Hi folks! This week we take a quick deviation from our MLS tour and hop aboard the U.S. Open Cup bus. Meeting for the third time, FC Dallas will play the Oklahoma City Energy FC at SMU’s Westcott Field for a fourth-round matchup. This is Dallas’s first foray in the tournament this year, but OKC has already played two games, a round two win against North Texas Rayados and a round three win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
With the start of competition in the U.S. Open Cup getting under way for Dallas, the team will play a familiar foe in former USL affiliate OKC Energy. Besides the fact that Dallas sent numerous players to OKC over the years for seasoning and game time, OKC also features old fan favorite Atiba Harris. (They also have Je-Vaughn Watson, but he presumably will be away on international duty for this one.) OKC will be hoping to down a Dallas roster that will feature few regulars, but a bunch of the young kids, including the sensational Ricardo Pepi, who has been on fire with North Texas SC.
A few things to watch for this game for OKC – they will be without a few players due to Gold Cup duties, but the overall roster will still be most of their regulars. Deshorn Brown will lead the line and has a solid 8 goals in 11 games this season. Out on the wings, Omar Gordon has 3 goals and 6 assists from his right wing/forward position. Regular left winger Cordell Cato is out so we may see 2018 Dallas draft pick Amer Sasivarevic running that flank tonight.
Playing in the creative no. 10 spot is Frenchman Alexy Bosetti. In 13 starts this season he has 1 goal, 3 assists and 31 key passes. Alongside him are two midfield workhorses in Callum Ross and Rafael Garcia. Garcia is everywhere for OKC. He is among the team leaders in passing, interceptions and tackles. He and Ross are the absolute bridges between the back and front lines. In the back is where we find Harris and battery mate Christian Ibeagha. Harris is the team lead in clearances, blocks, and interceptions and both Harris and Ibeagha are team leaders in passing stats as well. They are flanked by Mike Da Fonte on the right and Kyle Hyland on the left, with goal keeper Cody Laurendi keeping things in check in the box.
The 4-3-3 OKC plays is more of the newer standard. Although they use the wingers to whip in crosses on occasion, their main goal is to cut inside and let the full backs provide width. This allows the midfielders to come forward and be more involved in the attack. For example, Alexy Bosetti isn’t anywhere close to the team lead in most passing stats by volume – apart from one, key passes. In that stat Bosetti is a top 10 creator in the USL Championship. Likewise, Omar Gordon is top 5 in the league in assists, but towards the bottom in terms of crosses. The combination play of Brown, Gordon, and Bosetti will be the thing to keep an eye on for the Dallas defense.
And while we’re are talking about Dallas, it’s hard to tell you who’s going to be playing tonight. Although it’s a cup competition, the team has been running thin for the better part of 3 weeks. We have the U20 World Cup guys back, so maybe Edwin Cerillo will get some actual game time. With the loan of Ema Twumasi and Francis Atuahene to Austin, might we see more Bryan Reynolds? Surely Michael Barrios has earned a day off? And lest we forget, Bryan Acosta and Carlos Gruezo are now away for Gold Cup duty. Maybe Brandon Servania gets a start alongside Paxton Pomykal. Or maybe Paxton gets some time off. All this to say, it’s going to be an interesting XI tonight with a fair amount of kids playing, including the aforementioned Pepi (who alone, is worth tuning in for).
Key Matchup: Midfield vs Midfield
I would name names, but I’m not sure I know who will be in the Dallas one, so I will just say that the midfield battle will be a fascinating one. The three OKC midfielders have lots of professional experience and maybe going up against a group of teenagers. Garcia is an impact player who can be tackling a player outside his own box one second and then be upfield with Bosetti in the opposing box the next second. It will be interesting to see if Dallas can control this game from the middle of the field or if youth will give way to OKC’s experience.
Three Keys to the Game
1. Pepi, Pepi, Pepi – He’s point of interest one for me and most of the Big D Staff. His exploits with North Texas and the academy teams are becoming historical lore. He might be the supreme striker Dallas fans have been clamoring for. He might be so good he never makes it to the first team because some European team snatches him first. Either way, tune in and watch something special.
2. Youth vs Vets – Just like the midfield battle, we could see that situation play out all over the field. Will Dallas play the kids? Will they play too many? With the experience OKC has, will that make a difference against a youthful Dallas squad.
3. Rest for the Weary – Hopefully Dallas will be able to get some much needed rest for a few key pieces around the squad. Barrios could use it, Hedges, Zeigler and Hollingshead too. The key for all MLS teams in these first few rounds of the U.S. Open Cup is balancing squad rest and rotation with Club goals and ambition. If Dallas, or any MLS team, cares about winning the Cup, they may field a stronger squad to ensure passage to the next round.
No predictions here. The U.S. Open Cup is notorious for upsets. Oklahoma City has never gone past the Fourth Round, this round. At the same time, this is a Dallas team in transition and looking to bring along youth. Anything can happen. Dallas won the other two meetings in the Open Cup between these two: the first time 4-1 in 2015, but the second one in penalties in 2016. Again, who knows? If you can make it to SMU, go check out the game. If not, join us in support. Let’s Go Hoops!