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Four things going FC Dallas’ way so far in 2022

The Derby win over Houston gives us a little more insight to where this team is heading and how we’ve done thus far this season.

MLS: Houston Dynamo FC at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Is FC Dallas fun again? It sure feels that way following the 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday afternoon.

Normally I would break down the previous game with a three thoughts kind of piece, but instead I wanted to assess some things as a whole here on the season now that we’re nearly a quarter of the way through it. After eight games, I do feel like we’ve learned a pretty decent amount about this club and where Nico Estevez is taking them this season.

Home is a fortress again

I think if you toss out the very first game of the year, when you factor in the fact that the preseason was barely a month-long this season, things at Toyota Stadium are much better than what we’ve seen over the last two-ish years. Following Saturday’s win over Houston, FC Dallas has four straight regular season wins at home, five if you include the US Open Cup match against Tulsa.

So what has changed? Maybe it is the energy of the crowds (which has been drastically better mind you). Maybe it is just a renewed sense of passion out of the players involved. Maybe it is this whole ‘new era’ thing that the club continues to shove down our throats in a marketing sense.

Whatever it is, it is working. Toyota Stadium feels like the fortress it once was in previous seasons. During Saturday’s late come from behind win over Houston, many of us in the press box all looked at one another and said how loud it was after the game-winning goal from Facundo Quignon. Like 2016, winning the Open Cup loud.

I’m happy to see it change this way too. The more passionate the fans get in the stands, the more the players seem to respond to it as well. That kind of energy is contagious. I know we have a long way to go here on the season but it is hard not to enjoy what we’re seeing at home these days.

The road play is slightly better

Slightly better, yeah, that may be generous but hear me out. Yes, FC Dallas has been mostly outplayed in their three road games but they came away with two points and nearly should have had a third. To get draws in Chicago and New York and only be a penalty kick away from one against the defending Supporters’ Shield winners in New England is a drastic step forward for this club.

I know we may sound like a broken record here and the sample size may be small but after three road games the mentality of this group feels different on the road. It felt like in years past, that when FCD was on the road that they played not to lose. I don’t think they’re at the point of playing to win each time out on the road but it doesn’t feel like they’re searching for a draw either. They’re just getting them thanks to some hard work and lucky bounces. It isn’t pretty, but it is working so far. We couldn’t really say that about this group away from home in previous years.

Estevez making proper adjustments when needed

Sometimes it is hard to see where things are actually going with a new coach but after eight games I believe we’re getting there with Estevez. One thing is for sure, he and his staff are doing a solid job at making second half adjustments. The guys are buying into whatever role they are being put into as well.

Then you have veteran guys like Franco Jara or Quignon, having to adjust to not being every day starters is probably tough but they both appear to be game for picking their moments.

Again, this kind of stuff doesn’t feel like it would have been the case in previous years. Estevez is picking his moments and is pulling the strings at the right time. Saturday’s game against Houston was a perfect example of that too. Down a goal, ten minutes to go and he pulls a triple sub block out to completely turn the game on it’s head. Not only did all subs in yesterday’s game make an impact in some way but they helped show some faith in their new coach for picking that late game moment to make those changes. Most coaches would have gone to their bench much sooner and Estevez waited patiently for the right time to catch Houston off guard and it worked better than any one us could have imagined.

Luck appears to be on our side, for now

One thing coaches and players will tell you is that in a long season like this, you need some luck to go your way. For the most part, FC Dallas has been outplayed in their last four league matches, yet they’ve come away with eight points. From the Brandon Servania goal to Saturday’s luck in goal from Maarten Paes not giving up a free kick in the second half (sure, it looked like the ball crossed the line but without conclusive video evidence, it wasn’t a goal), FC Dallas is getting some luck to go their way when they need it to the most.

Sometimes the luck runs out and the points fail to come in as a result. Other times, the luck just turns into good play as players have learned from the mistakes that happened in those situations that forced luck to play its hand. Let’s hope that luck doesn’t run out anytime soon though for this group because it has actually been fun to watch. Stressful at times, yes, but way more fun than I would have expected it to be back in January.