FC Dallas continued its preseason with a 4-1 win over USL Championship side, New Mexico United. Coached by North Texas SC’s original head coach, Eric Quill, took over midseason guiding the Albuquerque side into the playoffs before falling to top-seeded Sacramento Republic.
Three goals in four minutes led to a somewhat flattering score line in a game that saw a lot of tactical movement as Nico Estevez tweaked the 5-2-2-1 shape from the win over Inter Miami.
“We got some more reps on the build up that we want to implement this year,” said FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez. “We learned about some of the issues that we could have building this way. Everyone is healthy, everyone got 45 minutes of playtime and we will just keep building fitness. We travel tomorrow to Spain and we’ll have four games there and we can refine things that we’ve been training and developing.”
With New Mexico in the first week of preseason, Quill borrowed a couple of his former team, and assessed one or two more for his own side as United used three 30-minute lineups. Dallas opted for largely a reversal of Monday’s game, starting a number of fringe players before bringing in more established players for the second half.
Goals & Chances
With the first chance to see 17-year-old Enes Sali, the young midfielder had a strong chance in the 12th minute, intercepting a pass and creating space to force a save with a neat curling effort from the edge of the are.
Herbert Endeley left a good impression on Monday, and continued a strong preseason with the game’s opening goal in the 26th minute. Running on to a ball from from Sebastian Lletget down the right, Endeley took on two defenders, cutting back onto his weaker left foot with a sublime curling effort for his first goal in an FC Dallas jersey.
New Mexico equalized four minutes later through Zico Bailey. FCD coughed up possession in the midfield with Jimmy Maurer off his line. The veteran keeper scrambled back but barely got his feet set as Bailey floated a shot inside his far post from 30-yards out.
Despite chances from Logan Farrington, Sebastian Lletget, and Diego Garcia, FC Dallas found it difficult to break down a stubborn back line. The introduction of former FC Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez coincided with a glut in front of goal for the Burn.
First, in the 71st minute Tsiki Ntsabeleng stole the ball away in the midfield before going around another body. Tsiki spotted a gap in the back line to play into, that Eugene Ansah broke free of his marker to get to. The Ghanaian, in his more advanced role, sidefooted past Gonzalez. That run and pass are exactly what Ntsabeleng’s game was missing in 2023.
An optimist may call it a show of FC Dallas’ pressing ability, a cynic may call it a gift in the 73rd minute. Either way, a poor pass in the New Mexico defense under pressure from Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Paul Arriola was chased down by Diego Garcia. The El Paso Locomotive product backheeled to Liam Fraser. The Canadian Destroyer let the ball run across his body and set to shoot low into the net.
Leave it to the captain to finish things off just a minute later. Eugene Ansah attempted to send a cross to the far post. Gonzalez attempted to punch the ball away, leaving an empty net for Paul Arriola to aim for.
Lineup & Tactics
Let’s take the chance to clear one thing up. If we say 3-4-3 – or 5-2-2-1 which Nico Estevez prefers – it’s all the same thing. Three center backs, two wing backs, two defensive midfielders, two inside forwards behind a striker taking a higher line.
Jimmy Maurer got the start in goal with Maarten Paes over in Netherlands picking up his green card
Omar Gonzalez looked to build on a strong debut alongside Sebastien Ibeagha and 2024 draftee Turner Humphrey. Marco Farfan and Herbert Endeley flanked.
Nolan Norris put in a good shift after subbing in for the injured Jesus Ferreira on Monday, rolling that into a start alongside Asier Illarramendi in midfield.
Enes Sali got a late start to the preseason after his transfer from Farul. He got the start at that left sided forward position next to Sebatian Lletget. Logan Farrington led the line.
Former SMU defender Mads Westegren got in the game early, replacing Turner Humphrey immediately after the opening goal in the 26th minute. Nolan Norris also took an early seat, with Ale Urzua subbing into the midfield in the 37th minute.
Coach went for the half time line change, starting the second period with Antonio Carrera in goal.
Amet Korca’s (re)signing was made official in the week, he started in the back line with Nkosi Tafari and Sam Junqua. Bernard Kamungo took the unusual role of right wing back opposite Isaiah Parker.
Tsiki Ntsabeleng joined Liam Fraser in the double pivot with Diego Garcia and Paul Arriola. Eugene Ansah up front.
Pedrinho replaced Garcia for the last 15 minues.
New Mexico United featured some familiar faces. Nicky Hernandez joined New Mexico midway through last season to add to 2015 draftee Will Seymore. They also appear to have taken former FC Dallas players Jess Gonzalez, Mark Salas, and Beni Redzic on trial. With the Black and Yellow taking 30 minute stints, they borrowed a handful of North Texas SC players to help get them some early minutes. Carl Sainte, Malik Henry-Scott, Thomas Pondeca, and Lautaro Taboada.
“We tried different things today. We pushed, in the second half, the right wing back slightly higher, to be more like in a 4-4-2 in that kind of moment. It’s something that we learned from last year.”
To Nico’s point, there was an attack right before the run of goals in the second half. Bernard Kamungo had come on at right wing back and struggled with Diego Garcia ahead of him. Bernie was pushed forward, standing on the halfway line with the ball with the center backs. With Garcia tucked inside taking the opposing fullback’s attention, Bernie had space to run into. As soon as the New Mexico fullback peeled off Garcia to meet Kamungo’s run, Bernie played the young North Texas man in for a shot from inside the box.
This isn’t the easiest game to judge against a team in its first week of preseason playing 30-minute shifts where the final set of players have never kicked a ball with the players they’re playing with.
FC Dallas had a strangehold on the midfield with the double pivot. Particularly in the first half between the game reading of Illarra and range of passing that Nolan Norris possesses. Norris pinged a couple of long balls out to both wings that just dropped on a dime. The same sort of pass Sergio Busquets will get dozens of headlines for in-season.
The frustration was really the final third. They really struggled to penetrate the New Mexico defense in the first half. Logan Farrington was night and day from the strong showing at the Cotton Bowl, struggling against the physicality of Kalen Ryden and Chris Gloster.
Starting the slower iteration of its defense, Dallas really struggled with balls over the top late in the first half as Avionne Flanagan got into the FCD box a couple of times, racing through the gap between Endeley and Ibeagha.
I liked what I saw from Enes Sali. He’s not afraid to drop back to the midfield and make those runs that only Jesus Ferreira seemed to make last year. Nico Estevez had a decent assessment of his new signing:
“He had good moments. He has that ability to turn quick and he’s a very vertical player…
“We saw what we were seeing on the tape when we were following him, and why we we brought him here. He has that energy, that dynamism, and quality to keep going forward.”
A couple of other news items:
- Jesus Ferreira has a ‘grade two adductor injury’ which the internet says is a 3-6 week healing process. Granted that’s not healing to play professional soccer, or with the rehabilitation resources a pro club has. He will not travel to Spain with the team.
- Paxton Pomykal will also stay back in town to rehab his knee. Ema Twumasi however will be on the travel roster.