The first game of the regular season is in the books as FC Dallas downed the Philadelphia Union 2-0 on Saturday. Zdenek Ondrasek and Paxton Pomykal scored goals in the second half to lift the home side to victory.
It wasn’t all rosy though as Philadelphia outshot Dallas on the night (though FCD got it were it counts obviously) and there was some sloppiness at times, which is what you’d expect out of a season opener. While I thought about going with a winner and loser series, I’m calling an audible at the last second to discuss who/what is trending up and who/what is trending down.
Trending Up ⬆️: Thiago Santos & Tanner Tessmann
I know this won’t be the midfield paring for the entire season but between the two of them making their debuts and what Jesus Ferreira was able to do above them in the attack, the Union truly did not have a good enough answer for how to break down this group.
Tessmann, who just signed his professional contract last week, was a huge bright spot. His size and athletic ability was pretty obvious. Jason Poon wrote a good breakdown of his first start here that I recommend diving into if you haven’t already. If anything, Tessmann didn’t look phased by the debut, which says a lot to me about his projection as a professional with this club.
Santos on the other hand...what can we really say about this guy that we haven’t already these last couple of days. I was a bit worried throughout preseason that he was going to be a yellow card magnet in this league but he stayed out of that zone and then some in Saturday. His physical ability to get on the ball and close down passing lanes really helps free up the Dallas to control the tempo in games. I know it is easy to give goal scorers all the love, but Santos had exactly the kind of game you want out of a #6 in this system.
Trending Up : Atmosphere, new chants, etc.
I feel comfortable in saying this right now, but it finally feels like there are good efforts being made to really improve the atmosphere at the games for fans. Winning sure helps but I love the last name chant in the pregame introductions. The goal scorers’ music (which debuted last summer) is still a great touch too.
For me, it really comes down to the little things. I know this stadium isn’t always going to be sold out, but the strides feel like there are there to maximize the volume of people who are there for the games. Saturday felt loud at key moments. Obviously there is a certain buzz about the start of a new season but this one felt different to me once the game was over.
Tending down (slightly) : Ferreira
Maybe it was a product of too much hype going into the season but Ferreira looked super rusty for some reason on Saturday. At points in the game, I began to forget about him. It really wasn’t until his first half miss that I realized he was out there. Which is not something you want from you playmaker.
It is still early but we gotta see more out of him against a team like Montreal this weekend. Only 61% passing, one assist, only one shot. With his key roster competition coming off the bench finding the back of the net, it only adds fuel to the fire of who will start from week to week if this trend continues.
Trending down : Wing & build up play
Okay, I know a 2-0 win shouldn’t have a ton of losers in it from our perspective but there were a fair amount of moments in this one that things just looked lost on the wings. Both goals came from fairly central spots in the build out, not to mention both came from somewhat quick counters to beat the Union defense. But with the speed and skill on the wings, Dallas should be taking full advantage of this strength of their’s, but on Saturday they struggled to do so. The passing numbers were down (400 or so instead of their usual 550-650 range). The Union are a good team but FCD should have been in even more control over this game than they were.
I did enjoy Fafa Picault’s debut as a member of FCD but aside from a couple good runs and one good cross, his energy was a bit too all over the place for me. You could really sense that he was wanting a goal against his former club and while that is all good, he seemed to use up a decent amount of energy just being all over the field. He sat back a little deeper than I think Luchi would have wanted him to and we didn’t see the club use his speed on the vertical play nearly as much as I would have liked.
Michael Barrios had his moments as well in this one. He was active in the first half, as he contributed on two really good chances (one of his own and one that Jesus Ferreira sent over the bar). But his play really didn’t shine for me until the second half when Luchi Gonzalez shifted to a 3-5-2 look that helped push him up with Kobra.
Lastly on the wings was that of Ryan Hollingshead and Reggie Cannon. Both were called to do a lot on the wings in this one, especially in the second half. Cannon was pushed further up the field more so in the second half but he also struggled to get enough in behind the Union back four to create any key chances on goal.
Defensively however, both were still as solid as you’d expect them to be. Let’s just hope Cannon’s hamstring is doing alright this week as he took a couple tough knocks in this one.