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What we’re watching for as FC Dallas hosts Nashville SC

Figuring out the offense, while continuing to improve the defense will be the balance FC Dallas will have to sort out.

MLS: FC Dallas at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas looks to find their first win of the 2022 season as they host Nashville SC tomorrow night.

Points will be tough to come by in this one as Nashville has been projected as one of the top clubs in the Western Conference this season. So far, they’ve picked up a win in Seattle and a draw in Minnesota as they continue a long road trip to begin the new season while their stadium construction is being finalized.

Here are a couple of items I am looking out for tomorrow as Nico Estevez and company look to pick up a win and build some momentum into the next game.

Figuring out the final product

MLS: FC Dallas at New England Revolution Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

One goal. That is all we’ve seen FC Dallas score this season (sure there were VAR issues that would have doubled that, but still). That goal came in the ninth minute of the season opener two weeks ago and since then it has been ice cold in front of the net for the likes of Jesus Ferreira, Jader Obrian and Paul Arriola.

Shot map for FC Dallas vs New England. Darker lines mean an attempt on goal. Dotted lines mean off target, no line mean it was blocked.

It will take more time though, especially when you are up against one of the best defenses in the league like Nashville. Former FC Dallas defender and two-time MLS Defender of the Year winner Walker Zimmerman leads a Nashville defense that is really tough to break down. The chances Dallas will likely get tomorrow could be fewer than what we’ve seen already this season against Toronto and New England, so taking those chances has to happen on Saturday.

What I mean by that, is to look at some of the ‘chances’ the club had in the loss at New England. Obrian for example had a golden moment in the first half of that one where he got behind the Rev’s defense but failed to even put a boot on the ball that would have tested their keeper. That kind of thing has to go away.

What is the old saying, ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’? Yeah, take the damn shot tomorrow. Test the keeper for Nashville.

Continued improvement from the defense

On the other end is the defensive group, which I do feel is starting to look more like the group we saw in say 2018 or 2019, and not the one from last season that leaked in goals left and right. Matt Hedges is healthy and is looking more and more like a Best XI defender that we know and love. Marco Farfan is quickly making me forget the guy he replaced. See, not even going to name him here, aren’t you impressed. And Ema Twumasi is showing that he is more than capable at right back in this system. I also like what I’m seeing out of Nanu off the bench too.

I’m still a bit leery of Jose Martinez in this group though. I know Estevez is wanting to give this group a couple of games to figure things out collectively, but the more I watch Martinez in the center of the defense, the more I worry that this group will start leaking cheap goals again. His passing is lacking for me as he only completed 71% of his passes last week against New England (compared that to Hedges’ 90%). Good teams will zero in on this at some point as a sign of weakness.

But overall, the defense is much more improved after two games. They are definitely exceeding my expectations so far, which is nice to see.

Alan Velasco debut

The hype got rolling early this week for Velasco’s debut with that tweet. I’m all for it.

I do want to preach patience here with him though as he did just arrive and begin training with the club a week ago. It doesn’t matter who you are in this game, a week with a new team is not a lot of time to get caught up on all the tactics in the system, learning who you connect with the most on the field (and off the field too), and everything else in between.

Still, if the few videos we’ve seen of him from training are what we can expect out of him, I think we’ll enjoy watching this kid play for FC Dallas. I think the key difference for him compared to past young foreign guys that came to Frisco is that he appears eager to get connected quickly with his teammates, learn English and become his best self with the club. Not that all those past young guys didn’t try for those three things, I think most went for two of the three on the list.

At the end of the day, I’m excited for this game solely based on his potential to debut with the club.