FC Dallas opened the 2023 campaign with a disappointing loss to Minnesota United. A game that Nico Estevez described as a typical first game of the season saw the hosts only test Dayne St. Clair once despite eight shots coming inside the box.
We debated the three position battles on this week’s podcast. Nico Estevez went somewhat tried and trusted on all three.
Two of those came in the back line. With Maarten Paes and Marco Farfan both a lock, Ema Twumasi put a shortened preseason behind him to get the start at right back, with Jose Martinez and MLS Cup winner, Sebastien Ibeagha, in the middle.
Facundo Quignon beat out Edwin Cerrillo for the first start of 2023, with the usual pairing of Paxton Pomykal and Sebastian Lletget ahead. New team captain Paul Arriola took up his place on the right, opposite Alan Velasco. Jesus Ferreira up top.
The big news for the visitors was of course the absence of Emanuel Reynoso. The MLS All-Star no-showed preseason, but did text his team mates a good luck message.
The first chance of the year came from the team’s newly-announced vice captains in the fifth minute. Jesus Ferreira played in a low cross from the right touchline that Paxton Pomykal flicked into the side netting from the corner of the six-yard box.
Despite a fantastic period of FCD possession preceding, the Loons forced a stop on the line from Maarten Paes around the half hour. After some teasing around the box, Mender Garcia put an inswinging cross in from the left that Paes had to swat away. The ball found Bongokuhle Hlongwane close to the end line but he could only put a shot in the side netting under pressure.
Kervin Arriaga followed up moments later by crashing a free kick off the bar from 33 yards. The visitors wanted a corner, believing that Paes tipped the ball. His opposite number did however tip the ball over the bar in the 42nd minute. Lletget got everything behind his header off a Ferreira corner but Dayne St. Clair got enough contact to redirect the ball.
Paxton Pomykal showed his intentions for a big year in his career. Several twenty yard sprints to meet opposing players in space was capped off with a diagonal run out of the midfield attempting to get on the end of a through ball from Arriola. The Homegrown slid in to keep the ball in play at the end line, winning a corner off a Minnesota defender, with the final open play action of a goalless first half.
Despite an xG of just 0.07 in the first half, it would be Minneosta United taking the lead in the 48th minute. Franco Fragapane got on the end of Mender Garcia’s header back with a sublime 25 yard volley. Paes managed to push the shot away but Ema Twumasi kept Garcia onside, and he put the rebound beyond Paes.
Sebastian Ibeagha had lost out on the header that lead to the goal, and his giveaway almost led to a second in the 55th minute. An attempt to turn and pass a Minnesota clearance to Paes bobbled with Garcia able to race through barely inside the Dallas half. The former LAFC defender was able to chase down the Loons forward and slide in from behind to nudge the ball back to Paes.
In response to a pool reporter question, the officials felt that Ibeagha made contact with the ball first, and that any resulting contact was deemed ‘normal’.
With 66 minutes on the clock and Dallas pushing for an equalizer, Coach Estevez made a triple substitution. Geovane Jesus replaced Twumasi with a clear instruction to get forward. Edwin Cerrillo and Tsiki Ntsabeleng came in for Facundo Quignon and Sebastian Lletget, both pacier options in the midfield.
FCD were creating opportunities but looked toothless in attack. Jesus Ferreira’s first touch in the Minnesota box came more than 70 minutes in. Estevez went to the bench again, opting for a second striker in Jose Mulato. Paxton Pomykal was the player withdrawn in the 82nd minute.
Dallas continued to pour forward. Geovane in particular moved the ball well down the right touchline. Estevez felt the Brazilian had a little too much energy in key moments, forcing passes.
He could be forgiven for attempting to force passes – as would Tsiki Ntsabeleng – as there were several passages of play where players simply didn’t move looking for a pass.
With the result, Minnesota United avenged last season’s playoff result, and deservedly so as Dallas looked like a team still deeply in preseason. With the LA Galaxy coming to town in what will be their opening game of the season, both teams will be itching to get three points in week two.