After a horrific first 45’ and even worse first minute, FC Dallas regrouped at half and put on a better showing. Zdenek Ondrasek’s 66th minute volley, however fortunate it was, put honors even at Toyota Stadium. It wasn’t the result Dallas wanted and maybe not the one they deserved (shout out Ismail Elfath), but it’s enough to keep them in the fray for a playoff spot.
If the prevailing narrative in the off-season is that this team never had any idea what they were doing, were a bunch of outclassed kids, and can’t compete in MLS—remember how close they were, not just to possibly making the playoffs, but in having the ability to get results against good teams. For much of the early season this team was grinding out results and punching over their weight. Remember how they dominated LA Galaxy at home? Or beat Atlanta United away 2-1?
I’m frustrated with this team at times too, but it would be a lie to say that there weren’t times this season that they showed glimpses of a strong side. Things aren’t over. They can still make the playoffs. But it’s important that we have a moment to agree that, while there have been growing pains characteristic of any new coach’s first year, this team has more good than bad.
Paxton’s strange season
In our end of the year writer poll award ceremony, I wholly expect Paxton Pomykal to get MVP votes. He’s undeniably the fanbase’s favorite player and probably has highest ceiling on the team. But hasn’t his season been strange?
We expected a Reggie Cannon-like break out year. An important part of that is not only showing that he’s ready to provide MLS-quality play, but that he actually plays. In 2018 Cannon played 2,921 minutes. Paxton is up to 1,786 so far. He’s dealt with injuries and international duty but still managed to represent the team at the All-Star game (entirely meaningless, but nonetheless indicative of his stature in the league).
He’s currently at two goals and five assists on the season. Three of the assists came against Minnesota on August 10th. If you take that game out of his season, he hasn’t scored or assisted since June. Yet, here we are wholly accepting that he’s leaving in the off-season. It always felt like a cameo was all that was necessary to put him on display for the big clubs of the world. By week three of the season Marca called him “the American Frenkie de Jong.”
I’m not smearing his year, but it seems like we may have announced his arrival before he’s actually arrived. While he was listed as questionable this last game, I’m not sure he has a place in the lineup anyway. He’s been forced out to wing positions that don’t suit him and, since his early-season form, hasn’t shown the attacking creativity that Ferreira provides.
It’s been a weird year for Paxton and whatever happens in the offseason is just going to make it weirder. If he stays, people question if there was enough interest in him or if the Hunt’s are committed to keeping key pieces. If he leaves, he never got close to his ceiling in Dallas. We would have spent more time hyping his integration into the first team than he actually spent playing in it.
Single pivot please
A three person fluid midfield is a pretty cool idea. You throw high motor guys and kids in there and they just outwork whoever you’re playing. They communicate well and move fluidly. They can drop into cover for fullbacks when they go forward and create their own opportunities either through passing or pressing through space.
But after a short week, you’re running those guys ragged. If you have one player sit in the hole and limit the defensive contributions of the other two, you get much more defined roles and each player doesn’t have to cover as much ground. While Edwin Cerrillo, our best option as a single pivot, didn’t impress his last time out (not to mention he played with North Texas on Sunday in their loss at Forward Madison), Luchi has to consider being more flexible with his midfield configuration.
New York City FC easily cut through our disorganized and exhausted midfield in the first half. Incisive passes would place attackers in dangerous positions behind any midfield protection. A single pivot means that someone is always back there. They would provide the stability that our back line desperately need right now and preserve the legs of Ferreira and Acosta so that they can do their best work going forward.
How ready are you to adopt a revisionist story about how this season went? Has Paxton’s FC Dallas career been, dare I say it—disappointing—so far? What tactical changes can Luchi make to sure up this team for the last two games of the season?