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What to watch for as FC Dallas returns from the international break

A needed week off is over for FC Dallas, now it is time to clinch a playoff berth.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at FC Dallas Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The international break is over for FC Dallas as they saw a slew of player go off to national team camps these last ten days or so. Now players are back in town and the important five final games loom on the schedule starting with Chicago this weekend.

Here are a few things to keep watch of as FC Dallas returns to the field.

National team experience

As I mentioned in the opener, there were a lot of players on the roster that left for international duty to begin September. Bryan Acosta was the lone international player with Honduras; while the likes of Reggie Cannon, Paxton Pomykal and Jesse Gonzalez were with the senior United States national team, Brandon Servania, Jesus Ferreria, and Edwin Cerrillo were with the U23s; Thomas Roberts was out with the U-19s; and Ricardo Pepi was with the U-17s.

That’s a lot of players gone for good reasons. Just as you hope with any national team call up, at any level, is a jump in the quality of play out of each player. We saw a bit with Servania when he arrived back from the U-20 World Cup earlier this summer. His level of play was drastically elevated and it earned him a starting role with FCD.

This time around, you really have to pin your hopes on Pomykal returning with the same kind of fire now that he has a senior cap under his belt.

Consistent lineup

I think the last couple of games has shown us a great deal of what head coach Luchi Gonzalez is looking to do in the final few weeks of the regular season. We’re slowly getting a more consistent lineup that has established a lot more scoring with the likes of Zdenek Ondrasek up top and Dominque Badji split out wide opposite of Michael Barrios.

The big thing will be figuring out where Pomykal, Ferreria, Servania and Acosta fit into the lineup moving forward into these last five games. I haven’t even mentioned the possible return of Santiago Mosquera (who, honestly just needs to be a super sub at this stage of the season...possibly nothing more than that but we can get into that topic another time). If Gonzalez can find a consistent way to keep the lineups relatively similar throughout the final five games, I do believe it could go a long way in helping secure a playoff spot. Trying to drastically shake up the DNA of this lineup right just feels like the gamble not worth making.

Every game is a ‘one-off’

This is pure coaches speak right now but I’m rolling with it because its 100% true. Every game right now is do-or-die, must-win, treat as if it were a playoff game-type feel. It really is as simple as that. The level of intensity has to be brought in these final five games or else we’ll be looking at FC Dallas having an extra few weeks of the offseason to deal with wondering ‘what if’ more times than we probably want to even think about counting.

I know the scoreboard watching is going to ramp up a bunch, starting with tonight’s games across MLS, but FC Dallas has to make sure to take care of business themselves and let the cards fall where they do from there.