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Four questions for FC Dallas going into the final stretch of the season

There are nine games left on the schedule and a whole lotta soccer to deal with to get back into the playoffs.

MLS: FC Dallas at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

While Major League Soccer is enjoying their All-Star week up in Minnesota, it felt like a good time to reassess things for FC Dallas as the stretch run to the playoffs is about to get underway. FCD has nine games left on the calendar and while they’re sitting in third place at the moment in the Western Conference, there are plenty of questions surrounding this group as to whether or not they can actually maintain the path that they are on.

So let’s dive into some key questions facing this group.

Can the attack find its footing again?

I know this may feel like an odd question to kick things off but consider this, since the June international break, FC Dallas has only scored two goals or more in a game twice. Yeah, in 11 games, we’ve either seen the team be held scoreless or only score a single goal nine times. With just nine games to go, that kind of issue needs to be cleared up.

There are a couple of items that need to take place here. Both Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola need to find their scoring forms again that we saw earlier this year. In that same 11-game stretch, both players have combined for just five goals. I firmly believe if you get one of them back on a hot streak, you got the other with the way they feed off one another.

Outside of those two, Alan Velasco needs to take a larger leap forward here. He’s been putting in the work in recent games though, including the club’s most recent 1-0 win over LA.

The last part of that tweet is key to me. If Velasco continues to find smarter runs and has more key passes (something he’s improving game-after-game in), the attack will find more goals in these final few weeks.

Lastly, the bench needs to start coming through a bit more. Maybe that is some wishful thinking but Franco Jara, Jader Obiran and to a lesser extent, Beni Redzic need to find ways to produce more in late-game situations.

Will Paxton Pomykal remain healthy for the whole season?

How good has Pomykal been this season? I think FCD color commentator Steve Davis put it best recently after the club traded for Sebastian Lletget last week.

We saw this in Portland too. Pomykal was a late scratch due to some muscle soreness (definitely something to keep an eye out on). Lletget filled in for nearly the full 90 in his debut with the club. That Portland game was also the first game for Pomykal to miss all season long. For a guy that has had to deal with injuries so much over the recent years, this has been a big year.

On a typical night, Pomplay will lead the team in passes and touches in the attack but more importantly, he also tends to lead the group in pressures or tackles too. His work rate is unmatched by most on this club and he’s really had a resurgence under Nico Estevez this season.

Will the defense hold up in the final months?

Just as the offense cooled off as the summer go going, the defense also has struggled their way through the hottest months of the season up until recently. But in a weird way, since the beginning of July, this group has only given up two goals in a game once. So is it really all that bad?

Uh, yes and no. Yes in the sense that this group continues to play with a bend but don’t break mentality. No in the sense that they’re still managing to find some shutouts along the way both at home and on the road like we saw at the end of July against LA and Salt Lake. Right now they’re fourth in the league in terms of goals given up behind some really good teams like LAFC, Philadelphia and NYCFC.

While the offense needs to guide this team into the playoffs with some solid play over the next nine games, it will really be the defense that will be the reason that this team either makes the playoffs or does not.

As we’ve seen this summer, we know this group can hold things together for a long stretch of the game but it is those final moments of a match where the mental breakdowns occur.

Sure, this example from the draw against Houston is one of the wildest games we’ve seen this club be a part of in recent memory but it still counts. The team had the lead late but gave it away on a poor mental breakdown in the back.

Those mental errors have to go away in the final nine games. Thankfully, I feel like the last four games where they’ve given up just two goals, both from the penalty spot, are reasons to feel optimistic that they’ve turned a bit of a corner here and will be fine.

What tricks does Estevez have up his sleeves?

The shape of this club this season has largely been the same under Estevez. Game in and game out, we see FCD line up in a familiar 4-3-3 look with what appears to be two holding-type midfielders in the middle of the part with fullbacks that look to get forward into the attack, and a lone striker that is there to score goals. This has largely worked out for the team this season.

But there have been moments of nice rotation too. The win over LA saw a 4-4-2 setup with Jara coming in alongside Ferreria up top. That adjustment allowed FC Dallas to find ways through the LA midfield and defense differently than they would have in their regular setup.

So does Estevez have more crafty tricks up his sleeves for the final few weeks of the regular season? Or will he play things safe? Time will certainly tell but the schedule does play out in his favor to potentially hold off on doing anything truly wild until the playoffs (provided they get there of course). Five of the nine games left are at home with only one more west coast trip left (San Jose). It is also possible that their final three games could come up against teams already eliminated from playoff contention too when the time comes. I know, I know, I am getting ahead of myself here.


What kind of questions do you have for this club going into the final couple of months? Let us know below.