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What we learned against the New England Revolution: Gruezo is once again the glue

Breaking down the impact made (and lack thereof) by Gruezo, Badji, and Pomykal

Daniel McCullough

You’re not going to catch me complaining after the first game of the season. There was too much to take in and be excited by to think negative thoughts. I feel like a kid that has just been set loose in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.


Who cares if some of it tastes like crap and can kill you? It’s exciting and new.

Gruezo the cornerstone

If I had to wager on our midfield composition throughout the season, I would bet that Carlos Gruezo sees a lot more action than anyone else. He’s by far the most experienced midfielder we have on the roster and he knows the system as well as anyone.

This game we saw him dropping back into the defense allowing Reggie Cannon and Ryan Hollingshead to get forward, but also allowing Hedges and Ziegler be more aggressive in their defending as well. Both of our center backs are aggressive players and good passers, so Gruezo covering for them allows them to go forward when they have the space and to focus more on winning back the ball instead of cutting passing lanes. This is going to allow the counter to flourish. If those guys can step up, win the ball, then send it down the field to Badji, who could hold it up, Barrios, who has shown he can be dangerous on his own, or to Mosquera who is our most creative player on the field.

I felt like this new system fits our personnel better. Oscar Pareja tried to force Gruezo into a much higher role than he was comfortable with and I’m much happier to see him sit deep and be able to clean up like he did earlier in his FCD career.

Badji’s my boy

When we first traded for Dominque Badji, I found it a little hard to cheer for him. He felt like a poor return for a guy that, while he wanted to move on, meant a lot to FC Dallas fans and felt like the future of the club. It was frustrating when he didn’t immediately perform and I think the emotions of the trade had a lot to do with the way we evaluated his play last season.

Now that we’re an offseason removed from those events, I find myself really liking what Badji brings to the table. Yes, his performance has improved, but there are also confounding variables like a new coach. He’s dropping deeper now and contributing in the hold up play instead of being isolated up top waiting for service (he did go missing for stretches this game).

Those are some pretty deep touches for a striker and I dig it.

Pandemonium over Paxton

I find myself significantly less hyped about Paxton Pomykal than just about anyone else in the FC Dallas fan universe. In our staff predictions eight out of 14 picked Paxton to be the best U23 player on the roster. I found that surprising given that most of us felt that Reggie was a strong contender for MVP last season. I’m sorry but I don’t think Paxton is going to be our MVP this year. In fact, I think the way we’re set up tactically (after 1 game obviously) it makes sense for Jacori to be starting.

Luchi Gonzalez rotated all three midfielders around at times. Gruezo would drop deep and that would free up Acosta to have more of an attacking role. Hayes was consistently higher up the pitch, but at times dropped deeper than Paxton normally would. According to Carter’s lineup notes, Pomykal was the last scratch from the 11. I would assume that means him and Jacori Hayes are neck and neck. Hayes is better suited to being shuffled in between the more advanced role and playing as a 6/8 hybrid. So, I don’t have any problem with him getting the start here. Especially because you want to lean a bit on the conservative side for your first game. But I’m sure there are many that would disagree. Especially with how much the “play the kids” sentiment was played up this offseason.

Did you like what you see? Can you forgive the team for drawing at home? Did you catch Big D After Dark? Let’s break it down in the comments!