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What we learned against New Mexico United: The kids aren’t alright

An especially youthful FC Dallas team disappointed, but should we hold it against them?

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-New Mexico United at FC Dallas Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday night FC Dallas unceremoniously bowed out of the US Open Cup in the round of 16. They were undone by the newly minted New Mexico United 2-1. Despite Brandon Servania’s 41st minute rocket, a late first-half equalizer from New Mexico forward Kevaughn Frater made way for Sam Hamilton to secure the lead after the break.

While Dallas was missing key players like Bryan Acosta, Carlos Gruezo, and Reggie Cannon to international duty, most fans will be disappointed to drop out of the prestigious cup competition to a USL team.

Dallas have consistently struggled to generate dangerous chances this season. Luchi hasn’t been able to find a group with some attacking mojo together. Despite outshooting New Mexico 14-9 (7-3 on target), Dallas go home empty handed.

Nothing new

Dallas have struggled to break down the bunker since long before Luchi arrived. The speed of Barrios can cut on the counter, but playing a more possession oriented system has lent itself to growing pains. Luchi inherited a team built for the counter, so when teams bunker down and don’t allow space behind their back line, as should be expected, Dallas can’t get good shots off.

I’ve ranted about the need for a 10 before. It’s primarily because you look at each week’s lineup and I’m not sure who you’re expecting to be the on-field leader or tone setter in the attack. Who’s the guy that can drive the ball forward and put other players in dangerous positions? Right now your best bet is Paxton, but much of his effort is spent in the central midfield helping the team cycle possession.

The question is, after half of the season, does this team look like it has a game plan? Yes and no. I’ve seen worse FC Dallas teams. I’m glad we aren’t watching the team cross the ball to Maxi Urruti who has no interest in being in the box. But we’re seeing similar levels of tactical incoherence and incohesion at times.

Let’s see what Luchi does with his first transfer window before we start labeling him, but he’s running out of honeymoon days before people start asking more serious questions.

The magic of the cup?

US Open Cup games are special. The crowds are a bit more lively. There’s a smaller venue that lends itself to a more intimate feeling. You often get to hear a USL team’s broadcasters. You desperately evaluate a team that you know nothing about, then irrationally like or dislike players based on that one game you saw them play against your team then you feel validated when that left back you saw play three years ago finally gets their chance with an MLS team. There is a certain type of magic that surrounds games like these.

I haven’t yet sorted out my feelings about losing to a Cinderella team. On one hand, that’s what the cup is about. I’m sure there will be an Athletic article in the coming days about what makes New Mexico United special. There will be stories about some quirky thing their coach does, how they’re setting the bar for how USL teams should build their franchise in their early years, and a feel good player interview about someone who has toiled in the lower leagues for years until finally getting their shot with New Mexico United.

On the other hand, you expect to beat lower league competition. You want to lose to Sporting Kansas City with some dignity (although that isn’t the case this year). It would have done the young guys a lot of good to be in the locker room during a deep cup run, but alas, they’ll have to settle for that experience with their national teams, in the USL playoffs, and with the developmental academy.

Checking in

What is the Open Cup for most teams other than a chance to see some of the depth pieces and kids in action? For many, it’s the only first team time they get all season. While Dallas isn’t your typical MLS team and is more willing to give time to young players, competition for those minutes is fierce. A guy like Brandon Servania who has won consistent opportunities with the youth national teams can hardly get a minute with FCD.

This game also allowed us to get another peep at how Pepi fits in with the first team. Although he only lasted 58 minutes, he showed strong positioning instincts that project well for his future for the first team (as if you needed me to tell you that).

While it’s disappointing to not get the result, it’s always worthwhile to get a status report on guys like Bryan Reynolds (Status: not ready) to see how their development is coming along.

What’s your current emotional state after the game? Which newcomers were you most impressed with? Are you cheering for New Mexico in the Cup now? How much blame does Luchi bare for the result? Let me know in the comments!