FC Dallas got its preparation for the 2023 season underway with a 1-0 loss to Ecuador’s Barcelona SC on Wednesday night at Toyota Stadium.
Dallas should have gotten on the board as early as four minutes in. Brandon Servania placed a corner to the center of the six-yard box. Jader Obrian was afforded plenty of space but could only shoot directly at Javier Burrai in the visiting net. Bernard Kamungo took a couple of stabs at the rebound but couldn’t thread the ball through a crowd of orange jerseys.
The game saw few chances, with the lone goal coming in the 75th minute from Dallas attempting to play out of the back.
Facundo Quignon dropped between the center backs to pick up a pass from Maarten Paes. The Argentine attempted a pass deep into the midfield that was intercepted with both center backs now well out of position. Jhon Cifuente‘s one-on-one effort was parried away but Agustin Rodriguez cleaned up the rebound.
FC Dallas Coach Nico Estevez had previously talked up the idea of playing foreign teams as a way to differently engage his players. The intensity showed with some fast-paced play and strong challenges throughout the night.
Dallas’ first action of 2023 saw Nico Estevez name a starting lineup with five players born in the 21st century.
Jimmy Maurer took the armband with North Texas SC regulars Isaiah Parker and Collin Smith flanking Jose Martinez and new signing Seba Ibeagha. Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Brandon Servania joined Edwin Cerrillo in the midfield, as Jose Mulato led the line with Jader Obrian and Bernard Kamungo on either side.
The one notable name in the Barcelona lineup was 2022 loanee Joshue Quinonez, starting at left center back.
Tsiki Ntsabeleng was FC Dallas’ strongest performer of the first period, adding a burst of energy to the FC Dallas midfield. While not a world-class showing, he was one player who didn’t look like they were in early preseason. He has a strong knack for bringing the ball out of midfield well but his final ball is a way off.
“I think [Ntsabeleng] had good energy,” said Estevez of the South African midfielder. “Sometimes he could play simple and overcomplicate a couple times. But that’s normal in preseason.”
The first half was a struggle for both Isaiah Parker and the referee. Physically, Parker has all the tools and has visibly worked on his upper body strength in the offseason, but a series of poor decisions defending one-on-one and a couple of rash challenges.
“You could see how he felt very comfortable going forward,” explained Estevez about Parker. “What he needs to learn is like these two tackles that he made, in a normal game it’s a red card. This happened to him last year with North Texas and he needs to learn that.”
The second half brought a single swap for the visitors – with Quinonez departing – and a full line change for Dallas.
Maarten Paes backed up Nolan Norris and Nkosi Tafari in the center of defense. Marco Farfan took up his usual left back spot opposite Herbert Endeley. Facundo Quignon wore the captain’s armband at the six with Andre Costa and Sebastian Lletget in midfield. Kameron Lacey played at nine with Alan Velasco on the left and Tarik Scott at right wing.
Dallas made further changes in the 72nd minute as Norris was replaced by Amet Korca, while Ema Twumasi shifted the right side as his replaced Lacey. Scott went up front with Endeley on the wing.
Nico Estevez made his final changes in the 85th minute. Tarik Scott was replaced by Pablo Torre and FCD U17 Alejandro Urzua subbed in for Andre Costa.
If there were any worries that the departure of Franco Jara may unsettle Alan Velasco, he may have laid those to rest with an eye-catching display. Velasco did the simple things well in coming inside from his left wing spot, and looked to have improved his ball retention against close defending.
Tarik Scott and Herbert Endeley had a few nice combinations down the right side. The game was Endeley’s first at right back, but he looked fairly settled in his defensive responsibilities and balanced it well with getting forward.
I was disappointed to see less than half an hour of Nolan Norris. Speaking to him last year with North Texas SC he reminds me a lot of Paxton Pomykal at that age in how he handles himself. Nothing phases him, every word and action is well thought through. In the game, he attacked 50-50 balls well, and his passing was a level above most of his teammates. It took a couple of tries, but there was a beautiful 50-yard low pass he played for Velasco to run through that would make most highlight reels.
Coach also gave updates on two players. Ema Twumasi is currently only 15 minutes fit following an illness at the start of preseason. His competition for the start, Giovane Jesus, watched on from the bench. The Brazilian’s first full practice with the team was on Thursday morning.
Off to Spain
FC Dallas will depart for Spain in a couple of days. The Marbella Football Center will play host to Dallas from January 30 to February 10. They will be the third MLS team to use the facility this year. Vancouver started their preseason on the Costa del Sol, with Seattle currently preparing for the Club World Cup in nearby Morocco.
No friendlies have been announced yet but Dallas will be using the facility at the same time as Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai, Norwegian trio Odds BK, Valerenga, and Brann, and Sweden’s Hammarby, Malmo, and BK Hacken.