In the new season of Ted Lasso, we learn how quickly “soccer is life” shifts to “soccer is death”.
For FC Dallas, struggling with losses on the road and mediocre play at home, the season felt dead last week. A combination of injuries to starting defenders like Matt Hedges and Jose Martinez, international absences, questionable tactical decisions, frustrating mistakes, and inept corner kicks had FC Dallas dwelling at the bottom of the standings in the Western Conference. Fans were moaning. Many wondered if Luchi was at the end of his tenure in Frisco.
Spoiler alert - soccer is both life and death.
Somehow, Dallas resurged against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday evening in the heat of the northern Dallas plains. Maybe the season is back on after all behind the young enthusiastic offensive prowess of one Ricardo Pepi.
Completing the Hat Trick
Starting with the major highlight of the night, Ricardo Pepi was a delight to watch.
I was there as the youngest ever player to score a hat trick picked apart LA’s woeful defense. His finishes were not necessarily world class, but everything else was - his ability to be in the right place at the right time, his calm on the ball, and his motor. He nearly came away with four.
It’s clear that the rest of this season’s chances go through the young El Paso native who dedicated his performance in memory of his grandfather.
The biggest question is whether Luchi Gonzalez will continue to start Pepi, keeping under-performing DP Franco Jara on the bench. Does Jara have a role to play in this season? Sure. Pepi can’t do it alone, but the attack is night and day when Pepi is up top and Jara comes off the bench.
Another name to remember is Andres Ricaurte who will be key down the stretch. Of all the signings supposed to help FC Dallas sort out its attack, Ricaurte arrived in Frisco with the strongest track record. He’s a well-regarded player who is versatile and deadly when given space. We’ve seen it in spots last season, although it’s been a challenge for Luchi to get the most out of Ricaurte. The Colombian has been mostly absent this season, whether that is due to an issue of health, fitness, or just an inability to break the starting XI.
He got stronger as the match wore on and as he and Quignon worked together.
I liked the pairing, and I like that it made LA Galaxy struggle with how to deal with the presence of playmakers like Paxton, Schon, Jesus, and Ricaurte at the same time. You sort of got to pick your poison.
Another name I’ll give a nod to was Jader Obrian who came on late and scored a nice goal. He needed it. Maybe he’ll crack the starting XI again, although I loved what Szabalzan Schon brought to the game as he got stronger and more aggressive.
Quietly too, the defense held up in this one, limiting what LA Galaxy were able to do. It was the best performance of the season for Justin Che, Tafari, Brendan, and Ryan Hollingshead. Despite a nervy opening 15-20 minutes, the squad adjusted, settled down, and took control of the game.
Big D After Dark Returns Tonight at 9 PM CST
After a hiatus due to the international break, travel, and tech issues, Big D After Dark, our weekly live stream show and podcast about FC Dallas soccer, returned last week, and the mood remained less than festive as we considered the poor run of form for FC Dallas.
Tonight, though, we get to celebrate a little bit and continue the Ricardo Pepi appreciation hour. I’ll give some firsthand accounts of the scenes in Frisco as Pepi scored his first ever MLS hat trick. We’ll talk about the slate of matches ahead and particularly critique the lineup Luchi ran out. Does this finally point to something good unfolding for Dallas? Are they turning a corner? As usual, we take your questions and comments live.