The first game of the year is in the books for FC Dallas as they tied the New England Revolution 1-1. Luchi Gonzalez wrapped up his first game with some mixed reviews around the league as he did some things well in his debut and some other things that left some of us puzzled.
Our staff discusses the things that were good and some things that didn’t pan out in week 1 of the Luchi Era.
Nathan Hill - The subs didn’t quite work out.
I’ll let someone else pick over the selected midfield trio of Hayes, Acosta, and Gruezo, but I do think Luchi likely experienced a blur of emotions that might be familiar to a lot of us. Intent on putting his mark on this team and making a strong statement, Luchi seemed very committed to the XI he put out there, trusting that they were going to find a way to break through New England’s defense. Unfortunately, he was so committed that he probably missed the need for some fresh offense-minded legs much earlier in the second half. I get it. He didn’t necessarily want his side to play pragmatically in his first official 90 minutes. He wanted a strong first statement in this new FC Dallas era. I bet a bit of stubbornness creeped in too, with a healthy dash of over-confidence in his game plan. This stuff happens. Even the best coaches learn over time that great game plans sometimes fall apart - maybe because of the coach or the players or field conditions or whatever. And the worst game plans occasionally work out. All this is to say, we will be watching him learn in real time and witness firsthand some painful moments and some brilliant ones too. I think we saw what a rookie coach brings to the table - fresh ideas, lots of confidence, and some early miscalculations. Look for an immediate adjustment and the use of all three subs this weekend.
Jason Poon - The Luchi Way
Possession and playing out of the back looked smooth and comfortable. At least by what was said through the media, playing out of the back and maintaining possession were part of the team’s goals this year. So that looked good. (~68% possession is impressive.)
Subs were a bit confusing. After New England tied the game, a sub should’ve come on within 5-8 minutes. I get not being reactionary, but by that point it was very clear that the front six weren’t getting the job done in facilitating any kind of sustained offense. Pablo Aranguiz and/or Paxton Pomykal should’ve been out there by the 60’ mark or so. ~30 minutes is about what a sub needs to impact the flow of a game, so getting late subs in after the 70’ mark didn’t allow Pomykal or Jesus Ferreira enough time to sort things out.
Jeff Loftin - The Result
While certainly not the best game, I was not expecting much from the first game. A draw was a fine result. We could have had more from the attacking group as they looked a bit lost once they did break the press, unless there was a clear break opportunity. We should remember to keep expectations low until the team has had a chance to gain some rhythm together with actual game minutes.
In regards to the bad - I’ll agree with the others here and say that the substitution patterns were a bit off. In a game with inclement weather and against a team that presses constantly, I thought it was a mistake to not use all three substitutions. The midfield looked tired about 60-65 minutes in and could have used a bit of energy earlier than the first substitution. Leaving the third sub was something that I question as well as there was an opportunity to bring on another body to get forward and run at the Revolution back line.
Overall it was a wash to me, some good some bad.
Drew Epperley - The wait with Paxton, the potential issue with TAM signings
There was some talk all through the Arizona week and even last week that Paxton Pomykal lost his starting spot to Jacori Hayes. While it seemed like anything was possible with Luchi’s first starting line up in MLS, there was still some hope that Pomykal would get the nod and be unleashed. Instead, Luchi played it a little too conservative in my book by not starting Pomykal. No disrespect to Hayes, who I thought had a solid game, he just didn’t provide any spark into the attack like Pomykal did in the final 20 minutes.
I would also say, not using all three subs was a bit of a shocker too. He had Pablo Aranguiz sitting on his bench, which could be something to chew on. Also, he had Zdenek Ondrasek playing in the reserve game with North Texas SC instead of having him as a bench option. When your two big TAM players are either not playing or are playing with a USL1 team, that says something to me. I don’t want to sound the alarm just yet on those two but it is something to keep an eye on.
Ben Lyon - Ideals vs. Results
FC Dallas is now a high possession team, it seems. It’s only one game, but it sure seems like from watching the preseason and the opening week draw, Luchi Gonzalez is asking the team to shift from Oscar Pareja’s more pragmatic, situational style.
That’s fine. It may be even good to great this year and in the years to come. 9 shots in a home game, however, is not going to cut it. You have to go all the way back to September of last year, and the drab 0-0 draw at home against Columbus to find the attack similarly stifled. It’s a new coach and a somewhat new tactical philosophy, so I’m more than willing to give it time to flourish. It might take a month or more though to look like what fans hope for, so patience will be key.