Revisiting the Five big questions for FC Dallas in 2020

Back in February – back before the pandemic, back before the shutdown, back before the MLS is Back Tournament, back before FCD was kicked out of that tournament, and back before this brutal twice a week grind began – I wrote a piece on the five biggest questions that would determine the FC Dallas season.

With 8 games left to play in this truncated campaign, now seems like a good time to revisit those questions.  Perhaps the answers will help us understand why FCD is there they are in the table.

Question 1: Progression of Youth?

This was a two factor question.

Factor 1 was the progression of four key Homegrowns: Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, Reggie Cannon, and Brandon Servania. “Their individual and collective progression will be the single biggest factor in the rise of this franchise over this season and the next several to come,” I wrote.

Answer: Yeah…. not so good.

Pomykal out for the year. Ferreira regressed. Cannon was sold. Servania regressed.  This answer goes a long way to explaining 2020.

Factor 2 asked who’s next?  Would it be Ricardo Pepi? Thomas Roberts or Edwin Cerrillo? Perhaps Bryan Reynolds or Dante Sealy? Or could it be someone like then-unsigned like Tanner Tessmann

Answer: Clearly Reynolds. 

What a fantastic joy it’s been watching him break through.  Honorable mention to Tessmann who at 19 is pressing hard for starts.

Reynolds FCD v Colorado 9-16-20 030
Bryan Renolds blows past his defender against Colorado Rapids, Sept 16, 2020. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Question 2: Is Pomykal Healthy & What Position Does He Play?

Pomykal is a difference-maker, something FCD badly needs.  His energy and relentlessness are really missed, particularly in light of Kobra’s departure.

Answer: Nope. Not healthy. 

So “which position?” is a moot question.

Paxton Pomykal digs himself out of the net during 2020 training. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

These first two answers lead to the increasing value of question 3. Even more so when another veteran player, Andres Ricaurte, was added to the equation.

Question 3: Can the Veterans Hold Up?

I was worried back in February – rightly so, I think – about the rapidly aging FC Dallas in the MLS grind.  Reto Ziegler is 34, Zdenek Ondrasek is 31 (he gone!), Franco Jara is 32, and Thiago Santo is now 31.  That puts all four into the declining phase of their career trajectory.

Answer: So far fairly good.

But this is still a big concern and it has been accentuated by the two-games-a-week grind we find FCD in.  Thankfully, Ziegler seems to be holding up with some light rotation. 

Santos, on the other hand, seems to be burning out quickly under this load. It appears he might be good for just one game a week.   Bryan Acosta or Edwin Cerrillo may have to step into the gap. Or maybe an Acosta double-6 with Tessmann.

Ziegler FCD v Minnesota 8-29-20 348
A Minnesota United defender tries to dispossess Reto Ziegler in a high press in the 3-1 FC Dallas win on August 29, 2020. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Question 4: Reggie Cannon – Sale or Not?

Would he be here or not? Would he be motivated? If he goes will the replacement, whoever that turned out to be, be ready and able?

Answer: Sale.

But this turned out to be no big deal as Bryan Reynolds has exploded out of the gate. Some small growing pains sure; but explosive, dynamic attacking play. He’s arguably the best crosser on the team and one of its most dangerous players already.

Cannon FCD-v-Philadelphia-2-29-20-621
Reggie Cannon dribbles up-field against the Philadelphia Union on opening day of the 2020 season in a 2-0 FC Dallas win, February 29, 2020. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Question 5: Actual Squad Rotation?

Even before MLS compressed the season, it seemed clear to me Coach Gonzalez would need some strong squad rotation in 2020. Now that’s even more true.

Answer: Yes. And still much more is going to be needed.

Luchi Gonzalez did some light rotation – often when injuries forced his hand – but then he aggressively rotated for two games leading up to the Orlando City/ Columbus Crew set and it really helped freshen the team.

It needs to happen more starting this weekend.

This rotation should not just be in the form of starters taking a game out of the XI, but also an aggressive use of 5 subs to limit minutes on older players to 60 to 70 from time to time.

And as I said back in February, “I’m looking at you, Callum Montgomery.” Now that he’s back, Montgomery is going to be needed, particularly since Matt Hedges is out for an indeterminate length of time with a hamstring issue – although Coach Gonzalez did indicate Hedges would likely only miss a couple of games.

Summary

Question 1: Mostly Bad.
Question 2: Bad.
Question 3: Ok so far… but still a worry.
Question 4: Yes. But no big deal.
Question 5: Yes, but need more.

So no surprise then that FC Dallas sits 6th in the west, right in the middle of the table.

2020 FC Dallas Team Photo
2020 FC Dallas Team Photo. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

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