FC Dallas stuck it to Toronto FC Saturday night at Toyota Stadium with a 3-0 win. Both teams were missing key pieces to international duty, but it was ultimately Dallas that overcame their deficiencies. Dallas’ form has improved greatly. They’re now 2-0-1 in their last three after being winless in their last six.
Saturday’s game saw FCD run out a generous number of youth players, even by their standards. The average age of the players involved was 23.29 (including subs) with five teenagers making contributions.
Things appear to be on the up and up for Dallas after disappointing in the US Open Cup. So let’s break down the game’s impressive performances and game featured a number of impressive performances that deserve acknowledgment.
Bressan the fullback
Bressan has featured at fullback before and the rumor is that he can even fill in as a defensive midfielder if needed. I wasn’t wholly convinced that he could feature as an outside back before this game. But even before grabbing a goal, it was obvious that he has something to contribute at that position.
He looked much more comfortable on the right than Ziegler has on the left. The Brazilian displayed fantastic attacking instincts. He knew how to time his runs and just where to go. He readily pulled his defender inside to create space for Barrios on the wing and wasn’t afraid to put in a cross. With Reynolds disappointing in the USOC, it’s safe to say that Bressan has jumped him on the depth chart. And, not to be rash after one performance, he be challenging Cannon for the starting spot. Cannon has seemed to struggle under Luchi’s system and hasn’t combined nearly as well with Barrios as he did last year. At his best, Bressan could be the guy to get Dallas’ right side of the attack firing like it was earlier in the season.
State of the strikers
Jesus Ferreira, Dominique Badji, Zdenek Ondrasek (no wonder everyone just calls him “Cobra,” that’s way easier to spell), Cristian Colman, and now Ricardo Pepi. While none of these players are the coveted 20-goal-a-year striker, DP, future club legend, that will lead us to the holy land (maybe Ferreira could be if he sticks around), but Dallas seems to have a glut of 9s.
But with Luchi perferring a 4-3-3, how can you make the most of this talent? Well he’s already found a home for Badji on the left wing. We finally saw him drift inside and make an impact in the box from that position this week and he’s had a fair run at striker, so I’m comfortable letting him split left wing duties with Mosquera.
Ferreira has been one of this year’s pleasant surprises. I’m not sure most people expected to see him get so many minutes this season, but half-way through he’s entrenched as the team’s striker. Despite a slightly disappointing goal tally, he’s found ways to contribute to to the attack that no other striker on the roster can. Chuy is a much more complete forward than the more poacher-like Ondrasek, Badji, or Colman. At this point, you aren’t going to bench him, but you have to acknowledge that his passing ability and general attacking intelligence means that you can play with his positioning a bit. Luchi gave him some minutes as more of a 10 in the USOC. So while he should continue to be the starter indefinitely, if another 9 impresses as a sub, you can entertain the possibility of changing formation and dropping Ferreira deeper. It’s a great problem to have.
Colman and Ondrasek are in similar situations. Both find themselves on the outside looking in and are on the wrong side of 20 (or 30 in Ondrasek’s case). While we don’t know how Luchi feels about Colman, we do know that Cobra doesn’t seem to be a part of his plans. You have to suspect that he walks after this season. He’s supposedly a good guy and the fans seem to like him, but you can’t justify paying him 400k a year base salary to sit on the bench. Colman is only slightly more expensive at 500k a year, but has shown the ability to contribute to the attack. He never found his feet as a goal scorer, but his speed and aerial ability made him a valuable attacking tool before his injury last season. I’m excited to see how Luchi chooses to deploy him and if he favors him more than Cobra.
That leaves us with Pepi. How can you continue to guide him on the astronomical trajectory that he appears to be on? As we’ve just discussed the striker position is crowded, and while I have confidence that he’s a special player, it’s going to be hard to acclimate a 16 year-old to top tier soccer. The most likely scenario seems to be that Luchi keeps giving him short cameo appearances in MLS matches and runs him out in USOC games when he can. I would love to not be pessimistic, but I doubt he makes much of an impact for FCD in his career. He’s destined for bigger and better things, likely in Europe.
It’s amazing what confidence does. After scoring a tap-in earlier in the game, Dom tucked away a quality of chance that we’ve seen him struggle to convert this season. Let’s see if he can keep it up with Mosquera breathing down his neck (maybe competition from a healthy Mosquera is what he needed). He required perhaps more patience as a left winger than we were initially willing to grant him after being such a frustrating striker. But he’s such a great piece to have on the team. He’s physically gifted, knows the league, is cheap, doesn’t take up an international slot, and can play two positions.
I’m excited that he seems to have found a home on the wing. But that doesn’t mean left wing isn’t still a position of need for Dallas. While he’s earning his keep, an explosive DP on the left could give Dallas an array of attacking options that they haven’t had in recent years.
What does your striker depth chart look like? Do you keep Colman or Badji? How much did Bressan impress you? Are you as bullish on Badji as I am? Where does Pepi fit into this team? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading.