FC Dallas welcomes in a couple of old familiar faces with Tesho Akindele and former head coach Oscar Pareja. To help preview Sunday’s game we brought in Ben Miller of The Mane Land.
BDS: Orlando City had a strong showing this summer at the MLS is Back tournament with a second place finish, how has the club used that experience to gain results recently?
TML: I think the biggest benefit from the tournament was the team solidifying the way it wants to play. It was during the run to the final that it was really established that OCSC wants to play a possession-based, buildup game whenever possible. Not only that, but the team also proved that it was capable of doing so, and I think the experience really helped the players start building some confidence in both themselves and the system.
BDS: Naturally we’re curious about Oscar Pareja, how has the club taken to his way of doing things? Has there been a change in the youth development yet? What do the fans think of him so far?
TML: Like I alluded to a little above, the players seem to have taken to Pareja’s method and style very quickly. The team has gotten very good at not only playing a possession-based game, but possessing the ball with a purpose and keeping hold of the ball in meaningful areas. More than that, the squad has also showed its capable of winning games in more than one way, and that’s been important too.
It’s hard to say just yet if youth development has changed, I probably won’t be able to give you a truly good answer until he’s been here a bit longer. What I will say is that he hasn’t hesitated to hand minutes to young players. Rookie Daryl Dike has gotten a ton of minutes since the MLS is Back Tournament ended, and 19-year-old Andres Perea has also seen an uptick in time. Dike has been a revelation up top at striker, and Perea has gotten more and more solid as his minutes have grown.
The fans certainly seem to love him, and with the way the team has played so far I hardly blame them. He hasn’t hesitated to note the fan’s importance in the return of spectators to Exploria Stadium, and I know that’s been appreciated to. As a matter of fact, one of our writers happens to live in the same apartment building as Pareja, and by all accounts he’s a lovely man to talk to.
BDS: Nani may get the headlines for being the star of this squad and be a potential MVP candidate, but let’s talk about Chris Mueller here. How has he grown this season under Pareja?
TML: He’s just more of a difference maker. He’s always had the talent, but this year he’s really been able to refine it and channel his ability into productivity. He’s more confident and decisive on the ball, he doesn’t hesitate to attack openings and drive at the defense, and when he gets into good positions he usually makes the right decision. He’s also been much more clinical with his finishing this year, which has been huge. He’s really helped to take a lot of attention away from Nani, and the partnership he has with Ruan down the right side is incredibly dangerous. Get my man into a January camp ASAP.
BDS: Any thoughts on what the lineup will be? Any injuries or suspensions to note?
TML: Dom Dwyer is sidelined for the rest of the year after having knee surgery and Joao Moutinho is still recovering from a groin injury.
I think the lineup will be a 4-2-3-1 that looks something like this:
Pedro Gallese; Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso; Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller; Tesho Akindele