Spring training camp 2020 opens for FC Dallas on Monday and questions abound. I picked out 5 that I find the most intriguing. This is season two under Luchi Gonzalez and he continues to overhaul the side into a team that can play peak Luchi-Ball. Let’s dig in.
Reggie Cannon – staying or going?
Honestly, it’s probably just a question of when, not if.
You can listen to the man himself answer questions about this topic here. He says all the right things about being in Dallas and being focused. Cannon knows he needs to show for FCD this season to keep that USMNT spot and to cement his move.
But I think you can also tell from the way he answers the questions that the move is coming. See how he lights up when he talks about it? How he chuckles?
If Cannon is going now – we should learn it early in spring training – great for Reggie. And there’s plenty of time for Bryan Reynolds or Eddie Munjoma to get up to speed. We’ll spend this spring watching to see which one will get the starting spot.
If Cannon is going this summer… that’s less time for his replacement to get going. So either Reynolds or Munjoma will need to get some PT and a start or two before the summer window.
If Cannon ends up staying all of 2020? Awesome, that’s great for FC Dallas. He’s a terrific player. Let’s hope he’s serious about being focused. A player with half his mind on the next adventure isn’t going to be all in on what FC Dallas is doing (see Gruezo, Carlos, and Diaz, Mauro).
Who’s playing left wing?
Left wing never really came together in 2019, with a cast of characters getting a shot at it. Towards the end of the season, Santiago Mosquera got a solid – if not spectacular – run. That means he’s the first choice when camp opens.
But Santi has never really produced the goals or assists at a high enough level… which brings us to Fafa Picault.
FCD’s newest addition – who can play either wing – netted 17 times with 8 assists in 2017-18 when he played as a winger for the Union. In 2019, playing as a withdrawn striker, the production wasn’t as good with “just” 4 goals and 4 assists. When compared to Mosquera’s MLS Career 9 goals and 7 assists it’s a clear advantage. For the sake of argument, that’s .24 goals/game for Picault and .17 for Mosquera.
Left wing should be one of the best and more intense battles this spring.
And perhaps we shouldn’t discount the idea of some else like Paxton Pomykal or Jesus Ferreira landing this starting spot.
Four starting-caliber mids, two starting spots?
Speaking of Pomykal and Ferreira, they are just two pieces of a very crowded midfield.
And the acquisition of Thiago Santos made it even more so. Santos is already on the whiteboard as the starting 6 with Edwin Cerrillo as his primary back up. Adding Santos frees up Bryan Acosta to move back to the linking-8 position.
This means Acosta and Brandon Servania are fighting for the linking-8 position while Pomykal and Ferreira battle for the free-8 position. And really almost any combo of those four could work.
Reminder: We call the higher position in midfield the “free-8” to differentiate it from a normal style 10 because Luchi-Ball doesn’t use a pure 10.
A midfield three with Pomykal and Ferreira as dual-8s? Sure, if Santos is good enough. A Servania and Acosta combo as deeper, more defensive-minded dual-8s? Sure, that could totally work too. It might even be ideal in tough road situations.
Today the choice is probably Ferreira and Acosta. But the answer is probably different next week, and different again the week after. The two 8 midfield positions are going to be seriously competitive, probably for the entire season.
Can Bressan win a starting spot?
The play of Reto Ziegler over the last couple of seasons has been terrific. But let’s be real about the fact he just turned 34. He remarkable fit, but he will start slowing down sooner rather than later.
Matt Hedges has been a rock for eight seasons now in Dallas. He’s 29 and shouldn’t be slowing down for a few seasons more but father time can be finicky.
Which brings us to Matheus Simonete Bressaneli, a.k.a. Bressan. At 27 he should be hitting the peak of his performance. This is a guy who played 107 times for Gremio and while he did make 18 appearances for FCD last year, only 12 of them were starts and even then it was usually when injuries, callups, or suspensions happened.
In short, Bressan has yet to grab a starting position at center back for Los Toros. Is this the season? He’s had a year to get used to MLS and FC Dallas.
One might say it better be the season. Certainly making in the neighborhood of $500k (in 2019) it should be. That’s starter money.
Of course, Ziegler ($820k in 2019) and Hedges ($550 in 2019, pre-new contract) make starter money too.
Who’s the next breakout young player?
This is FC Dallas so it’s “play the kids” right? Coach Gonzalez prides himself on developing and progressing kids. So who’s the next breakout player going to be after Pomykal, Ferreira, and Servania?
Let’s run through some candidates.
Bryan Reynolds – When Cannon goes, Reynolds gets the first shot at right back.
Eddie Munjoma – The newest Homegrown will be right there pressing Reynolds.
Dante Sealy – He’s having a breakthrough winter. He’s still so young, but FCD has needs at wing and opportunities matter. Sealy will make his FCD debut in 2020.
Thomas Roberts – The midfield is really crowded, but this kid is supremely talented.
Cal Jennings – He’s a rookie, yes. But he plays a position FCD has a 31-year-old, inconsistent striker. Sure, there might be two 31-year-old strikers soon. But old dudes get hurt.
Johnny Nelson – If Ryan Hollingshead hadn’t produced one of the best left back seasons in club history this one might have already happened. Any stumble by Hollingshead and Nelson will be in there.
Callum Montgomery – He has all the tools to be a starter for most teams in MLS. He just needs to improve his passing for Luchi-Ball. Can he make the progression?
Ricardo Pepi – Not yet, but eventually he’ll be The Man.
Edwin Cerrillo – He had a great start to 2019 but he’s not ready to be the starting single-pivot 6. In a year or two? Yes.
Ema Twumasi – Had a fantastic 2019 with Austin Bold. It’s probably make-or-break for him in 2019. He did show some things in USL-C, can he fight his way into the FCD rotation at wing or right back?
Francis Atuahene – When he arrived he was ahead of Twumasi but injuries have held him back. If Atuahene can stay healthy maybe he can show why he was picked #4 overall.
Nkosi Burgess – There’s a lot to love here. But he needs lots of tactical polish and playing time. There’s potentially a big upside but it’s probably not going to come this season.
Stay with us for 3rd Degree’s deep spring camp coverage. While there won’t be a spring road trip this year due to timing, distance, and regular work calendar; we’ll still have all the answered for you as the season begins.
Based off nothing but pure gut instinct (and a bit of blind hope), I will say that Francis Atuahene will be the breakout player of the 2020 season.
Here’s hoping he can get some injury luck on his side and provide a welcome spark to the attack in a super-sub role.