With no soccer, we’re all just searching for more avenues to get back to the beautiful game. An old favorite of mine is Football Manager, which is renowned for its extensive and realistic database.
We’re walking a mile in Luchi’s shoes in this series, taking over FC Dallas in Football Manager 2020 and documenting one month at a time. If you haven’t already, you can check out my injury hit preseason as we move towards the start of the season, and Luchi-ball’s digital test.
March 2: New York Red Bulls (a)
Here it is, opening day of the new MLS season. We’re away to New York Red Bulls. It was a roller coaster of a preseason. I think we found a couple of cheap players who can contribute, but we’ve been dragged through the mud with injuries.
The back five are the same as the friendly win in Houston. Bryan Acosta keeps his place in midfield as Juninho steps in while Thiago Santos is laid up with an ACL tear. Picault, Barahona, and Barrios carry over. Franco Jara gets the chance to prove the hype was worth it.
Well, Kick-off was about as good as it got. Five minutes in Joao Plata, someone I really wanted to sign in preseason, caught Matt Hedges napping and ran in behind to score. Three minutes later Aaron long makes it 2-0 at a corner. Can it get any worse?
Oh, of course, it can, Michael Barrios partially tears his ACL just a minute later and then VAR rules out a goal by Santiago Mosquera. Tim Parker scored late in the game as I went to an ultra attacking shape, I didn’t watch the goal as I cradled my head in my hands.
March 13: Atlanta United (h)
Okay, that was just first-game jitters, now we’re in Fortress Frisco. So I’m without:
Ryan Hollingshead (torn groin)
Brandon Servania (sprained MCL)
Michael Barrios (partially torn ACL)
Sergino Dest (sports hernia)
I do have Fafa Picault (sprained LTCL), Franck Tabanou (bruised Achilles), and Reggie Cannon (gashed calf) playing through injuries, and Thiago Santos (partially torn ACL) just got back into training this week. Fafa and Santos are on the bench, the two full-backs start.
Now look at this heat map and tell me who won?
That’s right, Atlanta won 3-0. FC Dallas couldn’t hit a barn door today! Solid performance, but just couldn’t convert the chances.
March 17: New England Revolution (h)
Third time’s a charm hopefully. Just one change, with Jesus Ferreira coming in for Santiago Mosquera on the right wing. Still missing a really good 5-a-side team to injuries.
Just two minutes and 34 seconds pass before Alexander Büttner smashes the ball in at Jesse Gonzalez’s near post. Really?! Again, and against New England?!
Short answer no.
Early in the second half, Reggie Cannon brings the ball up the right wing and plays inside to Jesus Ferreira. Ferreira lays it off to Nelson Barahona who lashes the ball from the edge of the area. Matt Turner gets a hand on it but can’t prevent the goal.
Just 57 seconds later, Claudio Bieler heads in a Franck Tabanou cross at the front post. FINALLY!!!
Check out the ultra Luchi-ball with 71% possession and over 800 passes.
March 21: Chicago Fire (h)
These games are coming thick and fast with six games in March. Hopefully, four at home will help get us back on the right track. Time to win back the Brimstone Cup!
I know you don’t change a winning team but Reggie Cannon was struggling for fitness so Segino Dest makes his debut after being cleared by Head Athletic Trainer, and my in-game BFF, Tracy Coleman. Franco Jara comes in for Claudio Bieler upfront.
Nine minutes on the clock, Bryan Acosta sends Franck Tabanou down the left. Chicago has filled the box so Tabanou cuts it back to Acosta in space outside the box. Rather than sending a shot into Frisco Square, he puts it straight in the top right hand corner!
Three minutes later and Segino Dest finds Acosta on the edge of the area on the right for a low first-time drive under Kenneth Kronholm. Wow, what a start!
Chicago hasn’t got the hang of this yet have they? Jesus Ferreira lays the ball off the Acosta just beyond the D. Acosta takes a touch to tee up the ball and lazers it into the top left corner. Hat-trick inside 25 minutes and all scored from outside the box!!!
Another three minutes go by and Acosta plays a ball over the top for Tabanou to run on to. Jonathan Kappelhof does his best impersonation of a traffic cone, watching Tabanou advance along the by-line into the New England box. The Frenchman has a shot-cum-cross which Kim Ki-Hee puts into his own net to make it 4-0 in the first half.
Raheem Edwards pulls one back on the hour, who cares! And we go back to Bryan Acosta to cap off his MLS Player of the Week winning performance as Juninho finds Acosta in the kill zone (the new name for outside of the box) before he blasts in his fourth.
Two in a row, an emphatic win, no injuries, and Brimstone is home!!!
MLS awards are out. Bryan Acosta wins Player of the Week and got first and third in Goal of the Week. Buzz should probably report on that.
March 21: Montreal Impact (a)
A tough game against Montreal. Somehow Maxi Urruti is the league’s top scorer after scoring four in the first two games, and I need to go into the next two games with some form – LAFC at home to end the month, then Seattle away.
A couple of changes. Reggie Cannon is back in for Sergino Dest. It’s all change up front as Santiago Mosquera comes in for Jesus Ferreira, pushing Fafa Picault over to the right wing. Franco Jara drops to the 10, with Claudio Bieler replacing Nelson Barahona. Bryan Acosta is away with Honduras so Thiago Santos returns. (I forgot the screenshot)
We got our first VAR decision of the season after half an hour. Dejan Jakovic was judged to have handled a Franck Tabanou corner. Claudio Bieler steps up and places the ball beyond the keeper’s reach.
FCD are battering Montreal but Evan Bush is having an incredible game. The Huntsmen double their lead shortly after half-time. Reggie Cannon and Franco Jara play the ball back and forth. With the defense stood still watching, Jara floats a cross over for Santiago Mosquera to head in at the back post.
Wow, three wins on the bounce and a comfortable win on the road. I did lose Bressan to a twisted ankle, and a bruised foot will probably keep Fafa Picault out of the LAFC game.
March 31: Los Angeles FC (h)
Wow, this first month has been exhausting just to sit in front of my laptop!
Jesse Gonzalez comes through a fitness test after sustaining a dead leg in practice. Acosta is still on international duty, plus Picault and Bressan are missing through injury. Reto Ziegler is in for Bressan and Jesus Ferreira comes in for Picault. He starts at the 10, with Franco Jara moving to the right wing and Santiago Mosquera sliding back over to the left. Tanner Tessmann gets back in the lineup after a couple of games with the US U-20s. That leaves Thiago Santos on the bench. The injuries and national team call-ups mean that Arturo Rodriguez makes the bench (FM didn’t quite nail MLS rules so North Texas SC players can be named to the MLS roster without being part of the 30-man MLS roster).
Tanner Tessmann even gets the game’s first shot, forcing a corner from outside the box. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Homegrown as he gave up possession to Latif Blessing in the center circle, with the former SKC man running through to go one-on-one with Jesse Gonzalez before shooting wide.
LAFC kicked off the second half and immediately coughed up possession with FCD taking the ball down to the LA box. Franco Jara finds Claudio Bieler on the edge of the 6-yard-box. Bieler plays the ball back with Jara smashing the ball low into the net.
Thomas Roberts came on at the half and was involved in the build-up to the earlier goal. He was again involved as the 3rd Degree The Podcast legend is tripped up by Eduard Atuesta.
For some reason, the LAFC highlights kept trying to show me the roof of the stadium so here’s a screen recording instead.
Nima Saghafi points to the spot but VAR is in his ear and recommends a review. Saghafi checks the monitor but stands by his decision to give Claudio Bieler his second in two games.
Tessmann pops up once more as FC Dallas put the game beyond doubt just after the hour. The youngster whips in a free-kick for Matt Hedges to head in at the far post.
The first month of the season is done. Four wins, two losses, and I’m up to second in the Western Conference. Dan Hunt even gave me an A- in Luchi-ratings!
April starts off with a tough trip to Seattle. Stay tuned!