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What we learned against Real Salt Lake: A peek at Luchi’s masterplan

A mix of new blood and familiar faces make a courageous showing in the desert.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, to start anew. While spring does start for another month; it’s here in spirit. The yearly cycle of rebirth has begun. The off-season has given way to new hopes and excitements. We finally get to see the new additions in action. This season, both the players and the coaches have something to prove to the fans. We will soon begin to taste the early fruits of the Luchi Gonzalez era.

But let us be reminded, these fruits are not yet ripe. As always, we must remain patient and be measured in our reactions. This was a preseason game played on turf in Arizona featuring an experimental lineup of starters and depth players as a result it looked like a preseason game played on turf in Arizona featuring an experimental lineup of starter and depth players. That is to say: it wasn’t pretty.

Luchi is making me uncomfortable

He said he wanted the players to be uncomfortable, but did he mean for that feeling to extend to the fans? Dallas spent the first half trying to play out of the back, but it was obvious that the back line organization and midfield communication wasn’t well developed enough for that to be successful. So ultimately what happened was Dallas would knock the ball around in their own half, each pass within a hair of being intercepted by a RSL player as a result of a sloppy touch or poor decision, then ultimately Dallas would just hoof it up to Zdenek Ondrasek.

While it wasn’t pretty, it’s what I want to see this time of the year. I want to see Dallas try out new things. I want them to be dedicated to their philosophy. If there’s one thing I want out of Luchi, it’s a clear identity. Oscar Pareja, for all the good he did this team, is remembered just as much for his frequent month-long cold streaks as he was for his skill in integrating young players into the squad. I want Luchi to take hold of this team and get them playing the game he wants them to play. If that means growing pains, so be it. If that means Badji becomes a right winger, so be it. If we want to overhaul this team and convert it into a North American soccer dynasty, it’s not going to happen without dedication to a new philosophy. It looked like to me that’s going to include playing out of the back and a fluid midfield that resembles a swarm of bees more closely than it does any midfield under the Pareja years.

New blood

While he isn’t a new signing, he sure looked like one. Marquinhos “Khal Drogo” Pedroso seemed to be on a warpath yesterday. He looked rejuvenated and healthier than we’ve ever seen him before. He showed bursts of quickness when getting forward which were not on display last year.

Bressan seemed like a solid 3rd choice center back and a good like for like change for Ziegler when he takes his red card sabbaticals. He showed no hesitation in trying to stretch RSL’s backline with ambitious long balls.

Bryan Acosta was played in a box to box role that we haven’t seen anyone dawning the hoops execute well since Kellyn Acosta of days past. While he arrives with fanfare and expectations, I don’t expect him to be handed the starting spot. Midfield competition is tight this year and I’m not sure if the personnel is going to dictate the formation or the formation the personnel, but I don’t think it’s a too unlikely scenario that Acosta finds himself on the bench to start the season in favor of a player with a more established tactical rapport à la Carlos Gruezo.

Positional battles

At this point, I don’t think anyone has their spot locked down other than Matt Hedges, Reggie Cannon, Michael Barrios, and maybe Reto Ziegler. I also believe that we’re being teased a bit with all the young players being given so much game time, but hey, that’s what preseason is for. Most likely we see Ewdin Cerrillo spending most of his time with North Texas SC, but it’s nice to be able to get a look at guys like that just to gauge their growth over the next couple seasons.

The most interesting battle to me right now is midfield. Because we are absolutely loaded there right now. For the 10 spot, Santiago Mosquera and Pablo Aranguiz all have shown promise but haven’t solidified themselves as the saviors we thought they would be. Paxton Pomykal has made a strong shout to be considered for real minutes there. Moving deeper, Jacori Hayes has a unique set of skills that he brings to the table as does well-established veteran, Gruezo. I’m not sure where Brandon Servania’s best position lies yet. He played a more advanced 10 role in college, but he seems to be a 6 for FCD. He looked overwhelmed against RSL, and while never lacking energy, often found himself out of position and unable to keep up with the game. It’s important to remember that Cannon’s breakout year is an exception to the rule. It isn’t a tried and true formula that you can sit a kid on the bench for the year then they hit the ground running as a starter in the next.

I missed the team. I’m glad they’re back. There will be plenty of juicy drama to follow over the next few weeks as Luchi tries to figure out what he’s working with and what he should do with it. Did you see anything in the RSL game that gave you a hint at Luchi’s plans? Let me know in the comments!