to play, and his opportunities likely will continue to be limited until Badji is injured or suffers a drop in form.