FC Dallas secured their first away win of the season against Nashville SC on Wednesday. The three points have launched them into the top four in the Western Conference, which, if maintained, means they will have home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The seventeen year old got the start against Nashville and while he didn’t find the back of the net, he strong instincts, a great first touch, and vision for the game.
In his body of work for the senior team, we’ve seen that he’s not focused on creating, but rather a one track striker who is on the field to score goals. That being said, his 100% pass accuracy is impressive and speaks volumes to his strong hold up play.
But as a striker who is dependent upon service from others, he can only be as good as his teammates are. Despite the 1-0 scoreline and Dallas’ difficulties scoring in the second half, Ricardo Pepi got commendable service. On a fantastic cross from Michael Barrios, Pepi squared his body to head the ball down—just like you’re supposed to—however it happened to be right into the flailing arms of Joe Willis. In his second shot on goal he let rip a powerful first time shot that tested the strength of Willis’ hand. Of course you want to see those quality chances hit the back of the net, but as we’ve seen with Franco Jara sometimes those days don’t happen.
This was possibly Pepi’s most threatening and composed performance. He was physically up to the demands of MLS play and looks poised to break out soon.
This may have been the most tactically coherent we’ve seen Dallas all season. The attackers were poised moving forward looking for a pass to pick out, while the defense easily absorbed Nashville’s counters. In the first half, Andres Ricaurte and Jesus Ferreira both helped break down the cautious Nashville defense. A 19th minute goal from Ryan Hollingshead meant that Nashville was playing catch up for the rest of the game. The second half is where Barrios came into form. He worked judiciously along the right wing on counters while also assisting in the press.
Dallas didn’t need a win here, but they got one. They aren’t going to complain about the home field advantage (especially given their home/away performance disparity), but perhaps the bigger boon is the team cohesion and form of several key players. This is not the same FC Dallas that we saw in October, which means we can only guess what their ceiling is.
Decision Day could see Dallas jump as high as second place or as low as sixth place. The thought of having home field advantage has started sounding pretty cozy and Dallas aren’t going to want to part with that. However, they’ve been riding the team hard to get here in the first place and more than a few players are due for a rotation.
Can you start Thiago Santos one more time knowing that he’ll get a long rest afterwards?
It’s difficult to do without the defensive lynchpin of your midfield, but Dallas have been riding him hard. It’s unfortunate that Tanner Tessman and Brandon Servania have faded this year and can’t be used as a reliable replacement and as much as I miss Edwin Cerrillo this isn’t the time to throw him back in the lineup.
It seems likely that we’ll understand Luchi Gonzalez’s playoff ambitions when the lineup is announced on Sunday. I wouldn’t blame him for going conservative and trying to grind out a draw, but when you’re in form like this—you want to give your guys the green light.
I don’t know how they’ve done it, but FCD have sucked me back in again. Apparently it only takes two games in decent form before I start getting mushy and optimistic about the team. Will my hopes be dashed? Empirically, yes. But we’ve got a sweet period of hope until Round One and I intend to ride that out.
- Is Pepi an MLS level striker yet?
- What fixed Dallas’ attack? Individual form? Luck? Ferreira in the midfield?
- Do you go for it all on Decision Day or draw and keep home field advantage?