Five takeaways from FC Dallas vs Chicago Fire preseason game

It’s time to break out the cliched 5 takeaways bit from the FC Dallas preseason game against the Chicago Fire. Since this is a tune-up game with a complete line change at 60 minutes mark it doesn’t get the full breakdown.

5. Great 8s

As I said in my 3 Things video, Brandon Servania was my Man of the Match because of the progression in his game on display in this one. Servania has always been a box-to-box mid but he seems to be working on that in-the-box progression.

In the double-8 system that seems to be the preferred setup of new Head Coach Nico Estevez, you need both 8s to pop up in the box and create those chances. Paxton Pomykal has always had this flavor, it’s new for Servania and is a progression in his game.

Speaking of Pomykal, he was also fantastic against Chicago. He’s been reborn in the middle this spring and has his joy back. Let’s hope he can hold up as the workload on the 8s in this system is immense.

4. Edwin Wins the Job… or Does He

Most of this spring I’ve seen Edwin Cerrillo being first choice as the 6 with Pomykal and Servania in the midfield three. Last game, Facundo Quignon got the nod and I wondered if that was a “last chance” for Facu or if Cerrillo hadn’t gotten the job done.

As you will see from the 3 Things clip above, I took today’s Cerrillo start versus the Fire as confirmation it was his spot.

Well, not so fast my friends…

With the Facu (Quignon) and Edwin (Cerrillo), it was more to give them minutes, physically to prepare them for the first game. I talked them before San Antonio said we’re gonna play the same amount of time for both players – one will start one game, one will start the other. I think Edwin gives us different things than Facundo can provide to us but I think Facu did a great job in the second half, consolidating the position and helping us to keep the control of the game.”

Nico Estevez, FC Dallas Head Coach

So the starting 6 remains TBD.

The game this Saturday against the Houston Dynamo (Saturday, 7 pm at Toyota Stadium, scheduled to be streamed) should point us to the open day choice, I would think.

3. Wing Swaps

Wing swapping isn’t a new concept but FCD did it at a higher rate today. I think you will continue to see this idea executed at a high rate by the club.

The big takeaway, however, is how much better they were in the build and possession in one set versus the other.

Los Toros started the game with Paul Arriola right and Jader Obrian left and it was a mess. For the first 5 minutes, FCD had trouble even getting to the halfway line, let alone cross it.

Roughly 5 minutes in, the players – or maybe the coach – spotted something and flipped the wings with Arriola left and Obrian right. For the next 25 minutes, Dallas was clearly the better team enjoyed a large amount of possession, created chances, and generally found the build-out shockingly easier.

At roughly the 30 minute mark they swapped the wings back and again FCD suffered.

As they continued to swap a few more times (until subbed out) the team was always better in build and possession with Arriola left and Obrian right. Which is weird in a build-out possession type of play that the high wings would make sure a difference.

This will bear watching as the club moves forward.

2. Solid Defense

FC Dallas looked more cohesive on defense than last year. Marco Farfan, being a defense-first outside back, is a defensive upgrade on Ryan Hollingshead. Ema Twumasi looks much more comfortable. Matt Hedges and Jose Martinez are both healthy at the minute. Edwin Cerrillo looks way more comfortable at the 6.

Most of the chances Chicago got seemed to come from Dallas turnovers. That’s something that needs to be cleaned up.

But the comment I want to make has to do with the center back pair of Martinez and Hedges. Both are very experienced and with Hedges starting to lose a step both are pretty similar in range.

Now given that Twumasi and Farfan are both still young and mobile with better than average speed this Martinez/Hedges pair may be fine.

But I do have a large liking for an old game reading vet paired with a young physical/fast partner. Nkosi Tafari and Matt Hedges for example. Still, Martinez is the only true left of the group.

Let’s see how this tracks over time.

It something that we talked about before the game, to treat these as an away game, to play with the personality and the conviction to come here and get three points on the road. And I think the mentality was there, we conceded very few chances. 

Nico Estevez

1. Jesus Ferreira Depth

Yes, Jesus Ferreira is a false-9, or as the coach seemingly prefers to say, “in our team the 9 is a building player.”

But too often, Ferreira was coming way too deep and on multiple occasions didn’t get back high enough to get his foot on a couple of golden scoring chances. Once or twice even spotted deeper than Cerrillo at the 6.

Steve Davis maybe said it most succinctly.

Here’s the problem, Ferreira has always played like this as a 9. IT’s why we always say his best position is an off-striker.

Coach Luchi Gonzalez never said this, but I always felt Jesus was his favorite player partially, perhaps, because Gonzalez played the same way in his heyday.

Ferreira will need to adapt and change. Let’s see if Coach Estevez tries to alter JF’s game.

After 60

This isn’t one of the 5 takeaways, but at the 60-minute mark Coach Estevez changed his entire team. I thought it was worth sharing the complete rotation.

The FC Dallas XI for the last 60 minutes against the Chicago Fire, February 16, 2022.

Szabolcs Schön, it was noted on the broadcast, did not travel. North Texas SC’s Bernand Kamungo took his place. Franco Jara has been out injured for a couple of weeks now and Jimmy Mauer has also been in and out of training.

Paul Arriola vs Chicago Fire, February 16, 2022. (Courtesy FC Dallas)


  1. Nice to meet you yesterday in Arlington. Servania doesn’t get near the credit he deserves as a cm around the league. I’m not sure he’s eventually European bound but he and Pax combine for an athletic midfield that can do a lot of things. The question is can they create enough or will FCD remain a get it down the wing and cross or cutback into the box style offense.

    I’m probably in the minority but I do eventually see Schon and Velasco grabbing hold of the 2 starting spots. Though I’m curious as to how Estevez manages minutes and pairings for those 4.

  2. i agree with you on Servania. He looked great and was really bossing the midfield.

    i was a little disappointed with Hedges. He had a couple of bad turnovers and he got beat a couple of times upfield and had to have Twumasi bail him out. I’m concerned that his poor year last year wasn’t just due to injury but was an indication of decline. He wasn’t exactly bad today, but he didn’t do anything to make me feel better about him.

    I thought Ferri looked very good when he was on the ball; composed, skillful and able to retain possession under pressure. Considering he was going up against Chicago’s starters i think he is showing he belongs in MLS.

    First time to see Bartlett and i can see why they took a flyer on him. The dude had a couple of sprints where he was as fast as any Chicago attacker on the field. And he easily won every aerial challenge. Physically he has the tools to be another Zimmermann – whether he can read the game defensively may be another matter.

  3. I fear that we will struggle to score this year. The combination of Servania and Pax lack the attacking skills necessary to support the attack. Servania is developing into a solid box to box 8. But Pax is not an attacking mid. He’s really better on defense as a ball winner. In fact he reminds me of Dax McCarty whose best position ultimately was as a 6. I wouldn’t be surprised if Velasco ends up playing in the midfield in order to add a 4th attacker. Or Nico decides he needs another option in the midfield. I hope I’m wrong.

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