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MLS: Toronto FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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Three thoughts on FC Dallas’ season opening draw with Toronto FC

There were enough positives to take away from the season opening draw but also a lot of things to work on this week.

Getting off on the right foot isn’t always easy in MLS. FC Dallas easily should have picked up three points on Saturday night against Toronto FC but had to settle for a draw.

While that was less than ideal, there was enough to take from the game and learn from as we move into the second week of the season that sees FC Dallas hit the road for the first time.

Let’s take a look back at some key items that we learned from Saturday’s draw.

The attack looks fluid but lacks final touch

On one hand, things looked really nice on Saturday. But on the other hand, there were a lot of chances left on the table that should have translated into two or three goals before halftime.

Jesus Ferreira created a ton of chances in front of the Toronto goal but he also failed to do a lot with those chances. Paul Arriola had a couple of good looks of his own but missed wide on them. Jader Obrian scored the lone goal but also had a couple of other chances that he should have done better with (also, that one chance midway through the first half where he had an open Arriola on the back post is still one that he should learn hard from as a big miss). Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania also had their fair share of looks that were decent at times (also, is Servania turning into our new model of Bryan Acosta in terms of shooting from long distance for no reason?).

Opta had FCD at 2.6 xG on the day, which given the one goal scored isn’t a great thing (yeah, I know...grain of salt and all with Opta xG numbers but this one tracks well).

But let’s focus a bit on Ferreria here. He’s tasked with being the guy up top to finish those chances. Saturday was a night he’ll probably want to forget rather quickly here. He had two shots total on the night, something that needs to change in a hurry.

The margins in this one were fairly thin though. The eye test on the night said he should have easily finished a chance or two (look back at the 55th minute, he’ll want that one back).

Still, there is room for improvement here and that is okay. At the end of the day, you have four guys in the attack that are basically still in the ‘getting to know you phase’ of playing with one another in their respective spots. Sure, Ferreira, Pomykal and Obrian have a little more history to go off of but Arriola is still new. He knows the team has to be more clinical in the final third and they will be.

There is still something ‘off’ about the defense

Call it the eyeball test but Saturday night gave me a lot of 2021 (and to a lesser extent 2020) feelings when watching the Dallas defense. Maybe it is the combination of Matt Hedges and Jose Martinez in the middle of the defense, or maybe it is getting guys like Marco Farfan up to speed in this group that is still a bit of a hang-up for me the moment, but either way, something just feels off right now with this group.

Take the Toronto goal, for one thing, the Reds did an excellent job of exposing the width of the field to set up the cross that led to the Jonathan Osorio finish. It wasn’t just the width of the field on Ema Twumasi’s side that was exposed but it was also on Farfan’s side where Osorio was able to make his late run and finish off the deflection from Jesus Jimenez.

Dallas had numbers in the box to defend that but came across as more flat-footed than anything else.

There were also shaky moments in the back with Hedges and Martinez in this one too. Toronto pressed early after halftime for a go-ahead goal after making a couple of changes to begin the second half. Both Hedges and Martinez looked slower in response than you would like, making you wonder why someone like Nkosi Tafari wasn’t more in line for a starting spot after the preseason. (Note: I feel like this is more about Martinez than it is about Hedges, who led the team in both interceptions and clearances on Saturday).

Teams with some speed down the center of the field will find ways to expose this weakness if Nico Estevez isn’t careful. Also, some of that does need to fall on Edwin Cerrillo or Facundo Quignon in the midfield to lockdown as well.

Newcomers showing well

MLS: Toronto FC at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

My gut feeling on Arriola is that a lot of fans are going to enjoy watching him in a Dallas uniform. He’s energic, he finds himself in good spots on the field, and he takes chances. He easily earned the Man of the Match honors in my book (and the fan’s in-stadium vote too).

But he wasn’t the only one that made a debut on Saturday night. Farfan got his first start in a Dallas uniform and at times showed well from the left fullback spot. Maarten Paes picked up his first start in goal and only really had to make one or two decent stops on the night (there wasn’t much he could do on the Toronto go mind you). Nanu came off the bench a little bit early, originally for Twumasi, but a slight cramp in Arriola’s calf caused Estevez to make a tough choice to bring Nanu in for him instead of Twumasi, though this was later corrected when Kalil ElMedkhar came into the game.

And then rookie Tsiki Ntsabeleng also found minutes in this one. I have to say, out of the three rookies drafted in the first round this year, I didn’t have Ntsabeleng pegged as the one that would make his debut first. But the South African showed well in his brief appearance.

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