To say that Saturday’s win over Nashville SC will be a memorable one for some time may be an understatement for some at FC Dallas. Not only was it Nico Estevez’s first win as manager of the team but it also really did mark the transition of a new era with the likes of Alan Velasco and his magnificent goal.
Let’s look at a few key points from last night’s 2-0 win over Nashville.
We have to start with Velasco
I don’t know about you all but I believe I have watched this goal about 20 times today alone. From different angles and every time I keep coming back to the same thought, “damn”.
(Also, go listen to Mark Followill’s call of this goal, it helped hype it up even more for me.)
I said this once Velasco was signed a few weeks back, this signing feels different for the club and the energy this kid brought off the bench was certainly felt. The buzz in the stadium surrounding him was on par with what I thought it could be for a young player with plenty of hype too.
And man oh man, he delivered.
I’m sure some others will break down this goal in better ways than I can ever attempt to but even before he danced through the Nashville defense like it was U10 soccer or something, Velasco added something different to the Dallas attack that was certainly lacking in the first two games. Just like against Toronto and New England, the Dallas attack had some chances, some better than others, but for 80 minutes this game felt like it was a stereotypical Nashville game, a scoreless draw.
The stat sheet won’t tell the full story about this kid’s brief introduction to MLS either. Sure, he had some successful dribbles, had some flare that made you immediately think “oh my” a few times, but his connection with his new teammates immediately elevates where this group could go in 2022.
Defensively improved but still lingering issues
Was this the best game so far for the Dallas defense in 2022? Maybe. Sure. Did they really get pressured from Nashville’s attack enough in this one to feel good about where things are going? Maybe. Yeah, sure again.
No matter how you spin it, things were better. They were, Nashville created fewer chances, not a single shot truly tested keeper Maarten Paes (I think this could be the easiest clean sheet of his career), yet there are still some lingering thoughts that I have about this group.
First off, Jose Martinez did have a better outing until he was injured in the second half. I have to admit that I am still far more curious to see Nkosi Tafari in the middle of the defense with Matt Hedges than I am Martinez after three games but time will tell if that will be the duo that we see together or not.
Secondly, Nanu got the start at right back over Ema Twumasi. It wasn’t at all surprising to see the switch as he came off the bench for Twumasi in the first two games (I’m counting that appearance against Toronto as a swap, I know technically Nanu came in for Paul Arriola). I don’t think he’s completely won me over as a starter though, at least not yet. Too many of his passes were heavy or a tad off.
Lastly, the defensive group in the midfield was much better this week. Edwin Cerrillo continues to go completely underrated in this role while Brandon Servania celebrated his 23rd birthday with one of his better performances in a Dallas uniform. The more I see these two together in the middle of the field, the more I like it.
Credit to Estevez
A first win in MLS can be a tough thing to come by for any young coach but Estevez can finally check that off his to-do list. I think the first two games he could be criticized for not making changes quick enough when the team needed a boost in the attack or in the midfield. Saturday was a different story for me with him as he not only went to his bench at the right moments in the second half, he brought on the right mix of players to change the game up for the team.
I know there is a lot to be said about Franco Jara but I did feel like his involvement on the field put the Nashville defense in a place that they weren’t anticipating. Part of that was because he was free to annoy the likes of Dave Romney and Walker Zimmerman, while Jesus Ferreria was freer to roam. But this also freed up Arriola to roam more inside the penalty box, which did lead to the penalty kick that ultimately Jara scored.
Estevez now has a fun task at hand coming up with a roster that is nearly 100% healthy. Finding the right balance of players to start and carry the game, while bringing in the right mix of guys in the second half is tricky. So far, it doesn’t feel like he is overthinking it either.
Either way, congrats on your first win coach. It was well deserved.