FC Dallas took on San Antonio FC from the USL Championship on a cold and chilly night in “Alamo City” on Wednesday. Luchi Gonzalez put out a strong team against a San Antonio side that is starting to come together after recent player acquisitions.
After multiple momentum swings in the game, FC Dallas came back from down two goals to win 3-2.
Let’s go over what happened that evening and how things are coming together in the days leading up to the 2020 season opener.
Luchi Gonzalez opted for a strong starting 11 against San Antonio FC. A strong enough lineup that some may consider it to be probable for opening day.
FC Dallas came out the gate with a very intense and high press that appeared to have startled the San Antonio players. Much of the play was directed down the flanks with the buildup play coming from the back.
Despite being pushed back into their own half early on, San Antonio FC was able to stay competitive and created their own sequences of passing that pressured the FC Dallas backline. While the attacking play down the flanks was providing some success, there was little creative play coming from the middle of the field.
Both teams started the second half in a more patient manner in comparison to the beginning of the game. Things didn’t go FC Dallas’ way after a penalty call – that was very close to the edge of the box – gave San Antonio FC the lead.
Luchi Gonzalez made his first substitution of the game by bringing in John Nelson for Edwin Cerrillo which was a like-for-like substitution in terms of positioning.
San Antonio player, Jose Gallegos scored the second goal after receiving the ball in the middle of the field and running down into the Dallas box with a pinpoint finish into the bottom corner.
Going down two goals lit a fire underneath the FC Dallas players and they began to replicate much of the intensity that was present in the first half.
Ricardo Pepi and Ema Twumasi were subbed in for Zdenek Ondrasek and Fafa Picault respectively. Tanner Tessmann and Nkosi Burgess were the last substitutes of the evening, coming in for Thiago Santos and Bressan, before FC Dallas began their comeback.
A quick passing combination that started with Reggie went Jesus Ferreira, Michael Barrios, and ended with Ricardo Pepi finding a way to put the ball in the back of the net to start the comeback.
It took 4 minutes for an equalizer to come after the first Dallas goal. Michael Barrios buried the ball a couple of yards out after being gifted a direct pass from San Antonio keeper Dayne St.Clair.
In the final moments of stoppage time, Reto Ziegler buries a freekick from a wide-angle, after coming close to scoring from similar distances earlier in the match, completing the comeback. FC Dallas won 3-2 after scoring 3 goals in just under 10 minutes.
30 Minutes Reserve Match
While there was a 30-minute reserve match that featured FC Dallas players who had limited minutes after the primary game, time was a constraint before quotes were gathered and thus the starting eleven for the reserve side is all that is able to be reported.
Thoughts & Takeaways
Jesse Gonzalez returned to the squad after tending to a family engagement that saw him miss the Austin Bold FC game. Gonzalez did well to organize his defense and commanded his box during set-pieces. Despite facing a penalty and being scored on in the run of play (a shot that was well placed), Gonzalez displayed improved passing and calmness when having the ball at his feet. The growth in maturity from Gonzalez has been one of the more impressive attributes of the young goalkeeper since the departure of Oscar Pareja.
The same backline that started against Austin Bold faced much more action this go around as San Antonio FC proved to be threatening throughout the game. Ryan Hollingshead was more precise is his movements, passing, and tackling in this game as he did well to combine with Fafa throughout the match.
Reto Ziegler has started to show a bit of his age as he isn’t the quickest player on the field, but his experience has been invaluable as demonstrated during his tenure at FC Dallas, such as the game-winning goal. He had multiple chances throughout the match, and he connected when it mattered the most.
“It’s something I’m able to do,” Ziegler said about his goal. “It’s something that I train. I train that every week and this season I talk to the coaching staff and I feel ready to also take the corners. I think it’s a weapon that we can use as a team and it can help us score goals.
Bressan started the match off being vocal and helped his fellow compatriot (Thiago Santos) get acclimated to his new team. While at Gremio, Bressan played in a back-3 at times where he was one of the center-backs on the ends (left/right center-back). This gave him opportunities to drift forward to cut off a ball or mark an attacker. This worked for a few situations, but it did leave some space behind him that Reto and Reggie Cannon were forced to compensate for.
Reggie Cannon did have quite the game and played with plenty of confidence. Despite covering for Bressan at times and therefore limiting his chances to get forward than normal, when he did get up the field, the combination play with the interior players and with Michael Barrios was exceptional.
Thiago Santos, again, was calm and collected on and off the ball though he did have a few mistimed challenges and passes. It’s nothing to worry about though as he is still getting acclimated to his new team and tactics. With each passing game, he has shown improvement and is proving that he will be an asset to the team.
Edwin Cerrillo took up an advanced position again playing in the 8-role, functioning as a transition between defense and offense. Cerrillo played with plenty of intensity and had a cleaner game than the one against Austin Bold. While it was quite evening for him, he functioned much like Victor Ulloa who got the dirty work done and at times it went unnoticed. It should be interesting if this is a new position that Luchi Gonzalez will continue to move forward with Cerrillo.
Jesus Ferreira had another quieter game than normal since he was marked for much of the match though that didn’t stop him from still being impactful. He did well to combine with the wing players and progressed the ball forward. His pressing ability was key to much to the success of forcing the ball over and allowing him to be in threatening position on the counter.
Michael Barrios was consistent though predictable at times. Credit must be given to Callum Montgomery who did well to defend his teammate.
“Cal[lum] is a winner, he’s a competitor, great human being and a growing young soccer play so really happy to see him get ninety minutes and push that game the way he did and lead that team the way he did in a short amount of time,” Coach Gonzalez said of the young defender.
Barrios’ service is what fans are used to: get behind the defend and whip the ball into the box. It appeared that San Antonio was anticipating Barrios’ play as he did have some of his attempted crosses blocked.
Fafa Picault had some great moments and some unsuccessful moments. Like Santos, this isn’t something that should be of concern to anyone as his fluidity, speed, technique, and creative abilities all were highlights of his game. He was a constant annoyance to the San Antonio backline and once he becomes more in sync with his teammates, the dual threat of Barrios and Picault will be exciting to watch.
Zdenek Ondrasek had an eventful night despite not getting on the scoresheet. Like Ferreira, his pressing ability was key to the overall shape, speed, and success of the high-press that was on display for much of the match. He took advantage of pulling defenders out of position opening space for his teammates to makes runs, pass, and dribble the ball.
John Nelson played a higher position after getting subbed in which highlighted his ball-holding abilities. Like Cerrillo, it seems that Luchi Gonzalez is pushing his players’ versatility.
Ricardo Pepi scored the first goal for Dallas and displayed his calmness on and off the ball. His maturity has been the biggest growth from last season, and he wasn’t afraid to get physical with his markers which allowed him to be in position for his goal.
Ema Twumasi and Nkosi Burgess didn’t get much time to make a serious impression on the match. Twumasi did well to carry the ball forward, find space, and create chances. Burgess didn’t have much defensive work to do as the Dallas attack was focused on winning the ball back and trying to earn a result.
Tanner Tessman was arguably the most impactful injection for FC Dallas as he right out the gate was laying out passes put his teammates in threatening positions. A versatile player, who has seen playtime all over the field with North Texas Soccer Club, it is only a matter of when Tessmann will get an FC Dallas homegrown contract as he, like many of his fellow academy teammates, has the technique, skill, and composure to be an impactful player.
FC Dallas has always been a team that will fight throughout any given match. This has especially been the case of FC Dallas under Luchi Gonzalez’s reign as head coach. While going down two goals isn’t the ideal cue for the intensity to ramp back up, the important takeaway is that the mentality and desire to get a result and win the game is important.
“I think that the mentality of the team was fantastic,” Ziegler spoke of the comeback. “I’m proud of the youngster that came in. [He] had great mentality. We never give up and that is something that we showed last season. If we can avoid taking goals, of course, it would be better but it’s better to make mistakes now and be ready for the league.”
Putting oneself in the right mindset is one of the first steps to executing a comeback. It was important that the players took this not just as a preseason game but treated the match as if it was an MLS game where points are on the line. The resilience and desire of the team are what fans, players, and the coaching staff can be proud of.
“I thought it was a good game, good competitive game with both teams pushing each other,” Luchi Gonzalez spoke of the game. “With that PK it created a little emotion and frustration on our part because we didn’t think that it should’ve been one. We had to show resilience and move on and keep fighting and keep playing.”
Luchi Gonzalez has spoken many times in 2020 about building upon the success and positives that the team ended 2019 with. One of the biggest positives is how the players respond to in-game when facing adversity and setbacks. FC Dallas has demonstrated last season and, in this game, that they are going to compete in every match even after going down a couple of goals. While they didn’t play against an MLS opposition it is the mental aspect of the game that is important regardless of the occasion.
“This is something that we can take from this game. That we can even be down and not lose our head and stay confident and push the game and taking the next moment as the most important and inching our way back to a result. From a mental and an emotional standpoint, that is good for us. We want to have complete games where we can control and dominate the game.”
Luchi Gonzalez had his team come right out of the start with a high press. The high press is something that fans saw with Oscar Pareja’s team and what Luchi Gonzalez has been wanting his team to do as well. While Gonzalez hasn’t always employed it against every team, the discipline and focus required to play the high press is key to its success. It isn’t unreasonable to see more of the high press from FC Dallas in 2020 with much of the tactical foundation having been laid in 2019.
While the final product isn’t complete for Luchi Gonzalez, preseason is the optimal time to test new tactics and ideas. The buildup play from the back and having interior combinations are some of the highlights of Coach Gonzalez’s style of soccer and throughout the preseason, it has been the subject of constant improvement.
“The goals that we ended up scoring, at least in the run of play, were interior combos, give-and-goes, and passes,” Coach Gonzalez said of his team’s passing. “I thought we weren’t doing that so well up until that last ten to fifteen minutes. Even when we were down two-zero we started to improve our interior channel combination and passes and give-and-goes. It was more dynamic and more creative. We shared the ball better. Then it opened up wide channels.”
Much of the development and preparation have been from the defensive third to the attack third for FC Dallas this preseason. In the final two weeks leading up to the first game of FC Dallas’ MLS season, more emphasis will be placed on the attack and final product. Much of the tactical fine-tuning was worked on in Gonzalez’s last preseason match against San Antonio FC.
FC Dallas now heads out to Florida for their last preseason games against Philidelphia Union and Inter Miami before the start of FC Dallas’ 25th MLS season.