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Everything FC Dallas fans need to know before the playoffs
Let's take a quick reset on everything before Monday's game in Seattle.
For the second season in a row under head coach Nico Estevez, FC Dallas finds themselves in the MLS Cup Playoffs. After a long and grueling 34-game season, the time has come to battle it out in a short tournament to determine who will ultimately be the MLS Cup Champion in 2023.
Playoff atmosphere is all around in the Dallas market with the Texas Rangers in the World Series right now, so if you aren’t a diehard or a sicko that catches everything that FC Dallas has done since the start of the year, this one will be for you too.
Here is a quick season recap:
FC Dallas began the season with a disappointing home loss to the team they outed in the previous season’s playoffs, Minnesota United.
It took seven games before FC Dallas finally got a shutout on the season, a 1-0 win at Inter Miami (this was well before Lionel Messi came to MLS and drastically helped change their roster).
Jesus Ferreira got off to a hot start with 10 of his 12 goals before the Gold Cup in June, where he also scored seven goals for the United States.
Bernard Kamungo made his debut for the club against Real Salt Lake and then scored in that game. He picked up a few more goals along the way, including a brace in the season finale to be tied for second in goals for the club with six.
Between the months of April and June, FC Dallas was hit really hard with an injury bug that kept key players like Paul Arriola, Alan Velasco, Sebastian Lletget, and Geovane Jesus away from the action.
In early May, FC Dallas was one-and-done in the US Open Cup as they lost on the road to Nashville SC, 2-0.
Also in May, FC Dallas had a weird home game with expansion side St. Louis CITY SC that was abandoned in the 55th minute due to extreme weather in the Frisco area. The game was not resumed until a month later, on a Wednesday night in June, when FC Dallas ultimately won that match 2-0.
FC Dallas entered the newly re-designed Leagues Cup in July on a rough patch that saw them go 1-4-1 in the six games before the tournament.
During the Leagues Cup, FC Dallas went unbeaten in four games (but lost twice on penalties to Charlotte FC and Inter Miami). On the other hand, they defeated two Liga MX sides, Necaxa and Mazatlan.
Following the Leagues Cup, FC Dallas only lost once in their final 11 games, a 2-1 loss at St. Louis CITY SC, a game that saw keeper Maarten Paes pick up a red card 15 minutes into the match.
Following that loss to St. Louis, FC Dallas went unbeaten in their last nine games, going 2-0-7 in that span.
FC Dallas ended the season with an 11-10-13 record, good for seventh place in the very crowded MLS Western Conference.
So, this season had some ups and downs, then?
You could say that. The injury situation was really the storyline that was in the foreground for most of the season. I keep coming back to this chart that has been updated each week in the club’s media notes before a game:
This was before the LA game, so you can add some numbers to this with Geovane Jesus, Lleget and Facundo Quignon all missing that game. It also doesn’t include a full-season miss for Homegrown attacker Tarik Scott either.
Yeah, reduce those injuries by even half, and we’re talking about a completely different season for FC Dallas.
Who is important to the club this season?
For success in the playoffs, it is going to come down to four players: Maarten Paes, Asier Illarramendi, Nkosi Tafari and Jesus Ferreira. You could easily toss in Paul Arriola, Paxton Pomykal or Marco Farfan to this as well.
Paes: He makes the saves in goal that he should and then a few that he probably shouldn’t save each game too.
Tafari: He’s inching closer to becoming a top-five centerback in MLS.
Illarramendi: The veteran has played in a ton of big games in his career in Spain, so he is built for the playoffs.
Ferreira: He is the heart and soul of this club. If he scores, good things tend to follow this group.
So, who should be starting against Seattle?
FC Dallas has fielded 33 different lineups in 34 games, only using the same lineup on March 4 and 18. Part of that has been due to the injuries that we discussed above, and other times, it has been down to form.
But over the course of the last two months, Estevez has started to really settle on a preferred group in either a 4-3-3 formation or something that looks like a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Paes; Farfan, Tafari, Ibeagha, Twumasi; Illarramendi, Pomykal; Obrian, Velasco, Arriola; Ferreira
Explain the new playoff format one more time to me, please
Yeah, it is odd, isn’t it? Major League Soccer has never been timid about changing their playoff formats over the years.
Unlike the old best-of-3 format MLS used from 1996-2000, where it was the first team to claim five points, it's now the first team to have two wins. No ties. No aggregate scoring1. Just win twice. After Round One, it reverts to the single-elimination format.
Once again, FC Dallas will play the Seattle Sounders in the playoffs. This is the sixth time the two sides have squared off in the playoffs, with the Sounders winning the last three (2016, 2019, 2020).
Here's the schedule:
Monday, Oct. 30, 8 PM CST, Lumen Field
Saturday, Nov. 4, 8 PM CST, Toyota Stadium
Friday, Nov. 10, 9 PM CST, Lumen Field (if necessary)
What chances does FC Dallas have at making a run in these playoffs?
It isn’t unheard of in MLS for a low-seeded team to go on a run. Playoff soccer brings that out for some reason.
The one thing that FC Dallas does have going for them at the moment is the long unbeaten run, even if it is full of draws. The majority of those draws were against playoff teams. Weirdly enough, the final two wins of the regular season came on the road as well.
This team is built to make a run with the talented players on the roster. It really will come down to if they can manage their emotions and rise to the occasion.
Honestly, thank God. I couldn’t stand the aggregate scoring or away goal rules type formats. I get that it is a very European thing to do in these kinds of tournaments, but it is awful to follow. Yeah, that is my hot take.