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Premature Evaluation: Looking back at FC Dallas’ season so far

Who are the overperformers, underperformers, and stories of the season?

MLS: FC Dallas at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas left San Jose with their 22nd point of the season, good enough for fifth place in the Western Conference. Dallas made due without Pablo Aranguiz, Santiago Mosquera, Bryan Acosta, Carlos Gruezo, Paxton Pomykal, or Edwin Cerrillo so a road point against a team that FCD have struggled against in recent memory is as welcome as the goal keeper kicking the ball into his own net.

This week I want to give some brief thoughts on the game against the San Jose Earthquakes, through a slightly reflective lens (per the usual) and then jump into some thoughts on our staff predictions from earlier this season (I know I’m a week early from the half-way point of the season, I just couldn’t help myself).

Against San Jose

Dallas picked up their first road point(s) since Atlanta in June. Currently, Dallas are averaging 0.88 points per game on the road, good enough for 13th in the league. MLS is a home team’s league, so it’s no surprise that rookie coach, Luchi Gonzalez, has struggled to help the team find its rhythm when visiting.

There are fixed variables that favor home teams like not having to travel, being able to sleep in your own bed, going through a normal routine, having the fans and officials on your side, and familiarity with the playing surface along with others. These parts of the game can’t be coached away. Where good coaching comes into play is how a coach takes these concrete differences into account. Alongside other considerations, since your players are more tired because of the travel, how do you build a game plan that cedes important physical aspects of the game?

While Luchi seems to offer a calming, but capable of being motivational, presence for the players, his ability to adapt his tactics for road games (or at all) has been subject to scrutiny. So odd own goal aside, it’s nice to see the team come out on the road and generate a few opportunities despite being shorthanded.

On the season

The season has arrived at about the half way point. There are just 18 more games to go before the MLS regular season wraps up. For fun, let’s take a look at our staff predictions for the season.

The biggest stories for me are Dominque Badji continuing to disappoint on the stat sheet, Pomykal living up to (and likely exceeding) expectations, and the lack of a clear MVP front runner.

Badji: A big reason he got the nod from so many for the team’s top goalscorer has to be because we didn’t think Ferreira would get to start so many games this season. While few were thrilled by his performance last season, it’s hard to pick someone other than the 9 you anticipate starting nearly every game as the team’s top goal scorer. So while he has under performed, expectations weren’t nearly as optimistic as the predictions suggest. Thus far the season seems like a net positive one for Badji who has claimed a temporary home on the left wing in the absence of Aranguiz and Mosquera.

Paxton: Pax was the chosen one: the ordained prospect of legend that was to take Dallas into the unfamiliar realm of deep playoff runs. Seeing how important he is to the team this season, it’s hard to disagree with the assessment that he’s that caliber of game changer. There’s arguably no player that Dallas needs more to execute its desired style of play. So while he’s only started eight games this season, it’s hard not to be thrilled with what we’ve seen so far.

MVP: Predictions were somewhat equally split between the new DP midfielder, Bryan Acosta, and “old” DP versatile attacker, Santiago Mosquera. Neither of them have done much to warrant MVP talk this season. While Acosta has made his home in the XI, Mosquera has struggled to cement his place in the team. Additionally, Acosta was an unknown commodity whose reputation exceeded him whereas predictions of Mosquera as MVP were likely the result of extrapolation of some promising performances last season. I still believe that both players are capable of being a team’s MVP at some point in their careers, but neither have made strong cases for being included in Dallas 2019 MVP considerations.

Does the result against SJ give you faith that FCD are turning a corner? Who was your MVP prediction at the beginning of the season? Have they impressed or disappointed? What are your stories of the season so far? Let’s talk about them (and more) in the comments!